Butchering

Butchering was always an interesting event for me.  For the most part we butchered hogs in the 1930's, when I first remembered it, because we generally sold all our beef cattle, although occasionally we did butcher a steer.

Our good neighbor, Almer Myer, was sort of the official butcher in our area, he did the sticking (blood-letting), and furthermore he was a strong man for moving the animal during the hanging and skinning.  And of course he always had many stories to tell while the work progressed.  My uncle Ole Osmundson did the shooting when I first remember all this, but when I got to be about 11-12 years old I got to take over that job, so I have shot many hogs and steers in my time.

When we butchered hogs we generally scalded them.  First, much water had to be heated, then a large barrel was placed on an angle against a raised platform, which was large enough for two to three men to stand on.  The hog was shot, then stuck, (we would save the blood in a wide pan, and it had to be stirred gently but steadily for a few minutes, with a bit of salt added), then the barrel was filled about two thirds full of the heated water.  The hog was then shoved into the barrel, drawn in and out of the water quite a number of times until the bristle became nearly loose enough to pull out with one's fingers.  Then the pig's ends were reversed, repeating the process until the bristles were nearly loose there also.  The animal was then pulled out onto the platform, and the bristles were scraped off with special scrapers or large butcher knives.  When this was completed the carcass was suspended by the hind legs, and the disemboweling took place, saving the heart and the liver.

About now it would be time for a big dinner, then a long rest with a smoke or two, and a few more stories from Almer.  (I'd even get a pinch of snoose from Almer now and then!)

After a while it was time to cut up the carcass.  The bead was cut off and made into headcheese.  Mrs. Ole L. Anderson was an expert at making headcheese, and she also had a smokehouse for smoking the hams.  Since we had no freezer at that time, my mother had to can the rest of the meat unless we butchered in the wintertime, when we could freeze at least some of the meat.  The canned meat tasted very good, delicious, but it was a long, hot job for my mother to do it.  The blood was mixed with potatoes and cooked to make dumplings, very, very good, served hot or cold.  One could also make blood kurv, a mix of blood, flour, and onions that was fried.  That I liked too.

Some people would butcher only at a certain phase of the moon, but I can't recall that we paid any attention to that though.  It was an immense help to us when finally there were butchers and lockers in town, and freezers and refrigerators at home.  *

Home butchering was a necessary job in the earlier days, but it was also a little bit of a social event.

Allen Osmundson

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial Page 129

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