Monday, January 17, 2011
Pig Butchering and the Art of Sausage Making
The depths of winter are the poor man's butchering season. For those of us without walk-in freezers in our homes, it is a far easier chore to butcher your own hogs when your garage has acquired the temperature of a cold refridgerator. So these January weekends we are butchering, with lots of help from family and friends. Some aspects of pork butchering are easy to learn: after the men have done the messy work of gutting and hanging, what remains of the pig roughly resembles what one finds in the store. Cutting a ham is simply, if not gracefully, done, and with a pair of sturdy sterilized tree pruners in hand, chops and spare ribs are easily cut.
But sausage making is not such a simple proposition, as we have discovered over the course of two years of pig butchering. Combining cubes of fat and odd bits of meat with an array of spices is truly an art, and not one that can be swiftly mastered. Since sausage remains our family's favorite dish, we are striving hard to be careful and to test our mixes before committing. It means, of course, more time, since raw pork precludes taste testing. Many small patties are fried as samples and everyone gives their opinion.
This year's sausage making was made vastly less arduous by our Christmas-present-to-ourselves of a black KitchenAid mixer with a food grinder and sausage stuffing attachment. And our neighbors offered to double our output by loaning us their red model. So even now we labor far into the evening on what we hope will afford us six months of breakfast sausage, all hands pitching in, as you can see from the above.
Appearances aside, we haven't achieved nearly the level of the Ingalls family of Little House fame: we don't use all of the pig (no roasting of the tail!) and we are scarcely as resourceful as Ma. Yet I will say that butchering our own animals has brought us a degree of community with our friends (for we need their help!) like nothing else.