Whole-Hog Sausage

Everyone loved whole-hog sausage, and making it was half the fun

| September 2000

As we grow older, Father Time seems to flip the pages of time with increasing speed. As we watch those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer fade into the passing years, the panorama of fall colors appear, ever new and yet the same. With each Kodachrome-like view is the knowledge that another year has been deducted from our allotted span on earth. We should pause and ask ourselves: have we taken time to "smell the roses"? 

I want to take you back to butcherin' time and the making of sausage, real whole-hog sausage, that is. I must confess, though, that a strip of tenderloin might be purloined, hooked to a length of wire and hung in the rendering kettle to deep cook; a treat not excelled by the world's greatest chefs.

With the butchering done, the carcass hung and chilled in the brisk fall air, it was time to cut up the meat and process it into the several forms that would supply the winter's larder to feed the always hungry Piper children.

In those long ago days, before we'd heard of cholesterol and arterial-clogging fats, the pigs were slaughtered when they reached 400 pounds and more. The lard was needed for cooking and baking. With the great amount of physical exertion used in those days, most folks burnt up calories long before they could be converted into pounds and deposited on the human frame.

The scalded, scraped and cleaned carcass was hung from a tree limb or barn beam to be "dressed" and here it cooled and stiffened until it was time to be cut up into hams, shoulders, fat backs and sow bellies. The block and tackle and a two-foot-long stick called a "gambol" stick, with notches on either end to slip behind the tendons of the hind legs, were used to hold the carcass up in a convenient working position.

First the carcass was split down either side of the back bone. Pork chops were not as yet a common cut. The spine, from the tail to the neck, was then laid out on the table and the long lengths of tenderloin stripped out. The back bone was then cut into chunks and later on used for cooking with sauerkraut or pigs feet. MaMa used to make a joke by saying "We always throw the back bones away ... after we've eaten the meat off them!"


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