Ramble On

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Inside the Butchering Shed

After scalding and removing the hair, the carcasses are
hung on a rack for further processing.

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about arriving at the butchering shed early on Friday morning, finding David and Chris there getting things ready for our day of processing pork.  I thought I might revisit and edit last year’s post about this place for the description of the butchering process – most of what’s below comes from that one.  Except to say, I did mark the spot on Foursquare this time, and with my second check-in, I became the mayor.

Now on with the post…

The scalding tub is the first stop for the carcasses
inside the butchering shed.
Call it a shed – as I do, or a shop or a shack – the utilitarian little building we spent most of Friday and Saturday in matches all those definitions.  From the outside, nestled in among some outbuildings behind a very recognizable house on the outskirts of Luray, it’s not much – a simply constructed 20x30 building simply built of concrete masonry.  Inside, it’s another story, as it is very practically laid out for the business of processing animals into food.

I’m including a few photos of the equipment to show how the place is outfitted.  Like so many process oriented buildings, this one is simply, linearly, laid out.  The animal comes in at one end and moves down a line, progressively evolving from a carcass to large cuts and roasts.  That’s effectively what gets done on the first day of the work.  

At the front of the shed there is a large window with a barn door opening that slides the wooden covering out of the way.  Below the window is the scalding tub, a large basin that the animal gets placed inside before anything else.  The heat in the tub – the water is kept at 140 degrees – facilitates removing the hair from the animals – it also gets some of the dirt off, which was important this year, since one of them went down in the hog wallow. 

These hooks are used to hang the carcasses.
After a “bath” of a few minutes, the carcass is raised up out of the water to the nearby table, and the team goes to work with some tools to take off as much hair as possible.  While there was a bloody aspect to some of the work, this part of the job seemed the dirtiest to me: the pig, warmed from the water and with the hair loosened, needs to be cleaned.  Along with all the hair, most of the dirt comes off, and is left behind over in this part of the shed.

Next, at the end of the big table there, the head is removed and hung on the steel overhead rail.  The removal is a straightforward job that I didn’t do, but I did hang them up after the decapitation.  Next, a little cut behind the ankle tendons on the rear legs, and the carcass is ready to hang from the rail, with the aid of more hooks and a winch.  With the first one hung in this fashion, we moved back to the truck to do it over, until all four of the animals were hanging from the overhead, bodies next to heads.

This lard press is available for use...I haven't taken
advantage yet.  Next year, maybe!
From there, we began the process of cleaning the carcasses by removing the viscera and splitting them into halves.  Once it’s halved, the carcass is moved on down the line to a smaller table at the end of the building. 

We’ll cut the “trotters” off and start separating out the roasts – the hams, the ribs, the loins, and the shoulder.  Later the table was used for breaking some parts down further into sausage meat, and then it was used to prepare some of the parts for use in scrapple.

That is pretty much the work of the first day, and the tale only covers that side of the shed.  Butchering has begun transforming the animal into food cuts, which we generally do on the second day, using specialized equipment on the south side of the butchering shed.  

No comments: