Dad Tells Me How They Made Sausage by Christina Holzhauser

Dad Tells Me How They Made Sausage

Christina Holzhauser

Oh yeah, we made our own sausage. Had a sausage grinder. Grind that all up. Stuff it. Put it in, oh, used to, years ago, they used to take the guts from the hogs—they clean all that outta there. Sometime we started buyin’ it at the store. That’s what we used most the time.

Slaughter right before deer season. November. Sometimes it’d be too warm and we wouldn’t. Gotta wait till it got cool, not cold, but cool. You want a night when it drops down in the thirties. That cools the meat down. Then the next morning, Pete and I’d get out there and do all the trimmin’. Trimmin’ the meat and erything. We’d kill ’em and scald ’em, quarter ’em all out, and make the lard that day. And the next day when we do all the trimming, we make the sausage and the scrapple, but the sausage is all made first, then we’d take and make scrapple. That’s offa the head meat. That’s how we did. Two days and you’s done.

Now, Dad always, well, that’s how he done his hogs, then later on I ’cided I wanted pork chops, pork steaks, and ham steaks. When you do that, you cut a hog right down the middle instead of trimmin’ around gettin’ the backbone off of it. All that was cut down the middle; we’d quarter it, then Pete and I would take my hog up; I’d kill one or two. He had a big ol’ band saw to cut meat. After we got to hanging it, and dinner time, it was all quartered out. Pete and I’d go up and cut all mine up: ham steaks, pork chops, and pork steaks. Used to make Dad so mad, “That’s a waste a meat.” But we were doing the same thing he was; he’s eatin’ the backbone and we’re eatin’ pork chops. And the tenderloin didn’t go into my sausage, but the trimmings went into my sausage. We took the jowls, we’d cut the jowls out and that’s good. I like jowls.

Anyway, we cut all mine up and brung it back down there. Once we got everything done, we’d wrap mine ’n mark what it was ’n take it down to the house and put it in the freezer. That’d make Dad mad because he thought everything oughter go in the sausage. We had tenderloin, and pork chop cause I wouldn’t cut, well, sometimes I cut the tenderloin, sometimes I didn’t. See, pork chops come offa the back, or tenderloin does. If ya take all that tenderloin offa there you ain’t got no more backbone, and Dad left all that on there. He just cut it, ’cept down toward the end he’d cut the tenderloin off it n that’s what he throwed in his sausage. I didn’t. That’s why I made pork chops. We done it our way, you know.

And then Dad smoked his meat. When we got everything done that second day, then Dad usually went somewhur and cut down a cedar, no not a cedar, a hickory tree, green, then go up there ‘n ya had a tub. An’ we hung the meat in that one side of that shed up there (I’ll have to show you) an’ he hung his meat in there. I used to, then I went to, all my fresh meat instead of what he done. Wrapped it up, put salt all in there, an’ the meat was in there covered in salt. It’s gotta stay covered for five days, I think it is. Then that next weekend, Aunt Sal come down ’n told ’em how to sugar cure it an’ everything. Then it was hung up ’n it was there till Christmas or after. Sometimes even January before you’d test it. Then they’d take it … I ’member when I was little, we’d do that, ’n Dad’d bring that shoulder down there, take it outta that gunny sack, then you gotta brown sack inside the white, like a sheet. And it’s green. You just cut that off there and slice it up and fry it. And I member saying, “I ain’t eatin’ that stuff; that looks terrible,” and Dad’d always say, “Well, that’s more for me.”  And I ’member one day I ate some, well, on a Sunday morning breakfast, that was bout the only time we had it cause they worked six days a week. And that one Sundee mornin’ I member eatin’ some n from there on, I ate it.

But I was telling you that green, you get that fire goin’ and you get that green wood on top it, put a piece of tin ovrit. And that smolders in there with that smoke, and that’s what smokes the sausage, and some of it dripped in on the other meat, but not much, but it stayed there. And that’s how that sausage was smoked. I like sausage like that. You don’t see many do it anymore. Well, Charles Schmidt ’n them down there. Charles had a big grain bin, I don’t know, ’bout four or five of ’em got together ’n they’d hang their hogs in there and smoke it and that one year he got up one morning and said, “Man, it smells funny round here,” and he went down there to open up that door of the grain bin and it was hot. And he stepped back. And that grease’d dropped down and the lid had come off his barrel he had in there. And caught fire and burnt all the gotdamn, the whole inside, the whole floor outta that grain bin. Lost all their meat. Made em sick. They still do it, but they got a dirt floor now. See, it dripped over and splattered and hit that wood and the floor and just Choom! just set that whole thing on fire. Every bit of it burnt up.

And then that one year. That used to be a big barn sat up there where the wood shed is up there at Mom and Dad’s now. That was a big barn. Head back over here and Dad had hogs. And that was like a garage in there. Like a lean-to. And you went half way with it. Had a heat lamp so the ol’ sow could have her pigs in there. And he put some straw in there and done that for years. Had a dog tied up in there and she had pups on the other side. And then you walked in this little door, and Grandpa’s workshop, all kinds a stuff, all his tools in there. Then you went up these steps, and that was the smokehouse. Oh, it was bigger’n this room here. They had shelves where you could set the meat. Then all your sausage hung. ’Cause everybody used to do it together. Then, we’d just butchered that week before. Then, uh, I could hear this dog just a-screamin’ one morning and I slept upstairs in that north window you can see there, where you pull up in the driveway and see that window upstairs; that was my bedroom. I could hear this dog just squalling. I woke up and thought, Man, the sun’s shining over here? I pulled the curtain back ’n the whole barn was on fire. I jumped out the bed, throwed my pants on, was runnin’ down the steps, “The barn’s on fire! The barn’s on fire!” Mom and Dad come runnin’, ’n I run up there and that dog was tied to that chain. And all her pups run under an ol’ car that Clark Mosley had there. I run up there and grabbed that chain; it was warm. I unsnapped her. She went under there and when she did, three of the pups went in there. She run in there to get ’em and it dropped down. Lost her. And I think there were three or four pups still alive. We got them out and they made it. But it burnt all the meat up and everything in there. All of his tools and everything. I was still in school when that happened. Somewhere in the late ’60s. I’ve never forgot that. That’s how we done it.


© Christina Holzhauser


Christina HolzhauserChristina Holzhauser lives with her son in Columbia, Missouri, where she plays rugby and tries to perfect her gravy recipes. Her work can be found in such journals as bioStories, Lost Magazine, Ducts, The Hamilton Stone Review, and 40Below. She is a contributing essayist in the forthcoming anthology from NewSouth Press, Crooked Letter I: Coming Out in the South.