Hog-Butchering Day

Posted by | November 14, 2011

“Butchering conjures up the image of a country diet laden with generous servings of ham, shoulder, tenderloin, bacon, sausage and spareribs. The restocking of our primary source of hog meat began every spring with the selection of four shoats. Their pre-slaughter fattening schedule coincided with cutting and shucking corn, hand-husking ears of golden grain, and storing each day’s harvest in the crib. Much of this bounty was used in a two-month feeding regimen designed to induce rapid weight gain and, in turn, soften the fat properly for rendering into lard.

“Hog slaughtering was a festive time that required a late fall day of well-coordinated activities, and instilled a sense of espirit de corps. A willingness throughout the neighborhood to pitch in and help each other lifted the load of this annual ritual. Farmers were freer to do so because their field work was winding down. The various tasks also needed many eager hands racing against shorter daylight hours.

butchering day in WV
“My favorite butchering by-product is ponhaus, a term familiar to those with a German ancestry. Scrapple is the name for the same preparation made and sold commercially. The flavoring comes from starting with the “liquor” or broth remaining after the meat destined for puddin’ has been cooked. Miss Hattie, our next door neighbor, added corn meal to this stock and a small quantity of flour for thickening.

“The mixture needed constant stirring by a specially made all-iron rod to which was attached a semicircular blade. The end of this implement was designed to scrape along the bottom of the kettle and prevent the bubbling contents from sticking. Mama insisted only Miss Hattie could be entrusted with tending the fire, seasoning and determining when the blend was sufficiently cooked. If the puddin’ meat was handy, she most likely added some for extra flavor. A well-deserved reputation for turning out tasty ponhaus followed her everywhere.

“Grandma Ambrose scooped the hot preparation out of the kettle with a large sauce pan and ladled the thickened mass into a series of rectangular bread pans. The contents cooled in these molds and solidified overnight. The family enjoyed many a hearty breakfast from slices cut about the thickness of a piece of bread and then lightly fried to a toast brown on either side.”

Kenneth A. Tabler
b. 1926
Martinsburg, WV
“The Day is Far Spent” (Montani Publ, 2006)

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