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Ohio family goes hog wild on butchering day
Dean Wyler, Fresno, Ohio, likes butchering day better than Christmas. For him, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is the best day of the year.
Butchering isn't just an economical way to get meat processed for the Wylers. It's also a time for neighbors and friends to gather around. Most come prepared to work but there are also many spectators.
Butchering day begins just a little earlier for the Wylers than a normal day. Dean is up at 4:30 a.m. to milk his herd of Holsteins. His son John and daughter Deana are up
up at 4:30 a.m. to milk his herd of Holsteins. His son John and daughter Deana are up shortly afterwards. Their time-honored butchering schedule requires that the scalding fires be started by 6 a.m. Dean's father, who lives nearby, tends the fires.
As neighbors finish their own chores they arrive with their tools. The ladies go to the kitchen to help with dinner and the men meet at the fires.
Each worker has his own specialty. Just before the hogs are dipped into the scalding water, "Butch" the water testing specialist is called to the scene. He flicks his forger through the water three times, then decides if the water needs to be heated more or be cooled by adding cold water. "If the water is too hot it sets the hair. If it's too cold, the hogs can't be scraped clean," he explains.
The thought of using a thermometer is scorned. "Don't need it as long as Butch has any fingers left," they say.
The hogs are dipped and rolled by means of crossed ropes in a modern-looking bath-tub. As soon as it's possible to "wring" a leg (remove hair by twisting a hand just above the hoof), the hog is removed and pulled off to one side. While one crew begins scraping, the scalding crew gets another hog to be dipped, Butch checks to make sure the water is still hot enough - and so it goes until all six of the hogs hang from tripods, scraped clean.
Once the hogs are hung, Everett Reed, considered to be master of removing en-trails and cooking lard, picks out a younger man to start teaching him the skills. "We old guys won't be around to do this forever. It's time to train someone to take our places," he says.
There's little waste in the Wyler butchering operation although they didn't save the lungs or spleen until recently when Dean heard of a fellow who especially favored them for gumbo stew.
At noon the work slows as the men eat in shifts. While the first tableful is eating, the other men put the lard on the fire and start cooking a kettle of headmeat. After the headmeat kettle starts to bubble, the kidneys are strung on a wire and hooked over the edge of the large black iron pot. They cook quicker and need to be removed before the other meat is done.
Butchering day is long but the results are long lasting. This summer while they filled silo, combined wheat and made hay, the table was still filled with meats - it might have been ham, sausage, or schwattamaugo (cold sliced lunch meat made from the headmeat stuffed into a hog's stomach and intestines). And that is another thing Dean likes about butchering. The good eating.


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1988 - Volume #12, Issue #1