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Memories of (cont.) . . . pg. 2

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Mennonite Hog Butchering

Let's take a Look into the Past

Hog Butchering Mennonite Life 1984 pg.4
Hog Butchering Mennonite Life 1984 Index
Hog Butchering Mennonite Life 1984 pg. 7
Hog Butchering Mennonite Life 1984 pg. 6
Hog Butchering Mennonite Life 1984 pg. 5
Hog Butchering Mennonite Life 1984 pg. 8

by Joel Goertz

(Goessel native)

Joel Goertz provides an account of Mennonite hog butchering, an activity no longer a part of the routine of most Mennonite farms in certral Kansas.  Goertz produced this paper January (1984) for a Mennonite history class at Bethel College, and the illustrations are from the butchering at the Bethel College Historical Library's Folk Festival from 1959-61.

For the entire Mennonite Life Dec. 1984 issue :

For the entire Mennonite Life Dec. 1984 issue :

This memory taken from the Mennonite Heritage Museum cookbook From Pluma Moos to Pie   Available at Museum Store

BUTCHERING TIME by Helen (Mrs. Raymond) Schmidt

Fond memories of the "festivities" of butchering days linger in my mind.


When autumn days turned into winter days, the family conversation frequently turned to making plans for butchering day.  We children begged our parents to schedule butchering for a day when we had no school because we wanted to be a part of the special occasion.

Since numerous folks helped our family, we needed to in turn help them on their butchering days.  This ment getting up even earlier, because all chores had to be done before leaving.  Often we needed to travel by horse and buggy or lumber wagon because roads frequently were muddy or drifted with snow, so we had to allow for extra time.  The farthest distance I can recall my parents traveling to help with butchering, was to my aunt and uncles place in Goessel, just over six miles away.  It was always nice if there was an elderly grandma and / or grandpa in the group to help care for the children.

For the family who was doing the butcheing, the day's work usually did not end until nearly midnight, for it seemed a certain number of tasks needed to be done that day.


On the following days, the meat needed to be taken care of-there was no refrigeration available except the frigid weather.  Therefore, it was always a good idea to butcher on a cold day so the meat could chill well that first night.

Most people today know little about the origin of the meat they buy and eat.  They purchase the desired kinds and cuts at the meat counter and perhaps never think about the months and perhaps years it took for that meat to reach the store from which they buy it.  We who have spent a lifetime producing meat and in earlier years worked hard at butchering and preserving it have a great apprediation for all that is involved in the production and preservation of meat. 


                                                      By Helen (Mrs. Baymond) Schmidt

On butchering day, the alarm was set for an early hour.  Chores were done by the light of the lantern, because by sunrise neighbors and relatives would arrive to help. 


Sometimes several hogs were butchered in one day.  While the men were doing the first tasks of the butchering process, the women were busy preparing the noon meal; usually by mid-forenoon the women also had to help with the butchering tasks.  It was a great day for food, fun and fellowship as well as a lot of hard physical work.

Just some of the equipment required to butcher a hog.

Hog butchering equipment | Goessel Museum

Preparation for butchering began a day or two in advance.  The big meal table had to be set up in the granary driveway.  The scalding trough was cleaned and set into place.  Butchering knives had to be sharpened.  The meat-grinding machines and the sausage stuffer were washed.  The big wash tubs and dishpans also were set in their places.  Food preparation for the noon meal also was begun.  Sometimes pies and bread were baked the day before, and chickens were butchered so they could be served for the noon meal when all the workers needed an ample supply of food.

Hams and bacon were smoked, salted and cured.  Mother would can some of the sausage.  About 4-inch long pieces were put into wide-mouth jars and these were processed in a water bath canner.  The rest of the sausage was hung on the rack in our meat closet and used before summer.  Some of the liver sausages were packed into large stone crocks and covered with lard and preserved in the manner for a period of time.  Much of the uncured and unseasoned meat was cut into chunks and also canned in jars.  This meat was then ready to be heated and served.  Mother was never unprepared when unexpected dinner guest came because meat was always available upon short notice.

CRACKLINGS by Irma (Mrs. Jake) Koehn

This memory taken from the Mennonite Heritage Museum cookbook From Pluma Moos to Pie 1st Edition 1981, Revised Edition 1991, Second Printing 2007  Available at Museum Store



Cracklings are made by rendering coarsely ground hog fat that has been trimmed from the meat.  When done but still very light in color, dip cracklings out and strain the lard.  When somewhat cooled, put in containers for storage.  Stone crocks were used in the former days.  


To serve, heat desired amount of cracklings in a small skillet or saucepan over medium heat until crisp but not brown.  Drain off accumulated fat.  Sprinkle with salt and serve hot.  Good for breakfast served with rye bread, spread with dark corn syrup.


Other ways of serving include: 1.) Fry cracklings with sliced, cooked potatoes or sliced apples,  2.) After the fat had been drained off, add a little water and a small chopped onion.  Simmer until onion is cooked.  Cracklings will be soft but not crisp.  Serve with rye bread and syrup.





On the evening of hog butchering day, the cleaned hog head was cooked together with the feet, ears, tongue, heart, nose and a few rinds (with salt added to taste).  This meat was cooked in the large rendering kettle after the lard had been rendered.  It was evening by now and the kettle of meat bubbled away for an hour or so.  The meat from the head was picked from the bone while hot.


The picked off pieces of meat and a few rinds were ground, mixed with salt and pepper and put in a colander and pressed down.  The fat dripped out.  The warm fatty pork molded into a cheese.


The next day the cheese (head) and the feet, ears, etc., were put in a pickling solution of about one part vinegar to three or four parts water.  In about four or five days, the pickled meat was ready to eat. 


We ate the meal and head cheese together with fried potatoes, sliced raw onions and pickled beets. 


                                          By Irma (Mrs. Jake) Koehn



Cookbook FROM PLUMA MOOS to PIE | Goessel Museum

To read Other Memories of how things were, go to :

"Memories of Weddings, Funerals and Zwieback"

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and Agricultural Museum

Created by Fern Bartel nee Schmidt

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