I was informed a few weeks ago that on an upcoming Sunday, my Chef, a few fellow Bloomington culinarians, and a few of the restaurant crew were going to be spending a casual afternoon together at a local farm.The chef, through his various local foods contacts, had procured a full, eighteen month, two hundred and eighty-five pound hog for us to slaughter and butcher.After demanding begging my girlfriend for a Sunday with the guys, I picked up a few of my fellow line cooks and we made our way, twenty minutes out of the city, to the farm...
Welcome to the Jungle
We stepped out of the car into a picturesque Indiana farmyard.We took a few seconds to take in the beautiful scenery, the crisp fall day, the smell of a bonfire not fifty feet away, and then we heard a gunshot that rattled the hills.Unfortunately, the next sound we heard was the squealing of a large, wounded animal.The pig had not been killed on the first try, and it was a haunting noise we heard.A few moments later, another gunshot went off, and the deed was done.
Um.How do we do this?
Have you ever tried lifting anything nearly three hundred pounds heavy?It's pretty difficult, even if it is just something small.Try moving three hundred pounds in the shape of a pig, the size of a full-grown man.After draining off a few buckets of blood (which we quickly treated with vinegar to keep from coagulating), one of the farmers brought over a small tractor, and we hoisted the pig up by his legs, moving him to a metal square pan the size of the top of a van.A massive pot of about 25 gallons of water was going over a fire next to the pig's resting place.Clocking it at one hundred and sixty degrees, we began pouring water over the pig's body.
This got us nowhere.Fast.There was some talk regarding the act of pouring two hundred degree water over the pig, but we lacked the necessary firewood to get the water hot enough.So instead, we put our backs behind it.Eight of us began working in shifts to get as much hair and skin off the animal as we could.Using cleavers, slicing knives, and anything else we could find, we shaved the torso of that animal until there was nothing left but smooth skin.
The animal was strung back up, with a splitter cable pushing the legs apart.This left the carcass with its legs up in the air, and it's underbelly facing us.Chef began his dissection by first exposing the rectum, the tube to which the anus is connected.Tying it off with some twine, he began with a long, deep cut down the belly towards the head.Eventually, Chef exposed the belly, the sternum, and the neck.We laid the animal down on the table, and we began...excavating.Out came the mass of organs, fat, and connective tissue that dominates the abdominal cavity of the animal.We saved the liver, the caul fat (connective fat that looks like spider-webs), supporting fat that was located throughout the animals abdominal, and the intestines.
While the chef began removing the hams and shanks of the animals, the army of cooks dove onto the liver.Placing a large pan with enough oil to cover the bottom over a fire, we let it get hot while the liver was portioned out.A light dusting of flour on both sides, some salt and pepper, and the liver slices were fried to perfection by our sous.A pairing with some local cheese, some homemade crab apple butter, and local whiskey made that one of the best meals of my life.