My daddy used to tell a story about the first time he drove a car with an air-conditioner. It wasn’t his, by the way. It was up in September — a hot sultry day — and he stopped and offered a lift to an old farmer who was walking to town. After a few minutes the farmer asked Daddy to stop and let him out.
“I’m going all the way to town, George,” my father reminded his passenger. “I thought you wanted to go to town.”
“Well, I was,” was the perplexed reply, “but now that it’s turned off cold I think I’ll go back home and kill hogs.”
As young as I am I can still remember how the first cold snap of the winter brought hog-killing time, and let me tell you, the people who had to make do during the hard times used every part of the pig but the “oink.”
Everybody knows about hams and shoulders and the Boston butt, which isn’t part of the hog’s butt at all, but the butt of the shoulder. Those are the cuts that most people use to make barbecue. As I have said before, you can get in a cuss fight quicker over barbecue than anything else I can think of, so I won’t state my own personal preferences on the subject at this time.
I will say, however, that having spent a right smart of time in Texas as of late, I have come to appreciate the delectable taste and texture of smoked beef brisket and make sure I get a bite of it every time I take a trip to the Lone Star State. Having said that, when I go and eat brisket, I am eating brisket — not barbecue.
As I have also stated many times in the past, if it don’t involve the south end of a north-bound hog, slow cooked for many, many hours over hardwood, it ain’t barbecue.
But today’s discourse is not about “Q.” It is about the rest of the hog. We used to eat all sorts of things when I was a child, growing up in Porterdale, and last week I decided to search the grocery stores of my community and see how many hog parts I could find in the meat section of our local grocery stores. I was surprised at how well I did.
Have you ever eaten pickled pigs feet. I have and don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. They used to keep big jars of them on the counters of country stores throughout the South. The tails are eaten the same way and actually have more meat. I have also tasted pig ears and nothing is better, while cooking a whole hog, than breaking off a piece of the skin for a middle-of-the-night snack. I liked to wash mine down with a few swigs of Co-Cola, ice cold and right out of the bottle.
The men that Monty Hill and I used to help cook hogs washed theirs down with water. I reckon it was water. It was a clear liquid they drank from half-gallon fruit jars.
If you ever were a fan of “The Beverly Hillbillies” you might remember Granny cooking hog jowls and collards. I still season my collards with hog jowl. It is, as the name suggests, the fat meet around the jaws of the hog. The rest of the head can be cooked down, too, to make head cheese.
The belly of the beast is used for ribs and bacon. Better than snuff and not half as dusty.
Have you ever had souse meat? It was a staple at my house before my older sister found out what it was made from. That would be the feet and the ears with a little beef tongue tossed in for good measure. Hog maw? The stomach of the hog and you can pick up a pound or two at any supermarket in town. Neck bones are great for soup stock — particularly the kind with marrow included, and hocks are great for seasoning vegetables.
And we couldn’t talk about pork delicacies without bringing up chitterlings — or chitlins, which is the way we say it here in the South. I would assume everyone knows what chitlins are — or at least everyone who reads this column, but you know what they say happens when we assume things. Chitlins are the small intestines of the pig, and I can testify that while they are cooking they smell a lot like they sound, although Mrs. Frances Henderson, who serves chitterlings at her restaurant on the first Thursday of every month during hog killing time, once told me they smell just like money to her.
Daddy used to cook chitlins at our house. He said it was easy. You just boil the “chit” out of them and then batter ‘em up and fry what’s left. I never developed a taste.
I would tell you about making sausage, but if I did, you might not ever eat it again.
I have written up an appetite. I think I’ll light up my Big Green Egg and smoke a butt. I might even go to Henderson’s tomorrow night and have some fried chitlins. Or maybe not.