COL Bianchi -- Butchering meant good food, plenty of family labor

The same farmer who tended his flocks or herds with the aid of shovels and pitchforks, rather than with automated equipment, also found time to make wood for heating and cooking with an ax and handsaw; shoveled snow by hand; and worked at things that required strength and built muscles.

Among one of those other jobs that was usually saved for cold winter days was butchering. Although every little town had a slaughter house and a locker plant, the art of butchering and cutting up meat was handed down from generation to generation. Rarely did farmers make use of commercial facilities. After all, if they did their own butchering they were sure "they had their own meat to eat!"

I think this had to be my least favorite thing done on our farm ... from the squealing or bellowing, to the smell of rendering lard. I can still see the poor animal chosen to be led to the "hanging tree." I might have watched it come out of the barn, but quickly beat it to the house -- not to return until I was sure it had gone to animal heaven. And yet, as all farm kids then and still today, we learned about birth and death; and respect for all God's creatures. One did what one had to do. Although there are still some who continue the tradition of home butchering, I'm sure it is done in a little more sophisticated manner and with better equipment.

Winter was the best time for dressing animals, with nature providing a natural cooler and freezer. Once the meat was well-chilled, it was cut into halves or quarters and carried into the house. There, it became a family affair to finish the job dad started. I can still see our old green table in the basement, leaves extended to the fullest, and everybody standing around with their own special job to do. Electric saws and grinders were unheard of. Instead, we trimmed the bones to the bone, sawed back and forth and back and forth, cranked round and round, and sharpened and re-sharpened knives.

I thought I was pretty important when I got to bring my crayons and mark the white packages with the contents: T-bones, round steak, pork chops, roasts, etc. etc. To me the cuts looked all the same!


In the following days, sausage making began. Summer sausage, farmer-style rings, liverwurst, and anything else that could be made out of a critter part was made, even though everything was not to the liking of everyone!

But as the old saying goes, "every part of the pig was used but the squeal."

When Mr. Farmer could finally sit back, happy that this job was finished, Mrs. Farmer's work began. It seemed like each day for the following week my mother found something else to make. Meat needed to be canned, headcheese to "cook up" and of course, the delicacies such as heart, tongue, hocks and liver to "put away."

Last but not least lard needed to be rendered (intentionally, the fattest pig was always chosen so that mom got the most lard possible) and soap to make from tallow. Our kitchen was full of kettles and canners forever, and sure didn't smell like roses.

Do you suppose that when we get to heaven we can eat meat three times a day and make french fries in animal grease? Bake cakes, bread and cookies, using lard for shortening? Have side pork and thick, sliced bacon for breakfast and not have to worry about high cholesterol?

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