November is Hog Killing Season

Margaret and Major Cox at a Hog Killin' Time Barbecue
Margaret and Major Cox at a Hog Killin’ Time Barbecue

As a child growing up in rural Alabama, I always thought that the first frost was the beginning of the hog killing season. Since there were seasons for all things, why not a Hog Killing Season? I was not ever sure when the hog killing season would begin, it wasn’t marked on the calendar like the other seasons. Nor was there an official time for it to begin as with the hunting seasons. It was one of those mysteries that the old folks keep from kids and there were lots of mysteries to solve. For example, my folks knew the exact day when a cow would have a calf. That was one of those bits of wisdom that grown-ups knew that I was a long time grasping. Putting all the pieces of that puzzle together was not easy.

Determining the Hog Killing Season was not as complex as the calving season since there were not as many interconnected activities to track. The time to kill a hog has more to do with temperature than biology. Country people like my family didn’t have refrigeration and needed the span of a few cold days to process the hog without the meat spoiling.

You often hear people say “You can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” Well, I am a “country boy,” and when the latest cold snap hit southeast Alabama a week or so ago, it signaled “hog killing time” to me.

To begin, I needed a hog. In days past this would not have presented a challenge. My family would have had a few hogs in a pen out back already fattened and waiting for this first cold weather. Folks don’t keep hogs in their backyards anymore. It’s hard to find a hog to kill.

I found plenty at Alabama Pork Buyers, Inc. at Capital Stockyards. They sell live hogs. Next, I had to find someone who knew how to kill and dress it for me. I never quite learned how to do all that from my father, and even if I had, I’d have been tempted to pay someone to do it anyway. So for that part, I had the animal transported from Alabama Pork Buyers to Montgomery Meat Processing, a business that specializes in helping country folks remain that way.

Now most folks raise and slaughter hogs for one reason. . . to eat them. The best way I know to prepare a hog for eating is to barbecue it. For this you need several things: First, dig a pit, six feet long, two feet deep and three feet wide. Fabricate a metal rack the size of the pit and strong enough to hold the weight of the hog. Cut a half cord of green Hickory and place it near the pit. The only other thing you’ll need is time.

A past "honored" guest
A past “honored” guest

It takes about 14 hours to barbecue a 200 pound hog over an open pit. You will need to start a fire with the hickory near the pit about an hour before you begin cooking. Strap the hog to the rack with the ribs facing the bottom of the pit, wire it on tight at the legs. You cook the hog by placing coals from the fire in the pit under the hog.

That’s all I can tell you about barbecuing, the rest of it is a Southern secret meticulously guarded by those who have learned it the hard way. If you don’t burn the hog or undercook it, the hundred or so friends that you invited will feast at a traditional Southern ritual the following day.

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Originally Published: September 1995, Eclectic Observer and Union Springs Facts

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