(The following was written by Marilyn Gibboney, and is reprinted from “Reflections”, a collection of local stories available at the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum. Any opinions made in the article are from the author.)
Pork was the main meat in the diet. The Hogs were raised on the farm and then several were selected to be butchered and provide the meat for the entire year. The butchering season was during the cold winter weather. This was another “ special” occasion. Time was reckoned by “before we butchered”, “ after we butchered”, or “ the day brother John butchered.” It was a family get together as family, neighbors, and/or friends joined in and helped each other do their butchering. The work began a week before as the many tools, knives, buckets, pans, tables, and equipment was cleaned, sharpened, scoured and readied.
Every part of the hog was utilized but the squeal. Everyone had a job to perform. The women accompanied the men and worked along with jobs like cleaning the casings, mixing the sausage, and cooking. They were glad to be away from home and exchange recipes and family gossip. The children stayed home from school and helped so they learned how it was done first hand. The butchering started early in the morning and lasted all day. At noon the ladies cooked a large meal and the meat would be fresh liver and fried brains. During the afternoon they worked again. If all the work was not completed they stopped, the visitors went home and did their chores. Then they came back for supper and finished up. Many times after the work was done they played cards and had a social affair. Each family was given a sample of sausage to take home. The process was repeated until everyone in the circle had his butchering done.
Every farm had a smoke house, and later when the smell of hickory permeated the air you knew someone was smoking their meat. Some was salted and cured in a brine. Some was fried down and canned. The fat was rendered and became lard and thus the shortening for the next year.
Most farmers had a herd of dairy cows or at least a family milk cow that had to be milked two times a day. The supply of milk in rural areas made milk a very ordinary commodity. After the milking was done the milk was carried to the milkhouse or a special place where it was cooled. In early times the milk was placed in crocks and the cream would rise to the top. The housewife would skim the cream off the top. Through the years better methods were developed, and the cream separator became a standard fixture.
One of the regular chores of a housewife was turning the cream into butter. There could be an entire story on the different kinds of churns, as each family had its own special one. The cream was accumulated for a week and then churned. Some butter was for the family use and some was sold. The churning could be an easy task or take all day, particularly in warm weather. The buttermilk was used for baking and drinking as a beverage.
Another regular chore for the housewife was making cheese. My grandmother always had a pan of clabber on the stove, a sack of cheese draining in the milk house and “Schmier-case” on the table. Another popular food was hand cheese. The unseasoned dry cheese was made into patties. They were placed in the cupboard or a warm place and let ripen. It was ready to eat when they became smeary, smelly and moldy. The milk was used for drinking and cooking also.
(The continuation of this story in the next blog entry.)