After consulting with the Fulmer family for an hour, I came to the conclusion that there is no other name for the event than hog killin'. And even if there are other choices, the Fulmers will not agree to call it otherwise. The name hog killin' is not meant to be morbid. Although this name implies exactly what happened, it is far from an accurate description of the occasion, and I did not fully understand why the Fulmers were determined to call it by this until the event was over.
A hog killin' is not a regular occurrence on the Fulmer Farmstead, nor does it make for an average day. The Fulmers had been preparing for weeks to harvest two hogs on their horse-drawn produce farm in Richton, Mississippi. Equipment was gathered, a smokehouse was constructed, and several local men were contacted to help with the event since it was the first hog killin' to take place on the farm. News of the event had spread across the community from the customers of Fulmer's General Store, an old-timey general store the family operates. Finally, on the bitter cold morning of February 26, 2013, 10 men arrived at 5:30 am. The forcast had called for a high of only 38 degrees. The cold temperature was necessary to keep the meat from spoiling in the smokehouse.
With small talk and their cups of coffee, the men gathered around the scalder made from half a propane tank. A fire was made to heat the water in the scalder to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. After the hog is killed, the hog is placed in the water for its hair to turn loose. As the water was being heated, a gunshot was heard. The man that had been carrying a .22 rifle all morning had used it for the first hog.
The hog was then hung from a tractor's front-end loader and placed into the scalder. After a few minutes, the hog was lifted high in the air and the men began to gather around it. It was hard to see exactly what these men were doing, but as more men gathered around, I could see they were scraping the hair off the hog. From top to bottom, all of the hair was removed. The hog was then moved to a table to be scraped again for more detailed hair removal.
With all of the hair removed, the hog is hung and gutted. The carcass is then split in half, placed on a table, and deboned. The meat is then removed and cut into smaller cubes.
Scales are used to weigh the meat for seasoning, and after grinding and mixing the meat, it is stuffed into an edible casing, the familiar packaging of sausage. Other than sausage, bacon was removed off the ribs in the deboning process, bones are taken and smoked to be used for seasoning, and the head was saved for preparing hog head cheese.
The meat from the hog was then placed into the smokehouse. The Fulmer's smokehouse is a basic wood frame building with a fire built in the center. Hickory wood was lit and then smothered and dispersed for smoke. The meat is not cooked, just smoked. Wooden slats and poles run across the top of the wooden frame, and the meat is draped over the poles for the smoke to surround the meat for 24 hours.
The hog killin' was more than a harvest for meat. Almost 30 people had arrived to help with the event. One man had brought his grandchildren to watch, several people had come by to take pictures and visit, and one man had set-up a fryer to deep-fry the sausage as it was freshly cut. The hog killin' was a community gathering. Afterwards, everyone who had helped was given a portion of the 200 lbs of sausage and bacon.
"It was a chance for people to put a visual to the task that they grew up learning about. People have grown up hearing about a hog killin', and this helps them understand and appreciate their food, and the people around them."Carey Fulmer