Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Makin' Bacon

Pigs have really small hearts.

True fact.

I guess I had never thought about the size of a pig heart before... And then I couldn't believe how small it was when the butcher fished Mike's out. Make a fist with your hand; that's about how big the heart was. They were pretty big pigs; not as big as I wanted, but still a good size... And only a fist-sized heart to keep those porkers running? I thought it was interesting anyway. ;)

So yep, the butchers came, the butchers - ah - butchered, and then they left with two carcasses which will age for a week before being cut. All in forty minutes. I was in awe.

I had never met these two guys who were coming to deal with my hogs. I didn't even know where they were coming from. All I knew was that a total stranger in Dallas swore by them and told me that I absolutely had to use these guys if I was looking for a mobile butcher, and that I wouldn't be dissapointed. So I took the stranger's word and so far I feel pretty good about the decision.

I liked the butcher's sense of humor. :) Cheerful and at ease, he smiled and asked to see my hogs. I immediately felt comfortable with letting him take my Tamworths down and finish the job I had started. He and his working partner took a look around my humble pig pen, and then went to get their tools. It was time. 

Armed with a high-power rifle, and his partner with a knife, the two went back to where Mike and Sausage were. The butcher explained that he did his absolute best to take each pig down with one shot, and he would wait as long as needed to get that shot. Once a pig went down, his partner's job was to jump in and slit the jugular before the pig's heart stopped beating. 

I stood back and watched quietly.

Mike and Sausage were definitely patience testers. Used to human contact, they felt no reason to come and check the two intruders out, so they instead kept their heads down in the newest hole they were rooting up; blissfully intent on finding some small smackerel deep down in the cool depths of their composted bedding. I offered to get some grain to lure the boys where the butcher needed them, but he declined. He could wait, he said... He'd wait for the right moment. It probably only took five minutes before they got curious, but it seemed like a year. Mike lifted his head and looked at us, and that was all the butcher needed. The butcher's shot was uncannily accurate, and Mike went down with that one shot. The second guy stepped in and did his part; cleanly slitting the jugular right before Mike's body went into spasms. When shooting hogs and cows, there is ONE small spot that you have to hit if you want an instantaneous death. You draw an imaginary 'X' on the face. Ear to eyeball. And right in the middle of that X, just off center, is that one spot. 

Sausage was not bothered in the least by the sudden demise of his pal. The smell of hot blood excited him and he began looking for where the smell was coming from. Two minutes later, he too went down. 

The rest of the work went fast. The carcasses were hosed clean, and then the two men began working on skinning. They made it look so easy... I was envious of their little slaughtering rig and their wicked sharp knives. I leaned against the barn wall and quietly watched; only occasionally saying something, or laughing along with the butcher at something. He kept reiterating that it was 100% okay to ask questions if I had any; but being the quiet person that I am, I didn't have any to ask, save for how long they've been doing this and why they started; so I stayed quiet, enjoyed watching them work, and took mental notes of their methods. 

So, I do have to admit something... I may "enjoy" butchering/slaughtering, but no matter how many animals I do, the eyeballs always creep me out. Blood doesn't bug me, killing them doesn't phase me, gutting is no problem, but those eyeballs? Creepy. And once the hogs were were skinned, but their heads still remained on... Well, I tried not to look at that end of the carcass. Ever seen the eye of a pig? It looks like a human eye. Seriously. And with the head having been skinned too, it made a rather gruesome sight that took a couple minutes to get used it. 

Gore aside, I liked watching the butchers pull out all sorts of handy doodads to do their job. I think the coolest thing they pulled out was something that looked like a chainsaw and they used that little thing to zip right down the spine. *insert swoon* I've had to split a few carcasses before, but I always had to use a handsaw. It's slow, exhausting work. Made even more tedious by a slightly dull saw that had teeth too small for the job. -_- So watching them use their chainsaw deal had me smiling in envy. Now THAT'S a fun toy! 

Forty minutes. That's all it took. Mike and Sausage went from squealing on the hoof, to hanging carcasses that frankly looked nothing like a pig. The butchers packed up and I smiled at the simplicity of my morning. There wasn't even a mess for me to clean up. Not a single trace that they had been here. They took the carcasses back to their shop where they'll hang for a week or so, then be cut up and I'll go and pick up all that lovely meat. 

And I'm sure you've noticed by now that there aren't any pictures. :-/ I thought about bringing the camera out, but decided not to. This time anyway. Let's ease our way into this butchering stuff... I don't need any flack about graphic images right now. 

My little brothers who named Mike and Sausage told me yesterday that they want pink pigs next time. And their names have to be Bob and Bacon. I smiled and told them I'd see what I could do...

Not a bad gig, this hog stuff... I think I kinda' like it. :)


Anonymous said...

Congrats!! Thanks for writing all that down, it was a pleasure to read. Wish you had filmed it!

nancy said...

So does bleeding out the pigs right away keep the meat better tasting, less contaminated with bad chemicals/hormones in their system, or?

Beth Rankin said...

Having helped process some chickens for one of the local farmers I found your description fascinating. Interesting that someone in Texas knew these guys...they must really travel! I also took photos and decided they were not for public viewing. Too many consumers do not like to consider the live animal or their death is what puts the meat on their plate.

Erin Waterbury said...

I love the names Bob and Bacon. I look forward to smoking my bits of Mike and Sausage.