Friday, June 12, 2009

Celebrating the baptism of Rafael, Jr.

As I've farmed and sold food to people, I've become part of their social and religious customs, and it's been interesting to look into their culture through supplying the main course in many occasions.

Juan called me and asked if I had a pig of a particular size, and after a few minutes, I said I did, but that I'd like him to come down and look at it to make sure that it was what he wanted. So we walked around the pasture and looked at various pigs, and finally settled on a black gilt. This particular gilt (gilt is a virgin female pig) wasn't putting on weight like her brothers and sisters, and had a pronounced limp on a rear foot. She's been limping for a month or so, getting around and eating, but it was interfering with her grow out, and she only had 12 nipples, so her lowline (belly) wasn't what I needed to breed. I want 14 or 16 nipples. Not every pig is worth breeding. So it was time for her to go.
At first I thought it was Juan buying the pig, but Juan was really helping his friend Rafael and Rafael's brother Marco with what is probably their first whole-pig purchase. Rafael's' son, Rafael Jr, was being baptised, and there was a party hosting 200 people planned for this event.

The following is a step-by-step pictorial of how to break down a whole pig. Slaughtering and scraping a pig is a 5 or 6 man-hour process, so having multiple people makes the work go faster.

Just a note: My farm is right next to an elevated freeway, and at some point during this process there was an accident on the freeway above, and this slowed traffic down to the point that the folks driving by got a good eyeful. I don't think the slaughtering caused the accident, but it did happen at the tree you can see above the fellow in the purple shirt.
This picture shows the bullet hole used to stun the pig. I draw a line from each ear to the eye on the opposite side, and put the shot where the two lines form an X. I use a .22 calibre hollow point bullet, and I angle the shot so that the bullet ends up in the chest cavity for safety reasons. You always want to be aware of the background of your shot. In this case to stun the pig I had to circle and work with the pig a little to get a direction to shoot that had nothing in the background.

After the stun & stick, I used the tractor to bring the pig over to the processing area. That's a little bit more glorified -- it's a pile of woodchips that I am composting. the wood chips absorb the blood and hair. After this pig is gone I'll spread another 6" on top of it, and turn it, and it'll be rich black soil.
Boiling water is poured on the pig. After each pour he'll test it by pulling on the hair. If it comes out easily, it's ready, and the knife is used like a squeegee to scrape the hair off.

Black, brown, white, spotted, it doesn't matter what color it is when you start. At the end of this process all pigs are white.

The head and ears are particularly hard to scrape. Some folks bring a weed burner; Juan and Rafael and Marcos choose to scrape it themselves. Note the wound on the neck; that's where the pig was stuck to bleed it after the shot.

I asked them what they did about the ears to eat them. They deep fry them, for 20 or so minutes until soft and tender, and then chop them and serve them as an appetizer with lime and salsa and pepper.
The feet are hard to scrape, too. Here Juan is using a bucket to dip each foot into. Later he'll cut the feet off and put the whole trotter into boiling water to get the toenails off, too.

Here's the finished produce. They carefully clean the hair off the pallets and prop the body up on two blocks of wood.

This is the first cut for skinning the pig. One cut across the neck, and one down the center of the pig. There will be a second cut from the center of the pig to the inside of each leg.

Slowly, careful not to puncture the abdominal cavity, they skin the pig. Juan, on the right, is skinning. Marcos, on the left, is also skinning. this goes pretty quickly. they are skinning with straight knives -- a skinning knife would have made this easier for them.

Here the skin is off most of the pig, attached at the backbone. They're working the skin off the hams.

Rolling the pig to one side, they skin past the backbone on one side....

...and then roll the pig over to the other to completely separate the pig from its skin.

the front shoulders are taken off at this point. the shoulder at far left is already off. He's working on the other shoulder know. At the right, Juan is cutting the hams a little. This is preparatory to spreading the pelvis.
The rib cage was opened, and the belly to the pelvis. They use all hands to force the ribs apart to get working room.
at this point they mostly cut the head free. It's still attached by the skin on the back of the pigs neck, but the vertebra are severed.

starting at the lungs and esophagus, one guy pulls the gut mass down, and the other carefully cuts free the tendons that hold it into the body cavity.

Working the gut mass towards the tail of the pig.

almost out

Looking at it from the other direction, you an see the gut mass is now mostly outside of the pig

and with the guts removed, a small hatchet is used to cut the ribs along one side of the backbone, and then the other side, and the two sides are lifted out and put into the cooler for more processing back at the house.

Pork belly (fresh!)

Finally only the skin and backbone remain. They make pozole, a stew of the head and spine out of it. they hack the backbone into 6" chunks.

The other ingredient for pozole

The entire pig fit into an 80 quart cooler.

Enjoy your pig, Rafael!

1 comment:

StefRobrts said...

That looks like some hard, dirty, nasty work! I really admire people who can take a whole pig from animal to dinner and use every last bit of it.

Are there any regulations about slaughtering out in public view? If so I'm sure the county wouldn't hesitate to tell you about it, they certainly have problems with everything else around there. But I've driven by homes with the mobile slaughter van visiting, and they have a cow in the process of being processed hanging up there, and it's not shocking enough to cause an accident!