high on the hog

Three days before Christmas, we loaded up our pigs and hauled them to market, to market…or the butcher shop, rather.

Loading was tricky. Literally a head-scratching affair…


We are not farmers, so we lack the farmery equipment, such as sturdy trailers for hauling large animals. Instead, my husband put them on his trailer, in the wooden box that he built to carry boring things like trash and mulch. The pigs did not fancy the trailer or the climb up the old wooden door-turned-ramp, so my daughter coaxed them with grain, and my husband and younger kids made a makeshift barrier with sheets of cardboard. The cardboard was more of a vision block than anything, considering the pigs could have plowed through them at any point. 

Once Pig One was in the trailer, happily breakfasting, my son put a piece of wood in the middle of the trailer to serve as a partition and they set to work on Pig Two, the more temperamental of the two. Lots of hushed yelling, slopping about in the mud, and very cautious maneuvering later and Pig Two was finally up and in.

And then my older daughter was like, Uh, Dad, they’re going to bust out of this box. And it was true, the pigs’ backs were above the top, and whenever they leaned against the sides, the walls bulged out. If they decided to chuck a fit, it’d be bye-bye piggies for sure.

So my husband belted the box with ropes, and then lidded it with a tarp and firmly bungee-corded it down. It was time to hit the road. Fingers crossed we wouldn’t be chasing pigs on Route 42.

I had told my younger daughter she could ride along in the truck. Since she’s the most resistant to the butchering process and had never been to the slaughter house, I hoped that seeing the end destination might help her integrate the whole pig-raising experience. And I told my older daughter she could go along, too. She was the one that cared for the pigs, after all. But then both my boys threw fits—they wanted to go, too. Fine, I yelled. We’ll ALL go.

After we unloaded the pigs into the holding shed behind the butcher shop…

…we crowded into the tiny office to turn in our paperwork. I had spent the previous evening researching a variety of cuts and making my selections and wanted to be sure I had done everything correctly. While we waited for the customer in front of us to finish up, I pointed out the little window behind the desk through which we could see the workers cutting up great slabs of beef. The kids jostled to see, oohing and aahing. After a minute, the woman behind the desk (over whose head we were staring) asked if we’d like a tour. 

Actually, first she said, “Are you the one who brought the two little kids to have a tour a few years ago?”

“Yep, that was us,” I said.

“We talk about you all the time,” she beamed.

(That she remembered didn’t catch me off guard completely. When I had stopped by the office to set the slaughter date and the guy behind the desk asked if we had done business with them before, I explained that no, we hadn’t, but we had come by for a tour several years ago, at which point the owner popped his head around the corner and said, “You the one that brought those two little kids? I still have their thank you letters!” And then he quoted from them, I kid you not: Mr. Joe, you have the best job in the world!, and I liked seeing the beating heart after the pig was dead. The whole exchange—connections! relationships!—made me feel fuzzy warm about the place, which come to think of it, seems a little odd, considering the place is a slaughter house and all.)

They weren’t slaughtering that day, so the kids and I got to walk all over the place in our mesh caps and white coats, getting an up-close look at the pulley systems, scalding tank, and fancy saws.

Monday morning of this week, I got the call that our meat was ready. Eight heavy boxes of tenderloin, pork butt, side meat, hams, ground pork, sausage, ribs, and fat. (We sold half of one pig, so this is 1.5 pigs.)

That evening we piled the boxes on the table. While my husband cut open the boxes to inspect the contents, I cackled like a tipsy chicken, so over-the-moon happy with our piggy-pork bounty I could hardly stand it. The next morning we ate sage sausage with our fried eggs and bagels, and that evening’s supper was pulled pork in soft tortillas.

This is the first time we’ve raised our own meat (not counting chickens) and I have two thoughts and one request.

Two Thoughts:
1. I had no idea how gratifying it would be to stand in my kitchen eating the meat that came from the animals that I, from my very kitchen window, watched grow up.
2. When raising your own food, the harvest is often overwhelming, so I’m familiar with the drowning-in-food feeling. Meat, however, is a totally new experience. The sheer quantity feels like riches untold.

One Request:
In those brown boxes are more large chunks of meat than I’ve ever possessed in my life. I have little experience preparing big pieces of meat, so I’d love to hear your favorite recipes. I know there’s pulled pork and stew with chunks of pork, but what else?

This same time, years previous: Christmas, quite frankly, 5-grain porridge with apples, breaking the fruitcake barrier, the quotidian (1.6.14), headless chickens, buckwheat apple pancakes, candied peanuts, winter chickens, and my jackpot.      


  • teekaroo

    How exciting! My freezer is getting terribly low on pork, so I keep looking at our up and coming pig hoping she's big enough, but not yet. We ventured into the world of breeding a sow to raise piggies. Got a litter due any day now, so hopefully it will all work out.
    As far as recipes, I use pork chops in a lot of recipes meant for chicken breasts. Cook them in a creamy sauce and eat over rice, or just season, tenderize and grill -my favorite.
    My husband really likes recipes that have honey or brown sugar in them, so we cook roasts that way sometimes. I use the roast leftovers in stir fry, or shred and eat in sandwiches.
    I use the fat to mix into our deer or elk burger. It really helps game meat taste good.

