Life on the Farm 50 Years Ago – Commentary by Frank Gillispie 1/18/11
Life in rural Georgia runs by the calendar. Each season has its special jobs to be completed. The weather this past week was ideal for hog killing.
No one had refrigeration when I was a kid. So when grandfather decided to kill and butcher a hog, he had to do it during a cold snap. Once he
started, the process of preserving the meat had to be completed before the temperatures warmed up and spoiled it.
Grandfather was a good farmer. He always had a couple of very large hogs to butcher each winter, and the meat they produced would last all the next year. That is, if it were properly preserved.
There were three methods used to preserve meat without a freezer, they used smoke, salt and sugar.
This process was carried out in a small outbuilding called the “smokehouse” They used different techniques depending on which cut of meat they
Hams and shoulders were usually sugar cured. They were hung in the smoke house with a little fire in the center to fill it with smoke. Then the
meat was rubbed down daily with sugar. Once the meat was cured, it could be hung in the smokehouse in a tight fitting cloth bag where the smoke
would keep insects and other thieving pests away.
Other cuts of meat were packed into wood boxes full of salt. Salt will draw the moisture out of anything buried in it. This was the only way
used to preserve fat back and other cuts that contain large amounts of fat.
Then there was sausage. Smaller and tougher cuts were ground in a sausage grinder with just enough fat to make them fry well. Various herbs and
spices were added to help with the preservation process and to enhance the flavor. The sausage grinder was hand operated and grinding the sausage
was the job of any available grandchildren. Turning that grinder would quickly exhaust the arm of younger people. We had to frequently switch
arms and take turns to get all the sausage ground. Then, if anyone accidentally dropped a gristle into the hopper, it would jam and we had to
take it apart and clear it before we could continue.
One last job was rendering lard. As I said, just enough of the fat was left to provide good frying. The rest was cooked down into lard for use making
biscuits, pie crust, and frying vegetables.. After the lard was cooked out, the tiny fragments of flesh, called “cracklings” were used to flavor
Cold buttermilk and cracklin’ cornbread was a common breakfast out on the farm.
I know that it is much easier to run down to the market and buy pre-cut meat and packaged sausage. But the whole operation of killin’ hogs was a part
of farm life fifty years ago, and there was a sense of satisfaction in preparing and preserving your own food.
Copyright © 2011 by Frank Gillispie
firstname.lastname@example.org, Hull, GA
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And this is the tendency of all human governments.
A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for [another ]...till the bulk of society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery...
And the fore-horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression."
--Thomas Jefferson, from letter to Samuel Kercheval, Monticello, July 12, 1816
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