Our weather is brutal -below zero with snow on the ground. The sun is bright, but the snow isn't going anywhere. It's "stay inside and make soup" weather. When we were kids on the farm the bitter cold cured the meat hanging from the rafters of the granary where nothing could reach it, and no flies were stirring.
Our hogs were in the 200 to 250 pound range. I can't image how many buckets of lard were on the long-bodied, short-legged, 1,000 pound hog we saw at the Iowa state fair. The wild hogs we see behind the Mississippi Levee have longer legs, tusks and a lot less lard.
Grandpa and Grandma came out to help and share in the bounty. He made sure the handsaws were sharp to work through the bones. We'd come home from school to the smell of lard rendering on the cook stove, the sound of white butcher paper crackling to wrap around fresh meat for the freezer, the squeaky crayon labeling and dating the packages, and the anticipation of wonderful meals Mom would be fixing. We felt prosperous with meat "put up" and our pantry full of canned and frozen vegetables.
Besides the usual cuts of meat, Mom cooked the head down, chopped all fine and molded it in a bread pan: head cheese. Thinly sliced with a dribble of vinegar it was a delicacy. I prefer the chops, hams and ribs, and pork shanks cooked with beans. At an early age our nephew liked liver and onions and rhubarb pie. I thought they were tastes that took fifty years to acquire.
Another neighbor family canned meat so they'd have a jar for each day of the year. Mom and Dad canned until a jar blew up in the canner. Bits of meat and glass were found on the outside of the kitchen window, behind the cook stove, on the ceiling, and everywhere in between. Fortunately no one was hurt.
Papa liked cracklings, lard with a little meat cooked down tiny bits of crisp meat. Give him a piece of fresh rye bread and some cracklings, and he was happy. During the Great Depression our neighbor friend, Hazel, took lard sandwiches to school. It didn't kill her. She and Hank just celebrated their 60th anniversary.
Mom taught us to make pie crust with lard, fry our fresh roosters in it, pork chops, donuts, and mix it in breads, rolls, and whatever didn't call for butter. Lard still makes the best pie crust, kolaches and seasoning for peas and greens anytime of year.
copyright 2007 Red Convertible Travel Series