Wednesday, February 18, 2015

_The Hancock News_ Column-- February 11, 2014

Years and years ago, I remember just a hazy sliver of what hog butchering was like at my grandparents’ farm. My memory goes something like this. My grandmother, mother, and maybe some aunts were inside talking. I had my face glued to the window watching my grandfather, father, uncles and cousins doing something that looked interesting outside. 

“I want to go outside, too,” I begged my mother. 

“No. It’s too cold. You’ll get underfoot. You don’t want to be out there anyway,” she replied.

End of memory.

But I really did want to be out there anyway.

Nowadays, few things excite my children and, to be honest, their parents, more than butchering day. Granddaddy has been gone for decades, but so many other families carry on the tradition. Our family has been blessed for the last ten years to be invited by our dear friends to be part of their family’s butchering day.

I’d like to tell you that I have mastered all aspects of the butchering process in those ten years, but I don’t think I’ve lifted a finger to help with any of the hard work that goes into putting sausage gravy and biscuits on my breakfast plate throughout the year. While I make the occasional trip outside to see how things are going and to snag a cracklin’ or two, most of my butchering day is spent inside my hostess’s warm house, enjoying the conversation while taking care of the current baby and toddler because, of course, it’s too cold outside for them and they’d just get underfoot anyway.

My older children, however, love nothing more than running around outside--cold and probably underfoot. They play with sticks and pine cones and listen to all the talk, a treasure of stories from now and long ago and practical wisdom passed down from one generation to the next. They warm themselves around the fire and enjoy all the yummy things to eat.

I can’t keep track of what they eat on this day. The outside workers have a tableful of pig-pickin’ food-- doughnuts, homemade pickles, soups, and steamers, and the list goes on and on. 

Almost everybody usually ventures inside once or twice to warm up or to ask for a pan or salt or some other thing needed for one of the outside tasks. Few head back outside before sampling some of the inside feast which may consist of homemade macaroni and cheese, soups, hot dogs, and hot coffee. It varies from year to year, but always there are pies.

 The favorite butchering day pies are made by our hostess, one of the best pie-makers ever, I’m convinced. And the favorite pie of the day is, without a doubt, her raisin pie. Yes, I suspect this raisin pie is the real reason some of the workers bother to come inside at all.

One year on the way home in the afternoon, I wondered if I’d need to prepare a healthy snack at home. While I figured the boys had consumed a mountain of sweets, I still held out some hope that they’d found room for a sandwich, too. I asked what they’d eaten, and what they told me just made me shake my head.

Instead of cake, cookies, and pie, they replied, “We had snout, heart, tongue, and cracklin’s!”

As for me, I think I’ll stick to the pie.


If you don’t have the opportunity to be part of a hog butchering, you can still have the raisin pie. I’ll share with you my friend’s recipe, one that used to be on the package of raisins. It has also been called Funeral Pie by the Amish, but my friend wasn’t sure why. Just remember that it’s best if you can use lard in the crust.

Sun-Maid Raisin Pie

2 cups Sun-Maid Raisins
2 cups water
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed down
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 Tbsp. butter
your favorite pie crust (both top and bottom crust)

Boil raisins in 1 3/4 cups of water for 5 minutes. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt, and moisten with the remaining 1/4 cup of water. Add to raisins, stir until mixture boils. Remove from heat, then add butter and vinegar. Pour into the pie shell and cover with the top crust, seal the edges, and cut a few slits in the top crust.

Bake at 400F for 10 minutes and then turn down the heat to 350F for 25 minutes. Remove pie and let it cool before enjoying. This pie does not need to be refrigerated.

This post has been shared at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth for The Art of Home-Making Monday.


  1. Hmmm we have raisin pie at Christmas, not sure I want to associate them with hog butchering!

    Actually it would actually be nice to have a stronger connection to the food we eat. For us it all just appears on the store shelves!

    1. I'd never even heard of raisin pie before butchering, but trust me, butchering really isn't that bad. It's something that over the last 10 years I've become used to. .. especially because my husband is a hunter, and I've helped with a good many deer. It becomes no different than kneading bread or making a nice hot cup of tea. Just more labor intensive.