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South Texas Living

The smokehouse on the farm

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Rainy Days and Starry Nights
November 20, 2013 | 2,292 views | Post a comment

In my book, Rainy Days and Starry Nights, which you can get at Wilson County News, there is a story I wrote called “Old Black Cast Iron Pot.” This is a part of that story with some additional stuff. It is about the smokehouse.

One of my favorite memories of my life on the farm when I was young was remembering the old smokehouse that sat near the outhouse. It was there when we moved to the farm in 1936. For some reason I have been thinking about the smokehouse lately. Maybe it was that first norther that blew in last week. Even in the summertime when there was nothing in there, I loved to open the door and put my head in to just savor the smoky air!

I really liked “hog-killing weather.” When the first norther blew in that was really cold, we knew it was hog-killing time. That was an exciting time at our farm. Starting early in the morning, a fire was started under the old black iron pot, and heated until it was boiling, and also fires were built under large barrel drums and filled with water. As Daddy started out to the pasture where the pigpens were, I could see the .22 rifles under his arm, and I knew in a few minutes I would hear a shot. This was the part I dreaded. I held my ears, and ran in the house. Later, my brother Junior called, “Lois, they’re coming, they have the hog. Come on!” They drove up in a wagon with the hog lying on the floorboards.

There were usually some neighbors to help Daddy, and they would tie the carcass up by the hind legs, hanging from a tree, with a large block-and-tackle and slowly drop the carcass head down into the boiling water, going up and down until the hair on the hog was softened enough to begin the process of scraping the hog. Hogs are not skinned, like cattle, but the hair must be scraped off. As we got a little older, all of us kids had to help with that chore. I sure didn’t like it!

Later, the men would remove the head and entrails and would hang the carcass to drain. Afterwards, they would cut it into hams, shoulders, pork chops, bacon, and ribs. We had a hand-powered grinder, which we used to make sausage. The part that I hated was to make the sausage casings ourselves. Of course these were made from the entrails, which were cleaned and boiled for a long time. In later years, I think they did buy them at the store. I was so glad. That was a gross job.

Still, the best remembrances are the smell of the smoking fires in the smokehouse, as Mother and Daddy would hang the hams and slabs of bacon to be smoked. I also loved the sight and smell of the rows of sausages hanging from the rafters. We had helped Mother stuff the sausage, which she had mixed up in huge pans, adding sage and other seasonings. Our job was to man the handle of the grinder; as someone would hold the casing to the spout, the grinder put it through and then Mother or Daddy would tie a string to the end and pile it in a large pan to be hung in the smokehouse later. To this day, I love the taste of smoked pork sausage, and it brings back great memories. I can still see what the smokehouse looked like inside, and what it smelled like. It was still there when they moved from the farm in 1957. Do people still have smokehouses today and butcher their own hogs and smoke the meats? I think not. They don’t know what they are missing!

Lois Zook Wauson is the oldest of eight children who grew up on a farm in Wilson County in the mid-20th century. After many years living in other parts of Texas, she now lives and writes in Floresville. Her two books are available from the Wilson County News office. Email her at

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