I was talking to Dad about Thanksgiving when he was a child and learned that it was often hog killing day in Appalachia. Everyone was off work and gathering together anyway, so it was a good day for many hands to make light work.
While I’m glad NOT to be spending today scraping a hog (they have hair) or boiling down lard, knowing that folks used to do that just might come in handy for a future story. And because there’s a long-standing tradition of “using everything but the squeal,” I thought I’d give you some idea of how those various pig parts were used–from head to tail as it were.
- The Head – I know, I know. These days you’ll find “pork cheeks” on menus. That’s the head folks. The whole head was typically boiled to get all those tender bits of meat off. The pork was then used to make things like souse meat which was also called headcheese (spiced pork–kind of a terrine) or scrapple (pork mixed with cornmeal, molded, and fried).
- Some parts of the head were held back. The tongue would have been cooked much like beef tongue and the snout (rooter) was sometimes roasted.
- The Liver – This would be for your liver pudding or liver mush. You could slice and fry it or eat it cold like lunchmeat. (Well YOU could. It’s liver after all).
- The Lungs – These were also referred to as the “lights.” One recipe calls for boiling them in salted water to the consistency of gravy. Hmmmm.
- The Intestines – You may have heard of chitterlings (pronounced chitlins). You clean them WELL, boil in salted water, and fry. Or . . . some people do.
- The Feet – Well, we’ve all heard of pickled pigs feet.
- The Tail – Toss it in a stew!
Of course, most of that makes me grateful for the turkey we’re planning to eat today. But there is one recipe that I’d happily add to many a dish . . . cracklins. This is what’s left after all the pieces of fat have been cooked down to make lard. The bits of meat are basically rendered out and deep fried. Man, mix that in some cornbread and you’ll forget all about the liver pudding.