In recent years, we have been fortunate to have truly become involved in being part of our food supply chain. The appreciation you have for what is on your plate when you are part of the entire process is something I can not convey in words. This year, we took it a step further and I am so grateful to have been able to partake in the entire process.
A smallholder farm a few kilometers from where we live offered us the opportunity to be part of a small group who would buy, slaughter and butcher our own meat. We of course jumped on the chance! So this spring, three little pigs were introduced to their new home where they had lots of place to play and dig up the ground, be fed well and live a happy life.
Well last week, the time to do the dirty deed came along. With the help of another local farmer, we as a group learned by doing. And it was a very educational and rewarding experience.
The pigs had grown significantly, the weather was perfect and all hands were on deck. We were very fortunate to have a group of people who worked really well together. Group chemistry has a very important role to play when you have a job like this. When you have a group who are all hard working, willing to lend a hand anywhere, and take the initiative to tie any loose strings, it is a pleasure to work together.
One of the key reasons why we were keen to do this, is that Norway’s only mobile slaughter system closed down last year. We have been working to revive it, and hope to be able to find a way to provide a humane, stress-free end for these animals. I do not believe that putting an animal on a truck to send it off to slaughter is the way to go. But I will not delve in to that now, or this will be a very long post!
Ours were blissfully unaware that their time was up, they were given extra special goodies on their last day, and the time from their last nibble to their lights going out was mere minutes. Everything was ready, Lots of hot water for scalding, an old bathtub, a tractor for transport, scraping cups (they were new to me but very smart!) and a slaughter bench.
With the help of an experienced farmer, and a carefully aimed the bolt-pistol the deed was done. With a sharp knife, you cut the jugular and in an enamelled bowl with salt you collect the blood. It needs to be stirred until it cools so that it does not coagulate. There are a variety of ways to prepare blood, we offered ours to one of the other members in the group who was keen to try. We knew we had enough on our plate already!
The hind legs of the pig are then slit to expose the tendon which you can then hook for hoisting.
Once transported to the scalding station, they were lifted into the tub. Let me tell you, there is an art to lifting a pig! It is not as easy as one might think. The water was at just the right temperature for scaling the hairy outer layer off the skin. This was one of the parts that I was interested to learn about. As we are so used to seeing the smooth pork bellies at the market, and I saw how hairy our pigs were. It worked beautifully. You had to work hard and fast, using the metal cup scrapers, as if you did not remove the outer layer soon enough, it would set again. Three people working at full force cleaned each pig within 10 minutes. The scraper cups by the way are round so that there are not edges that would nick the skin.
Once clean, it was hoisted again with a spreader bar on the tractor. A blow torch took care of the last remaining whiskers and time to gut. I have seen many a youtube video on this part, but being there was a new experience. We removed the innards, and set aside the parts that we would be using. None of us were interested in cleaning the intestine for sausages, as we had access to clean casings already, but we set aside the heart, tongue, liver and certain other parts. I prepped the parts, and cleaned out the heart. You need to clean out the blood from all four of the ventricles. We had brought our vacuum machine along, and packed them down on the spot for everyone to take home.
The carcasses were cut in half with a saw, which was not an easy task, heads were removed (we will make traditional norwegian head cheese aka ‘sylte’ with ours. Those who were leaving theirs to hang at the farm hung them in the barn, we packed our in the car which we had lined with plastic and hung them in our shed in a net hunting bag. The temperatures have been perfect to hang it there, and 5 days later we butchered the entire pig. But that post will have to wait, as that was yesterday, and today is sausage and stock day.. stay tuned!
Great article! As I was fortunate to be part of that day as well, the serenity, respectfulness, hard work and most of all the smooth and almost obvious cooperation I experienced during the process, reflects very well in what you wrote!