Intestine Cleaning

The farmer did not put the intestines into the cold water with other internal organs.  Instead the intestines were prepared first, because they could be cleaned easier while they were still warm from the hog’s body heat.  Intestines cleaning was basically a women’s job, but George Stromberg, Jr. claimed he cleaned many miles of them, too.  One needed patience and dexterity to accomplish successfully this skillful art, which was handed down from one generation to the next.  Bernice Bartel said that in order to clean intestines, “One had to see it done to be able to do it.”  Intestine cleaning was an unpleasant job, which was accomplished quickly if several people helped.  However, to those who were assigned this task, any time was “not quick enough.”
In the first step of the intestine cleaning, the women laid the intestines out on a table, and then removed the ruffle fat that surrounded them.  This lower quality fat was saved for soap making rather than used for lard.  In order to make the intestines easier to handle, the women cut the casings into yard long strips.  Next the intestines were taken outside and stripped of their contents.  The women were comfortably cold outside, but in this way they kept the putrid smell out of the kitchen.  The women had to be of strong character to withstand the awful aroma or “ugly smell”, or even the unpleasantness of handling the intestines.  One said it took someone with a “stopped up nose” and “nimble fingers.”  The job often was made even more pleasant when the intestines contained long white worms.
Next the casings were reversed or turned inside out.  The women turned up a fold at the end of the casing, just like a pant’s cuff.  Next they poured lukewarm water into the fold, and the weight of the water automatically turned the intestines inside out.  Usually this took two women—one woman to hold the intestines while another poured in the water.  To do this some used a funnel or a small picture.
The women then scraped off the mucous coat from the casing.  This coat had been turned to the outside of the casing in the reversing process.  The women preferred various scraping tools, such as a dull table knife, a sharpened mulberry twig, a spoon, or even a heavy hairpin.  The hairpins manufactured today are not as heavy and strong as the older ones.  Edna Prieb has saved some of the older ones to be used for just this job.  All these scraping tools were just items the women had readily available.  To do a thorough job of cleaning, the women repeated the scraping procedure several times, and then washed and rewashed them in lukewarm water.  The women blew up the washed intestines like a balloon to see if the intestines were clear and properly cleaned.  If some darkened spots were detected, they had to reclean them.  If holes were found, the women cut the intestines at that spot and made a shorter length of casing.
After they had been properly cleaned, the intestines were placed in pure salt, or salt water and soda mixture, or even vinegar.  This removed  and blood, improved the odor of the intestines, and preserved them until they were needed for sausage stuffing.  Most families saved and cleaned the small intestines rather than the large ones.  The large ones had numerous wrinkles, which made them extremely hard to clean.  The large intestines were white in color, and not as clear as the small intestines.  Many stuffed the small intestines with fresh pork sausage, and the large ones with head cheese.  They usually peeled of the large intestine casing before eating the head cheese; however, they ate the small intestine casings filled with pork sausage.  Arnold Plenert cleaned his casings by stomping in the snow.  Most considered intestine cleaning distasteful, painstaking, and not to be sought after job.  When asked why they did it, many replied that it was well worth their effort to enable them to get to eat the delicious finished product of their ethnic sausage or head cheese.
When casings became available at local locker plants, many farmers who butchered started purchasing already cleaned casings.  They did this for several reasons.  It was less work, less mess, and took less time.  Or even if they cleaned the intestine for themselves, they often found they needed additional casings.  This was especially true if they added extra shoulder meat to the sausage trimmings.  This made too much ground sausage to case for the amount of casings naturally available from the butchered hog or hog’s.  To salvage the increasing demand over the years many businesses, such as DeWeid International, have sprung up to provide local locker plants with synthetic casings or mechanically cleaned casings.  J.R. DeWeid, President of DeWeid International of Texas, stated that there had been a greater demand for synthetic over natural casings.  For those who had purchased their casings today, instead of cleaning them themselves, technology has brought another change to the butchering techniques of rural residents of Kansas.
The women also cleaned the stomach at the same time that they cleaned the intestines, because it too cleaned best while still warm.  To clean the stomach the women peeled it out.  They first made a six inch slit on the small end of the stomach.  Next the contents of the stomach was emptied out through this slit.  Then it was turned inside out, and washed thoroughly.  Alum was sometimes rubbed on it to clean it.  To make it easier to remove the inner lining the stomach was placed in scalding water.  Once the inner lining was scraped off, then the stomach was washed again, and packed in salt.  It was packed in similar fashion as the intestines.  Many saved the stomach until they made headcheese.  They would stuff the stomach with head cheese, sew the incision closed, and cool the stomach in the meat broth.

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