Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


When my grandfather Theo Fellows butchered livestock, I was not allowed to help or to see the process, as I was very young. However, my aunt Lizzie Heckart Fellows described the process in her little Four Seasons book.

According to Aunt Lizzie, butchering was done in late November or early December. Two big iron kettles were hung outdoors on a strong pole and filled with water. A fire underneath brought the water to a boil. Nearby, a barrel was placed on a small platform. Hogs were scalded, then dragged out onto the platform for scraping.

To scald the hogs, the animals were held by their hind legs and plunged up and down in the boiling water until all parts were scalded. Hair was removed, and the entrails were taken out and run for fat. The head was cut off, and the heart and liver removed.

Eight or nine carcasses were taken to the basement to hang upside down to cool.

The brains, liver, heart, ribs and back bones were set aside for immediate using or exchanging with neighbors. Brains were soaked in salt water, rolled in flour, and fried in butter. The head was cut up for making headcheese, and the jowls were cut up for frying with vegetables. My great-grandmother Fellows made liverwurst from the liver. She also cleaned and made “pickled pigs feet.”

Lard took two to three days to make from the fat and small pieces. The pots of frying fat had to be watched carefully because if it got too hot, the lard would be hard. The desired objective was to make a snowy white product.

It also took several days to make sausage. Meat was cut up and ground, then seasoned, and formed into cakes ready to fry. Cakes were packed in five- and ten-gallon earthen jars. Several layers of sausages would be put into each jar, then hot lard was poured on top. More layers of sausage were added, then more lard, until the jar was full.

This method kept the sausage without refrigeration, and was also a method used for storing tenderloins.

Meat was put down in brine (thick salt water,) which must be strong enough to prevent spoiling. When the salt penetrated the meat enough to keep it from spoiling, the meat was taken to the smokehouse where it hung to drain and dry. Thus meat was too salty to use without soaking.

Hickory wood was used for smoking the meat and there was an art to getting it just right. Once the meat was smoked, it was wrapped in cloth or paper and would hang in the smokehouse until ready for use. Home-cured ham was sweet and tender.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick