Tag Archives: pork

Lagniappe: Butchering the Hog


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Chickens (still) enjoying the good life in Fort Collins, Colorado – 1957 or so

I grew up on a 5-acre “tract” in Fort Collins, Colorado, in the 1950s and we had a few sheep, a few cows, a pig or two and some chickens and turkeys. But those were mostly so my brother and I could have the 4-H experience. We didn’t count on them for our food supply. The only remembrance I have of using our animals for food was my dad cutting off a chicken’s head, on top of an old tree stump in our back yard – and the headless running around that resulted. Dramatic and traumatic, but that was it. Short-lived, so to speak.

My brother maintains it was he who cut the head off  – and it was a turkey, not a chicken –  and it was just prior to Thanksgiving.  Memories seem to be variable.

Our Baton Rouge neighbor, Katie, and her brother Joe (see last week’s blog) have vivid memories of the yearly late fall ritual in Crowville, Louisiana, when the “fattening hog” was slaughtered. Though both recall that children never witnessed the actual killing – in fact, Katie doesn’t know how it was accomplished – the butchering was a joint endeavor of several-families, children included. Please don’t wince as I recount a little of the procedure. It’s good sometimes to be aware of how meat reaches – or used to reach – our table.

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Eating pork loin must be  “livin’ high on the hog”

The (now-dead) hog was first dipped in a vat of boiling water so that the hair could be scraped or shaved off. Then the animal was hoisted up on a pulley for the shaving and the removal of the entrails. Skin (to become “cracklins’ – considered a great delicacy) was immediately cooked and the fat rendered for lard. The whole hog was used for food – brain, skin, feet, head, entrails.  The family that owned the hog always got the hog’s head.

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The drawing above comes from an article on the specifics of hog-butchering – which seems to pretty much mirror what Katie has told me about the event.

Because large home freezers didn’t enter the picture until the 1950s – and Katie and Joe grew up in the 1930s and 1940s – the meat from this hog, which would be a main source of meat for the entire year, would need to be preserved –  with salt and smoke.  Shoulders, hams, bacon slabs, and sausages were all preserved that way.  Only a few parts, such as the tenderloin, were eaten (and I’m sure greatly enjoyed) immediately, since those parts didn’t preserve well.

In Joe’s wonderfully informative paper about life on a Franklin Parish farm, he remembers how school children’s lunches were primarily ham and sausage and biscuits – and how wonderful the cloakroom smelled because of that.  And his insightfulness continues:

Southern vegetables were flavored with pork, usually “fat meat.” It is fortunate that cholesterol had not been invented in the 1930s and 1940s otherwise life expectancy in the region would have been greatly reduced. (Editor’s note: 🙂 )

 Cooking was almost exclusively with hog lard. Vegetable oils only began to come into use in the post war period.

It goes without saying that far too much animal fat and too much salt was consumed on the Macon Ridge and throughout the South. Considering the intake of fat and salt, the general health conditions and longevity were surprisingly good. Hot weather and hard manual labor perhaps helped to dilute the effects of these unhealthy items. Furthermore, I recall very few cases of obesity of people at any age during the war years.”

Before I invited our friend Lynne over to eat our Louisiana meal, I advised her to do some serious work in her yard and garden….preferably on a 90 degree day with high humidity.  Following that, here’s what we served her: Gaga’s Angel Biscuits, Southern Creamy Butter Beans with Ham (recipe below), Collards with Bacon, Sweet Potato Pone and Eggplant Fritters.  As we always said, growing up in Colorado, you’d think we’d “died and gone to heaven.”  Or was it “hog heaven?”



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Butter Beans with Ham (and collards and angel biscuits)

Butter Beans with Ham

We don’t have a family recipe from Katie for cooking butter beans – since who would possibly need to write down something so simple – so we went to another Louisiana authority, Chef John Folse, for inspiration. Note: there are MANY theories as to the best way to cook dried beans.  We’ve opted for the quickest, simplest – and possibly tastiest.  Also, don’t salt until the end of the cooking time – not because it keeps the beans from getting tender (it doesn’t) but because the ham will add saltiness during the cooking process.

  • 1 lb of dried butter beans (aka lima beans); Camellia brand is the Louisiana favorite
  • 3 T butter
  • 1 c chopped onions
  • 1 c chopped celery
  • 1 c chopped bell pepper – either green or red
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 oz ham, diced
  • 2 ham hocks
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Tony Cachere’s Seasoning, if you happen to have it
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • parsley, chopped, for garnish (optional)
  • rice to serve with the beans (optional)

Rinse the beans; put them in a large pot, covering the beans with about 2″ of water.  Bring the water to a boil and let the beans boil for a few minutes.  While that’s happening, heat a large skillet, add the butter.  When the skillet is medium hot, add the onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic, and diced ham.  Saute, stirring, for about 5 minutes.

After the beans have boiled for a few minutes, turn down the heat so they are just simmering.  Add the vegetable/ham mixture and the ham hocks, pepper, Tony Cachere’s, and thyme and stir to combine.  Allow the beans and vegetables and ham hocks to simmer until the beans are tender, but not mushy.  I partly cover the pot.  My beans cooked in about 1 hour.  Taste and add salt, if necessary.  Stir in the parsley.  Serve over rice, if you wish.

These beans may be even better the second day! Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.





Pork and Brussels Sprouts w/Chile Lime Sauce

Pork_SwPotato_BSproutsOur first Best of the Besties’ recipe comes from Janet and Larry who sent (via USPS!) a whole packet of their favorite recipes…just when we needed them most.    A great suggestion when fixing this easy dinner is that you can easily make substitutions for the pork tenderloin.  For example, use boneless chicken or salmon or perhaps pork loin, instead of the tenderloin (did you know that pork tenderloin and pork loin come from entirely different parts of the pig?  I didn’t until I read up on it yesterday).

Pork and Brussels Sprouts with Chile Lime Sauce

  • Servings: 4
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adapted from Chef Gregory Gourdet


  • 1 1/2 # brussels sprouts, stems removed and halved
  • 1 # sweet potatoes, cut into about 3/4″ x 4″ wedges
  • 1 small red onion, quartered
  • 1 pork tenderloin (or substitute boneless chicken or salmon)
  • 1/2 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp pepper, divided
  • 5 T olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 c – 3/4 c cilantro, chopped for serving


  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1/4 c lime juice
  • 2 tsp of very finely minced ginger
  • 1 or 2 Fresno chiles, roughly chopped (if you can’t find these red chiles, substitute jalapenos, reducing the amount slightly; and A&A recommend taking out the seeds)
  • 1 or 2 T of soy sauce or teriyaki sauce (or try fish sauce)

Put all the sauce ingredients into a blender, mix, and set aside.


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Put the brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes in a lidded- container, add half the olive oil and 1/4 tsp each of the salt and pepper, put the lid on the container and shake gently to coat.  Then spread the veggies on a “Pam-ed” baking sheet. Put the onion, round part down, on the sheet and gently pour some drops of olive oil on them.  It’s best to put the brussels sprouts cut side down and not stir them as they roast. Put the veggies in the oven and roast for about 30-45 minutes, gently turning the sweet potatoes once or twice.

While the veggies roast, rub the tenderloin with the remainder of the salt, pepper, and olive oil.  About 15-20 minutes before the veggies are to come out of the oven, heat a skillet until hot, then add the pork tenderloin and brown it on all sides, then lower the heat and cook until it is done – a total of 10 to 15 minutes. You want the pork done but still juicy (which can be tricky with tenderloins).

Remove the veggies from the oven.  Slice the meat into chunks, and put them on a nice big serving platter.  Put the veggies around the pork, sprinkle the chopped cilantro over everything and pour the sauce over it all.  Serve.

from A&A: I just read an article in Fine Cooking mag that reminds us that pork is now safe if a little pink remains.  And, if you’re reheating the meal, just put everything into a covered skillet over low heat.  Also, we used an O’Henry sweet potato; that’s why it’s yellow-ish rather than the more expected orange-ish.  Recipe brought to you by Janet and Larry – and Big Little Meals

Chile Verde


Our daughter, Sara, and son-in-law, Joe Hargrave, own several Tacolicious restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area. I adapted this from their Tacolicious cookbook, which Andy and I recommend highly…especially since we helped test recipes for it 🙂

Chile Verde

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print


  • 5 tomatillos, hulls removed and chopped
  • 1 jalapeno (or more if you’re daring), stemmed, SEEDED, and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 c cilantro, chopped
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped or sliced, whichever is easier for you
  • 1 poblano chile, stemmed, seeded, and cut into strips – about 1/2″ by 2″ (don’t worry about exact size!)
  • 1 T kosher salt
  • 4 c water
  • 2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into about 1 1/2″ cubes.


Put the tomatillos, jalapeno, garlic, and cilantro into a blender or food processor and puree until almost smooth, adding a touch of water if necessary.

In a large, heavy pot (Staub? La Creuset? cast iron? Gotta have one of those!) heat the oil. Add the onions and Poblano chile and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened. Add the salt and the tomatillo mixture and saute, stirring, for 3-4 more minutes. Then add the water and cubes of pork. Return the mixture to a boil; then turn the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer for 2-3 hours. OR a still simpler way: if your pot and lid are oven-proof, put it on a low rack of the oven, covered, and roast at 275 degrees for about 3 hours. You want the pork to end up so tender that you can pull it apart with forks.

If you’re using the pork and broth later, let the mixture cool and then chill it, so the fat accumulates at the top and can be easily removed.  Or, if you’re using just the pork for tacos or burritos, remove it from the broth and shred it, moistening it with a bit of broth. Then refrigerate or freeze the broth.

Now you’ve got this d-lish pork dish that can go so many directions: you can put the meat in a corn tortilla, add a little cabbage, cilantro, onion, lime and have a simple taco – or put it in a flour tortilla with some beans and have a burrito; you can serve the broth and pork over rice (adding a touch of lime juice and some chopped onions and/or cilantro makes it even better!); or you can add some chicken broth and some canned hominy and shredded cabbage, and you’ve got a take on posole. Yum yum yum.

As with everything we send your way, it will be good warmed up and freezes well too.

Recipe provided by Big Little Meals and Andy and Ann

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