Butchering in the Good Old Days
When I was young, we didn’t have a lot of the worlds goods, but we always ate well, as mother had a huge garden, and what was called a “truck patch, “ which was usually a part of a crop field, where we planted lots of potatoes and sweet corn.
The garden grew everything from lettuce and radishes, to turnips, spinach, parsnips, broccoli, green beans and peas, cauliflower, cabbage and onions, and a border of marigolds, zinnias, and other old time flowers. It was not a small area.
It seemed as if Mother was either in the garden pulling weeds, or canning the produce. We all got involved in pulling the weeds, and helping with the canning. I worked in the garden when I was very young, during the war days when everyone had what was called a “Victory” garden. My mother made a game of pulling the weeds. She had me keeping track of how many “Germans” I got rid of! I remember someone asking my Mother what we did with “that entire garden?” My mother replied, “We eat what we can, and what we can’t, we can.” I had a little problem following that statement at first!
No, we weren’t vegetarians. Mother always raised chickens, so we had eggs, and we butchered the roosters for meat. We also had beef and pork.
I remember when Mom got a tin can sealer. She was so thrilled, and we could can the meat without fear of breaking jars.
As soon as the roosters got some size to them, we would butcher one for dinner now and then; but when they were ready, we would spend a full day canning chicken. Dad would kill the chickens and also helped Mama cut them up, and then he sealed them in the tin cans, which, I believe, we ordered from Sears, Roebuck, and Company’s huge catalog.
We had an old copper boiler (which I still have) that we processed the meat for an hour or so, and then, Mama and Daddy would carry the boiler out to the horse and cattle tank, and dump them in it to cool.
Beef and pork had to be butchered in the late fall, as there was no refrigeration, and the meat had to hang for 7-10 days if it was beef, and a shorter time for hogs. They called it “curing.”
Oh my, the long, hard days when the beef came down, and had to be cut and canned. The steaks all had to be browned before putting in the cans and processed, and I seem to recall browning the beef chunks also. It took many hours to can a whole beef.
The hogs took a lot of preparation also. My mother ground meat for sausage with an old grinder that clamped to the table, and had to be turned by hand. She seasoned it with sage, salt, and pepper, and I’m not sure what else. Then, the sausage was all made into patties and fried.
Before the tin can sealer, it was placed in a huge stone jar, and a layer of lard poured over the top of each layer. It was kept in our “cellar,” which was very cold all winter as we heated only the kitchen, and had a wood burning, pot bellied stove in the living room. The bedrooms weren’t heated, but that’s another story.
When we needed sausage, we would chip the sausage out from the lard and re-cook it in an old iron skillet.
The rest of the hog had to be browned and sealed and processed, except for the preparation of some other parts.
My mother did not waste anything. We ate the heart, the tongue, and she made what she called “head cheese,” by boiling the head and taking the meat from that. Of course we ate liver too and also the beef tail.
I am rally not sure if we ate all of the heart etc. from the hog. I remember the large beef heart. I managed the liver, if it was smothered in enough onions, and cooked to a crisp.
Butchering days were days that we ate whatever we were canning, so for a few days, we were on a popular diet of today. Of course, there were days that we ate fresh vegetables when they were ready for canning. I never struggled with weight until after I was married, and began using some of the prepared, preserved, products...
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So enjoyed this walk back to "the good old days." What an experience you had! Thanks so much for sharing it.
Goodness, you are taking me back and we lived in town - had some chickens (to butcher) and gardens, trees (dad grafted a pear and apple together and we had a tree that produced BOTH.... and then we went to "U-pick-it" and got more....that freezer and those cupboards with canned goods ATE more than our family did, for sure (gifts for family at Christmas - homemade jam, jelly and home canned and frozen goodies!)