For months now we had been planning a hoof-to-table pig processing class with our friend PJ. This weekend we put the last of Star’s first piglets in the freezer. They were huge, but we had been saving them for November, when we thought it would be cold. It wasn’t. It was downright hot (actually record temperatures for November). We usually get the first frost in the beginning of November.
There were lots of things that went this way – we thought it would be a certain way, and it just wasn’t.
We had a decent number of students. They mostly stood around and watched us work, exclaiming about what hard work it was. We thought they would want to dive in and help out. Some of them did, but most of them didn’t.
Slaughter days are a lot of work. Everyone has to help out. Clothilde quite put them to shame.
On Sunday we did the cooking. LOTS of sausage was made. French-style pork-liver pate. Scrapple. Mmmmmm….We didn’t use the stomach and intestines (one of these days we will figure it out!), but everything else was salvaged. Trotters for the stock pot. Head cheese. Fat for lard.
Bratwurst, polish sausage, sage breakfast sausage, fresh chorizo, Italian, blood sausage. The blood sausage was the best yet. After all these months of trying out different ways to make black pudding with the beef blood we saved, I’ve finally got the seasonings and meat/blood ration down right.
We even made liverwurst (it turned out so good!)
One thing I’ve heard from two people that really annoys me is this idea of “secret sausage recipes.” I think it’s stupid. Maybe a long time ago in Europe when there were entire families who supported their existence on a certain tasty sausage, I can understand the secrecy….but for a hobbyist sausage-maker? It’s idiotic.
I have a bunch of books on sausage making, but none of them seem very practical. They are all for the leisurely hobbyist sausage-maker, not “we’ve got two entire hogs we’ve got to get in the freezer as fast as possible” type of sausage-maker, which is what we are. I found this lovely site for inspiration.
It was five LONG days, between getting ready, the actual days of the class, and the clean-up.
As I said, there were lots of things that didn’t go quite right, the biggest thing was my illness and recovery. I still have four more weeks until I am supposed to feel okay again, so I was not 100%. And Ethan needed me. I’m kind of the boss of things. I get things done. We needed a task master with that particular hands-in-their-pockets class.
The pigs were not very cooperative, and because I had been so sick, I couldn’t help Ethan move them to the pens where they would have been easier to manage. Ethan was very nervous, and the first pig he didn’t get a good shot on. It squealed horribly, and took forever to finally die. The next pig, he got a good shot on, but it was, as PJ said, “just plain stubborn.” The class was totally traumatized, and even though I tried telling them it usually isn’t like that, I could tell no one believed me.
Another thing that was really the most upsetting part, was that a guy we had recently met was there. He is a leisurely hobbyist sausage-maker with secret recipes. He has his own sausage classes he teaches. We had met with him beforehand, and he seemed very nice. But at our class he talked incessantly about how we were doing everything wrong (in his opinion), and promoted his class and his friend’s mobile slaughter business, and his friend’s pigs to our students. He did not speak to us about it. He talked behind our backs to the other people. And he really didn’t get what we were doing. He thought we should just take a huge gun and blow the things up (because Ethan didn’t get a good shot.) He even made the comment to me, “You’ll do anything to get that head cheese.” He sat and went on and on about how gross organ meats are, and blood sausage is, while we were right in the middle of saving the precious organs.
I tried to counteract this by explaining why we do things the way we do. We put a lot into our pigs. A lot of time, a lot of skimmed milk, expensive non-GMO feed, a lot of garden and table scraps. These pigs are precious to us. They represent an enormous investment. And we like to honor the life of the animal by using as much as possible, and not letting anything go to waste. I really believe that thriftiness, and fully using and enjoying all the gifts from the earth, is the secret to a happy and satisfying life. Not only that, but most of the nutrition from the animal is in the organs, the fat, and the bones. Just eating muscle meat is like eating iceberg lettuce and feeling like you’re eating well because you’re consuming a lot of vegetables, while turning your nose up at the beets and carrots.
I only got halfway through before he interrupted me to tell everyone how much he hates eating organ meats and how disgusting they taste. It was extremely rude, and certainly colored us as extremist farmer/eater types to the class. However, I know that energy like that brings it’s own karma. We might have been made to look bad, but it never pays to go and bad-mouth someone else to promote yourself.
Success isn’t about everything going perfectly well always. It’s about learning from your mistakes. We had some serious flaws about this first class. One of them was to not charge a deposit to register. Because money was not immediately involved, people didn’t respect us, and cancelled very inconsiderately at the last minute. Another thing was we needed to make it clear that this was a hands-on class, not a hands-in-your-pockets class. And we really needed to explain our philosophy and why we do things the way we do.