  • Lindsay

    I cut up several of our large roasts and canned them as chunks. Just browned the meat, put it into jars, covered with boiling hot stock and pressured canned (75 min for pints, 90 min for quarts, time and weight adjusted as appropriate for your altitude and type of canner. Which incidentally is the same processing time as for beans, so if you don't have a full canner-load of meat you can use the extra space for beans). It was a good way to get some space in the freezer and have some meat ready to go for super quick meals.

    My favorite thing to make with those is green posole:
    glug of oil/fat of your choosing
    1 lg onion, chopped (if you're in a real hurry this is optional)
    1 qt cooked pork chunks in broth or with stock/water added if not using canned
    1 pint salsa verde (I use homemade, but store bought is fine)
    1 pint cooked pinto beans
    28 oz can hominy, rinsed and drained
    1 bunch cilantro, stemmed and roughly chopped
    additional broth or water to reach desired consistency

    Heat oil in stock pot over medium heat, saute onion a few minutes, until starting to soften. Dump in everything else except cilantro and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 10-30 minutes (how much time do you have?). Taste and adjust seasoning and consistency. Stir in cilantro and remove from heat.
    Serve with any/several/all of the following: sour cream, cheese, additional cilantro, hot sauce, sliced radishes, wedges of lime.

  • Judi

    We just brought our first pig to be butchered last week. Atleast you have a truck! We put Daylily in our van! My husband and son brought her but I was told they were the only minivan in line :). Still waiting for the call to pick up our meat. Enjoyed reading your experience.

  • Stephanie @ The Cozy Old Farmhouse

    We cook our pork loin in a roaster pan (lid on, no liquid) at 500 degrees for 5 minutes per pound and then you let it sit in the un-opened oven for 1.5hrs. It comes out tender and juicy with just a hint of pink left in the middle. Oh so yum! Later in the week we sometimes use the leftover loin to make toasted subs. I slice the meat super thin and we layer it on sub buns then drizzle BBQ sauce over the meat and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and toast them open face style in the oven. Mm-mmm!!

    The loins are also amazing cut into thick chops and marinated in Italian dressing and Everglades Seasoning and grilled.

  • Lizzy

    Simple roast pork is a favourite here. Rolled leg or shoulder. Dry the fat well with kitchen paper. Then liberally salt with rock salt. Roast at a high heat. (Jamie O has guidelines). You'll end up with crispy fat – crackling, and tender pork. We serve with buttery mashed potato, apple sauce and green veg. Simple but good.

  • Unknown

    I am making a pork ragu with creamy polenta that I found on Epicurious this weekend. It calls for a 3lb piece of pork. Fingers crossed it is as good as it sounds 🙂

  • Lana

    Rub a Boston Butt generously with taco seasoning and cook in the crock pot for 12 plus hours with a cup and a half of water. Shred and stir back into the juices in the crock and reheat. Serve over rice with cornbread on the side and coleslaw is great here too. The next day serve this as pork tacos. This is one of our favorite meals, the rice one.

    I was allergic to beef for a time and used pork as I would have beef for many recipes. Often times we thought it was better than beef. So, use it for dishes like beef stew with pork instead. Of course there is nothing better than pork roast for Sunday dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy. The next day use the leftover gravy and pork for pork and noodles.

    I always keep pulled pork with BBQ sauce in meal size portions in my freezer since it is an easy to pull out and heat meal on 'those' days. Around these here parts in SC it is eaten over a baked potato besides on a bun.

    I cube boneless pork and pressure can it. That is so convenient to have on the pantry shelf and can even be used in place of chicken in a casserole. It also shreds very nicely for BBQ. I abhor the smell of it while it is in the canner so I pick a day when I can open a window.

    Hope this helps!

  • Second Sister

    The Maasai boil down their meat fat, add some water and healthy herbs from the forest and drink it as a healing brew they swear keeps them strong, or they simply down a quantity for a cleanse. The herb drink most people love. They call it soup. The cleanse version most adults remember with disgust as something their mother made them do at some point or other growing up. The soup was not my favorite culinary experience and the cleanse sounds rather terrible, too. But good luck with your version of fat use;) What about pig fat candles? My youngest sis made candles from beef tallow. Doesn't smell as good as you might wish, but hey… options, options. So many options. No recipes for the rest, here, though.

  • Margo

    love this story and your gratification. With pork, I do pork and sauerkraut. Also, I bake a ham for a holiday like Easter or Christmas, and then squirrel away the bits of ham in my freezer for ham and apple cheese pie, ham balls, and cabbage and ham salad (all recipes on my blog because they are delicious). Hopefully Rebecca will chime in here because they butcher their own pigs, too.

Leave a Comment