Friday, February 4, 2011

Hog Harvest: A Comedy of Errors

We harvested two America Guinea Hogs on Saturday. We planned to take four, but, given the comedy of errors that ensued, two was all we could handle. The following post is about processing hogs and is not for the squeamish, so proceed cautiously. Below I've listed our basic method and have included a slide show of Saturday's activities.

Our Method for Processing Hogs - Click for SLIDE SHOW

Do not feed hog for 24 hours
Shoot hog between the eyes with .22 LR
Cut and bleed the jugular
Scald hog in water at 150 degrees until hair pulls out easily
Scrape hair until skin is clean
Wash carcass
Gut hog
Remove head and feet
Butcher into desired pieces of meat and fat
Blend and grind sausage

We started the day a bit later than planned. At 7am, Scott went out to fill the scalding tank that had been set up the day before, but the hose still had water in it and was frozen stiff; we should have filled the tank the evening before. An hour later the tank was finally full, but one of the propane burners wasn't working properly, and it took forever to get the water to the necessary 150 degrees for scalding. Luckily a neighbor loaned us an extra burner, but it was still 10am before the first hog hit the water.

The comedy did not stop there, however. Both pigs made it from the killing field to the tank without incident, but getting them out of the tank and to the scraping station was another matter. We've always used a strap around the ankle to haul the hogs via tractor from station to station, and have never had any issue with this method. In the past, however, we've left the strap on during scalding. This time we removed the strap to more evenly scald the pig, and this was a mistake. Scalding is utilized to remove hair and the first layer of skin, and the reapplied strap would not stay on the foot as the skin and hair instantly sloughed off. The first pig fell back into the scalding pot several times, and the strap slipped off the second pig while in transit to the scraping station allowing the hog to unceremoniously the ground. Next time we'll use a hook through the mouth.

The scraping and butchering thankfully proceeded without incident, but I noticed that Scott appeared to be in pain while working on the first hog. Afterwards, he admitted that he had indeed thrown out his back but felt he could continue, and (at about that same time) we realized that our struggling propane burner was now dead. Our scald temperature was now far too low, and it would be another hour before we could process the second hog.

The second pig entered the water around 1pm and by 3pm we decided to call the harvest to a halt. We still had meat from two hogs to process/freeze and sausage to make, so two hogs got a stay of execution. It was a beautiful day however, and, thanks to friends and family, we have some wonderful Guinea Hog pork to eat. Thank you all. You are always welcome at our table.

There was a capping moment to the day's comedy of errors. While sampling some fresh Guinea Hog sausage later that evening, Scott's two-day-old crown dislodged from his tooth. This is no commentary on the sausage, however, as it turns out that experimental glue used by the dentist was to blame for the failure. Certainly a day to remember!


  1. Glad you got the two done anyway! Is there a specific reason you scald rather than skin? Just curious. I wasn't able to find Guinea Hogs so have purchased a purebred GOS boar and a crossbred GOS sow.

  2. I'm sorry I asked my question again......I just caught up with the other post where you answered my question about skinning! Thanks for the info!

  3. No problem at all. Scott said to tell you that it's not just about the bacon (he's the knowledgable one around here), but about fat in general and the ability to cure any of the meat - bacon, ham, or shoulder. Leaving the skin on allows you to render more lard as well and take fatback.

  4. Excellent post. We're going to be sending one of our Guinea hogs to the butcher soon (it's our first time). I'm curious what your live weights and hanging weights were, if you know?

  5. Nancy:
    We don't know, but are determined to buy a deer scale before the next slaughter (which may be this weekend), but first we must conquer an insipid virus that has invaded our home. Just to give you some idea of what we gleaned, between the two hogs we got 45 lbs of sausage, 9 lbs of tenderloin/loin, plus ribs, neckbones, and bacon (which didn't get weighed). We also ate the heart, liver and kidney of one of the pigs. All were excellent, but the liver was spectacular. If I get those weights on the next pigs, I will post for sure! I also plan to post Scott's sausage recipe.

  6. Ohh, that's wonderful to know! I'm all about the lard, so perhaps we'll have to rig up a scalding tank. The problem is that we don't have a loader tractor or anything. Maybe we could set up a block and tackle system or something to dip and then bring it back out.....

    Thanks so much for your wonderful posts and info!