I haven’t written much in the last few days because I was otherwise occupied with getting food in the freezer. We processed a pig…yes, we butchered a real pig in its entirety. Many people don’t think about such things as they simply go to the grocery store and purchase their meat, produce and condiments. Some people never see raw meat, they only eat packaged foods that they stick in a microwave or oven. But what would happen if the grocery store shelves went bare? This is not as unlikely as one might think. After Hurricane Sandy or an ice storm, or flooding, or any number of natural disasters, deliveries can be disrupted and inventories strained or depleted.
Some of us who live in the country are blessed with gardens, livestock and other resources. Our supply chain is more dependent on our labor and Ma Nature. In fact, in talking to many who remember the Great Depression (and there aren’t many of you left) I have learned that those who lived in the cities had trouble feeding their families while those who lived in the country were not nearly as affected. To hear these country folk talk about the depression they recall not being able to get things like tires or new clothes, but their food source was what they grew or raised so it was still there. This concept is not so outdated as one might think. It just takes some backbone and some planning…you know, that responsibility thing that goes along with freedom!
So back to this weekend. We cut up a pig into pork chops, loin roasts, hams, bacon, ground sausage and vacuum sealed the meat. Today I emptied some freezer space and packed all the meat in…all except the hams and bacon. Those have to marinate in the seasonings for a while before they are smoked. Then they will join the rest of the meat in the freezer.
We had some help from volunteers who wanted to learn this valuable skill and we held an informal class. We were fortunate to have a teacher who has been a professional butcher show us how to get the greatest yield from the harvest.
Some of you will probably think this is cruel, and you have that right. Others will be content to eat supermarket meat that has been raised on commercial mega-farms and sent to USDA slaughter houses for mass processing. On the other hand, the pig we just harvested lived a happy life on a farm with its sister, ate fresh grass and loved life. It wasn’t fed hormones to make it grow faster or antibiotics to counteract the effects of overcrowding that occurs on commercial farms. The harvesting was quick and the animal didn’t have any pain or stress. The processing was sanitary and efficient and the meat is healthy and wholesome. This is the way it has been done for centuries, maybe millennia. What better way to honor the circle of life than to let the harvested animal nourish us?
Self sufficiency is a virtue. There are many necessary skills in life and this is but one. Being a part of our world, communing with nature, isn’t always pretty, but it is part of life and has its own rewards. The natural world is checks and balances, life and death. The trick is to find the life in the death…to complete the circle. Then it is not all for nothing.