Old Sturbridge Village
DAY ONE – On a gloomy foggy, damp and cold day I walked to the Freeman Farm at OSV with a mission, which was to learn how to butcher a pig.
According to state laws, the pig was shot in the head with a gun. This was done before visitors were allowed in the park. It took four men to drag the pig from the sty to the barn and hang him up. The English Black was only eleven months old and was estimated to be around 400 pounds. Fed with the leftover whey and scraps from the kitchen, he was one healthy pig.
First order of the day was to drain out the blood. Rowan, one of the ladies from the kitchen, sat and collected as much blood in a tin wash pan as she could. This would be turned into blood sausage.
Next the hair needed to be removed from the skin. This was done by scalding the front half of the pig in water that was about 120 to 150 degrees. Out it came and then placed on the table where the men, with hog scrapers, remove as much hair as possible. It took several more times of dipping to remove most of the hair. The pig was turned about and dunked tail first to finish the job of hair removal. What was left would be candled off later if needed.
While the men scraped the pig, I went into the house and watched the ladies make the blood sausage. They used an old receipt for blood pudding. It was very important to keep stirring the blood so it would not coagulate and, when measured, it came to about 1 ½ pints of fresh blood. They set out cubes of bread soaked in milk, corn meal with a bit of water, chopped hog’s fat, and many spices; adding 6 eggs, they mixed it all together. What they ended up with was a loose mixture they could pour through the tin sausage maker, which they used like a funnel. With a knot on the end of the small intestines, from last year’s pig, they started to make links by tying off every four inches or so with string. You must leave room for the corn meal to expand when they are boiled. After a short boil over the fire, the blood sausage are taken out and brought to the buttry to dry. They could have been eaten then; however, they will be preserved for the long winter months to come.
Back to the barn I went to see the men cut open the pig. It is very important to not cut the diaphragm as this is what divides the edible organs from the bad stuff. Everyone pitches in and helps when the opening was made in the front half, Dan used an ax to split the chest bone and reached in and pulled out the heart.
Then the pig was hoisted up again by his feet so they could carefully cut the rear. You don’t want to nick the intestines and contaminate anything. It was moved closer to the table while hanging and the insides were removed starting with the intestines and ending up with the liver, lungs, kidneys and so forth.
This pig had a lovely caul. I would have loved to have it for cooking. They did not keep it, however, as it is too fancy an item for OSV. Back on the table, the pelvis was split with the ax and cut in two pieces and hung. It needs to spend a night in the barn to let rigamortis set in. This would make it easier to butcher the meat.
DAY TWO – The butchering begins. The ladies have a bit of fun out in the barn, knowing full well this poor piggy will be in pieces soon. I arrive and had to have my picture taken also.
Justin and Dave lower the pig and bring it into the house.
The ladies flip it over and take out the leaf lard, this snow white fat that lies between the ribs and the organs and feels like butter it is prized for its taste and consistency.
Next the tenderloin was removed and put aside; it was later fried with onions and spices by Ryan, who then served it to all the workers at lunch.
Flipping the pig over, Victoria cuts the ham out, with help from Pauline and Dave with his ax. Now it is interesting to note that cuts of pork were very unlike ours today. They were large, and even though pork chops were known of, they were reserved for very special occasions. The front and back legs were huge pieces of meat and the ribs were cut into large roast.
The head needs to be removed before you can cut the shoulder. Once that is done, the ear is cut off. The pig’s jowl is cut off next; along with a wonderful piece of neck meat that will become a roast. Then the jowl is trimmed for jowl bacon. Victoria and Erica cut the back fat from the outer ribs and peel the ribs away.
While this is going on, Rowan is cleaning out the small intestines. To clean the intestines, you need to take off the hard fat that surrounds it and then place it in a bowl of water and turn the casing inside out and then scrape with a knife to remove all the stuff that is stuck on it and clean the inside. Then you turn it inside out again and repeat until the casing is white and super clean. This will be used for sausage. This is a long process, and, yesterday, everyone helped with the task.
Now the ribs are completely removed and the bacon exposed. The ax is used to divide the ribs into three roasts. The large layer of fat with its skin is removed from the bacon. The bacon, ribs and legs all have a lot of exposed meat so this is trimmed off down to the fat layer and saved in the scrap bowl for the sausage or to boil. This is done so there is no waste when it is smoked.
On the table is a leg, and bacon that has already been smoked. The leg looks like glass but is surprisingly soft on the other side, same with the bacon. Everything is placed on the table while and Ryan points out the layer of meat in the bacon that has been smoked.
I wish I had counted how many visitors they had throughout the day. It was one large group after another, and only four people that I saw left the room abruptly. The children made wonderful comments and really enjoyed the experience as much as I did. One girl thanked the ladies for the demonstration and said “It was gross, but interesting.” Don’t you just love kids?
The men did a great job of preparing the pig for butchering, and the ladies were expert in doing so. All this pork will be used in the programs at OSV during the year. Every part of the pig was used. The ear, tail, and feet will be made into souse a gravy-like jello, with vinegar in it, to preserve it. The head will be boiled and made into head cheese. The heart, lungs, kidneys, tongue, liver and any other organ meat will be processed for use. The large cuts will be brined and placed in the cellar, after 6 weeks some will be hung in their smokehouse for another 6 weeks above a smoldering fire of corncobs and applewood, giving the meat a distinctive OSV flavor.
This was a great experience and I can’t thank the ladies enough for letting me record their work. Now I will have to get half of a pig of my own for next year and butcher it myself, some to eat right away with my cooking classes and some to go down in the new root cellar. Now I just need my husband to build me a smokehouse.
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