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Hog butchering ... the easy way.

When it came time for me to butcher my first pig, I read everything I could find about the way it was supposed to be done. The result was utter confusion and a good deal of fear. The job sounded impossible, but I had three pigs well over market weight, and we were out of meat.

So I asked a neighbor to come over to teach me how.

Two and a half hours later the sides were hanging in the shed to cool and we were at the table eating very fresh liver and fried onions.

The method as I learned it is very simple and fast. Two experienced men can do the job in an hour. The principle steps are as follows:

1. Shoot the pig.

2. Bleed it.

3. Scorch and scrape.

4. Scorch it again.

5. Wash and scrape.

6. Split and gut.

7. Split the spine.

8. Hang to cool.

Tools and Supplies

.22 rifle and several long rifle shells (I prefer hollow points)

Two sharp hunting knives, one 5 or 6 inch blade, one 3 or 4 inch blade

Old garden hoe

Two long flexible DULL kitchen knives or patent (hog) scrapers

Several terrycloth or burlap rags

Five or six gallons of very hot water

Propane "Tiger Torch"

Meat saw or 8-point crosscut saw

Three yards baling twine


1. Shoot the pig. The place to hit is just above a line drawn between the tops of the eyes. But shoot from pig level, i.e. parallel to the spine, not at an angle downward. I have a cousin who uses a .38 pistol, but he tends to stand over the pig and shoot downwards. This results in a pig that runs screaming for five minutes before he can get a second (hopefully fatal) shot. If you hit the pig square with the .22 it will drop like a stone.

Some people like to put a rope on the pig before they shoot so that if they miss it won't run off. I prefer to have the pig in a small pen. By shooting from one of the lower fence rails I've only missed once in the dozen or so pigs that I've butchered in the last two years.

2. Bleed the pig. When the pig drops it will usually lie still for 10 or 15 seconds. During these moments jump over the fence and cut its throat. It's hard to describe the spot to cut, but since there are no important cuts of meat in that area it doesn't hurt to overdo it. I stick the knife in just behind the corner of the jaw then sweep it back and forth on the inside. I usually cut the esophagus and lots of other things until there's a big gush of blood, then I get out of the way fast. As the pig dies it usually thrashes about violently and can kick hard enough to do serious damage to anything in the way.

3. Scorch and scrape. Turn the torch on the pig just long enough to raise the skin in big blisters. Have your partner use the garden hoe to scrape away these blisters as they form. Do the whole pig in this manner. Don't use a good hoe. The torch will take the temper out of it. A dull edge is best in that it won't cut the skin.

4. Scorch again. This time toast the whole pig the color of very dark toast. Pay particular attention to the hooves. Burn them until they blister then twist them off.

5. Wash and scrape. Soak the rags in the hot water and lay them on the skin for a few seconds. Throw the rags back in the water and start scraping the spot you have wet. The long flexible knives should peel the char away leaving the skin underneath creamy white. If the char doesn't come off easily use more hot water.

After you've done the first half of the pig roll it onto some planks to keep it clean.

We don't use the head and feet for anything so we don't worry about getting them too clean. But if you're going to make head cheese or pickled pigs' feet, you'll have to clean them well. We find that a rag does a better job than a knife on the hard-to-get-at places around the hooves; just wrap the rag around the foot and twist it back and forth.

6. Split and gut. Once the pig is clean roll it on its back and place a 2 X 4 along each side to keep it there. If you've left the feet and head dirty cut them off first.

There's a good deal of artistry in gutting an animal properly, but that comes with experience. At first you have to hack away as best you can. There isn't really anything you can do wrong, but it's nicer if you don't spill urine and feces all over the meat. Detailed instructions for this operation are available from many sources (Farming for Self-Sufficiency by John and Sally Seymour is easy to follow). Basically you remove the heart, split the chest, abdomen, and pelvis, and pull out the innards. Be sure to salvage the liver, heart, kidneys and leaf lard.

7. Split the spine. Take your meat saw or 8-point crosscut in hand and saw the spine in half length-wise. It's easier than it sounds. If the saw tends to bind have your partner hold the pig open for you.

8. Hang to cool. Tie a twine to each back foot and hang the sides from a convenient rafter to cool. Use some cool water to wash away the blood stains and be sure the dog can't get at the meat.

By using the propane torch instead of the traditional scalding tub you not only save yourself a lot of work, but also save several hours of advance planning. It takes a long time to heat 20 or 30 gallons of water, not to mention rigging a hoist.

The only complaint that I have ever heard about using the torch is that it imparts a slight flavor to the meat. Inasmuch as no one has ever been able to tell me if a chop or roast was butchered with a torch or tub, I largely discount the idea. Nonetheless one neighbor insists on brushing the charred pig with a handful of burning oat straw "just to make it sweet." Since oat straw smells nicer than propane, it seems like a nice idea.

RELATED ARTICLE: Hog butchering tip

COUNTRYSIDE: In case anyone asks you how to get the hair off a hog more easily when butchering, tell them to add one cup of lye to 30 gallons of water. We have tried about everything, and find that this really works.--Mr. and Mrs. Homer Cox, Ocheopee, FL
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Title Annotation:includes related article on hair removal
Author:Taylor, Jon D.; Cox, Homer
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1995
Previous Article:As expected, prices drop for Boer goats.
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