Scalding

The more complicated method of removing the hog’s hair was the scalding-scraping method. The skills of butchering, especially scalding-scraping, were taught from one generation to the next. Marie Klima substantiated this claim by saying “Somehow Dad just knew what he was doing while scalding the hog.” Many preferred this method for a variety of reasons. Besides the esthetic value of having a whiter, nicer looking carcass, many claimed that there were practical advantages to scalding a hog. First, the farmer claimed that he could handle a scraped hog better easier, because the rind provided a protective covering from the greasy, slippery lard. A skinned carcass did not have protection and the farmer had a hard time handling it. It was less messy cutting up a scalded carcass than a skinned one. The skin which covered the meat, kept the fat from being exposed, this prevented the cutting area from getting so slimy and greasy. Second, if the farmer used the scraping method he was able to save more fat for lard making. In addition, many claimed that with the skins on the bacons cured and tasted better. The farmer considered these aspects in deciding whether to use the scalding process.
In the scalding process the farmer dunked the hog carcass into a container of hot water until he could easily remove the hair. The time varied but usually it was approximately five minutes. First he checked to see if he had roaring fire and if the water, which had been heating, had reached a rolling boil, or as Laverne Kopsa said, “boiling like the devil.” He did not actual need boiling water but by the time he transferred the water from the heating to the scalding vessel, the water usually cooled down some. If the farmer heated the water to lower temperature than boiling, he risked the chance of the water cooling down too much to properly scald the hog. If the boiling water had not cooled down by the time he was ready to dunk the hog, he just added some cold water. Freddie Yoder said the water temperature needed to be around 155 degrees Farenheit for scalding. He tested the water by sticking his fingers in it. If he could leave them in for ten minutes-it was just right.
Just as had a choice from a variety of vessels to heat up the water earlier in the morning, he also had a choice from a variety of available scalding vessels, such as a 55 gallon wooden barrel, a metal oil drum, a wooden watering trough, or a special scalding vat. If a wooden barrel was used the farmer soaked it with water for several days so it would hold water.
8. Water trough, used as scalding vat, Adobe Museum, Hillsboro.
Water Trough for scalding
9. Scalding vat, especially built for the purpose, Adobe Museum, Hillsboro.
Scalding Vat used for butchering
10. Wagon single tree hoisting bar Levi Prieb
Wagon single hoisting bar

11. Oil drum used for scalding.
Oil drum used for scalding
12. Old butchering picture, used wooden barrel, used shed.
Old Butchering Picture

To the scalding water some added one half cup of lye, or one half cup of hard wood ashes. The ashes were retrieved from the kitchen stove or out from under the meagrope.94 The ingredients of lye or ashes were added because they helped the hog’s hair cling to the scraper better. Thereby the farmer was able to slip the hair off the carcass with much more ease. Lye or even small amounts of homemade lye soap, or ashes added to the water made the carcass cleaner and whiter. These ingredients in the hot water helped soften and break up the hard well water that was so prominent in many rural Kansas farms. The scum caused by these added ingredients kept water hot longer and it hurried the steaming process. The farmer next carried and poured the scalding water, with the ashes added to it, into the scalding vat.

13. Home butchering with the use of an iron bar and a block and tackle. Provided by John Davis, Courtland.
Iron block tackle
14. 12 ft. long pole tripod of Jacob Prieb, 1937. Provided by Levi Prieb.
12 ft. long pole tripod
15. Levi Prieb farm; the hayloft and pulley system from this barn was used to hoist many hogs.
Hayloft pulley of Levi Prieb

The farmer needed a hoist and a scaring table next to the scalding vat or barrel. If the hoisting equipment was quite some distance from where the animal was killed, then the hog was transported by horse and sled or a low bed wagon. (A tractor and scoop is usually used for this procedure today). The farmer used the hoist to lift up the carcass to dip it in and out of the scalding vat. There was a variety of hoisting equipment. Some bolted together three stout poles. This tripod was usually over ten feet high. In addition some used a combination of a rope and a sturdy tree limb, or a barn, corn crib, or granary rafter. Many used a rafter in a building because this provided them with protection from the bitterly cold wind of Kansas, strong hedge posts were sometimes used to put across the rafters to tie up the butchered hog.

In order to use any of the various types of hoisting equipment, the farmer slashed the back tendon of each of the hog’s legs, and then with the hog’s legs spread apart, he inserted an iron bar of wagon single tree into the slashes. This bar was connected to a pulley and rope. The carcass was hoisted high enough to get it into the scalding water. By manual labor the carcass was dipped into the water for about five to ten minutes. If a trough was used for scalding, then chains were used to roll the hog around in the trough.

16. The scalding of a wooden barrel, 1922 provided by Anna Block-Hodel Hillsboro, Kansas. Jacob Black, Jacob R. Kluassen, and Wm. J. Prieb
The Scalding wooden barrel

The farmer relied heavily on the trial and error basis for determining the length of time to keep the carcass in the water. In the fall and winter times the hog had a growth of hair, and this made hair removal difficult. To properly scald a hog during this hard hair season hotter water and longer submersion times were needed. In the scalding process a tuft of the hog’s hair was checked to see if it would slip off easily. This procedure was similar to how a farmwife yanked to pull feathers off a chicken which see was butchering. If the hair in the flank region behind the shoulder was ready, then that half of the hog was done and the other half was put into the water. Most farmers first dipped the head end into the scalding water, and then turned it around and dipped the back end. Most found the head harder to clean and so it was best that it was scalded while the water was still very hot. Whenever a very large hog was butchered, only half a hog was dipped at a time, but the entire hog was dipped if it was a small one.

If a farmer did not have a block and tackle and hoist of some kind, he placed the scalding barrel at an angle nest to the scraping platform; and with the aid of several men and meat hooks slid the carcass in and out of the of water. Today mechanical advancements have allowed the farmer to use a tractor and loader and hydraulic lifts to do the hoisting tasks of butchering.

17. Electric hoist, to hoist animal up, now the Glen Prieb farm.
Electric Hoist
18. Use of tractor and loader to transport meat, Levi Prieb farm.
Tractor for transporting meat

In the scalding process the farmer carefully avoided overscalding. This cooked the skin and made the skin rubbery. Rubbery skin made it harder to separate the rind from the fat. Some called this “burning the hide.” When the hog was overscalded it caused the skin to contract around the base of the hair, and this set the hair back tight. Some called this “setting the bristles.” This meant that the hair became extremely difficult, if not impossible to be removed. When this happened many resorted to shaving or singeing the bristles off. This happened more with an older animal. An over scalded hog’s skin would also peel off with the hair. To prevent this, the hog was kept in motion in the hot water, not soaked.

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