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Part 2 Hog Killing and Christmas in Rural Societies

Sign from Yatesville, Georgia. Pork related recipes and stories below
Halifax, Virginia circa 1939 courtesy of the Library of Congress
Yesterday I did part one of a two-part series on hot killing talking about hot killing in tropical regions such as the Caribbean and South America. Today let's talk about hot killing in places like North Carolina and Virginia were both sides my family respectively comes from. Dating back to the colonial period rule folk in the South slaughtered hogs around Christmas time using the cold winter weather as a natural refrigerator. Slaughtering hogs can best be described as a highly skilled labor-intensive process. As a result in most rural societies hog killing became a community event in which neighbors killed and butchered six or many more hogs at one time. Responsibilities were divvied up with some making crackling, sausage, chops, preparing choice cuts for curing and smoking hams, all the way down to cleaning the intestines for a chitlin strut or hoedown like similar one advertised above.  Hog killing continued as a collective community event, and often an integrated one until affordable refrigeration technology became widespread and available. Still the tradition continued even after World War II in some places. For example my father told how his grandfather “Wash” (short for Washington) Opie would, as part of his hog killing day, butcher and prep hogs for his farm in Virginia as well as box and ship a whole butchered and salted hog to my father’s home in Sleepy Hollow, New York. 

Patricia Dorsey-Neely’s Poem Hog Killing Time: http://patricianeelydorsey.webs.com/poemsouthernlife.htm

My pork related stories with recipes:

Italian Influences on American Christmas Traditions: Part 1 Fish and More Fish

A Global Look At Christmas Foodways: Guatemala