Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Not Scary At All

I took a stroll around the farm yesterday after lunch (vegetable soup [always the starter], home-canned green beans with garlic, roasted rabbit, mushrooms in a sauce thickened with cornstarch and mustard) to stretch my legs and enjoy the sunshine before it was time to head back inside to vacuum-pack more sausages and get the store ready to open at 4pm. I walked around all of the buildings where the pigs are raised, including the one where I saw some being born yesterday, and along the back where the manure pond is, which isn't truly stinky except when you're walking by the far end. I came back past the huge greenhouses where the family used to raise tobacco (part of my school project is going to be thinking of things to possibly use these structures for profit in the future) and followed a young rooster and his girlfriend, who had slipped out of the main orchard/chicken yard and were enjoying a romantic walk through the fields away from adult supervision. They led me into a vacant field on the opposite side of the orchard, where large-leafed vines tangled across the tall grass, and the bright orange of pumpkins reflected the autumn sunlight.

I went back into the house and mentioned that I'd seen the pumpkin patch, and Jeanne said, "Yes, Halloween! Do you know it?" I think she was kidding. I haven't seen anything particularly Halloween-y anywhere here, and though all of the candy displays are up in the grocery stores now (especially the tall shimmering gold towers of Ferrero Rocher), and the toy aisles have doubled overnight, it's for Christmas.

Anyway, it's Halloween, so I thought I'd put up some pictures of dead pigs, just to get in the spirit. I've watched the porcine life cycle now from birth - literally, as the piglets came tumbling slimily out onto the ground - to almost-death, when I drove with Frédéric to the abattoir yesterday morning and got a quick tour of the holding pens, the electrocution stall, and all the rest, before he ushered this week's batch into the facility. Florence and I will go pick up the miscellaneous bits this morning; the halved carcasses are retrieved on Mondays, when all of the meat processing is done, but Fridays - Thursday this week, because tomorrow is Toussaint, All Saint's Day, and it's a national holiday - is for rendering the rest of the animal into boudin and pâté. We'll get a sack with three pig heads in it, and another that has all of the fat cut off the bellies, which I'll hoist up onto the gleaming blood-spattered table and use my knife (I have my own knife, now) to cut the nipples off of, which really squicked me out the first time, but not any more. I'll cut three hearts in half, and dig out any clotted blood, before tossing them into the grey bins under the table. Florence deals with the livers, because they're fragile, but I'll help Frédéric cut the cheeks and the rest of the usable meat off the heads, and then saw off the ears and split the heads in half, before chucking them in another grey bin to be boiled up with the vegetables for the boudin.

And then when everything is boiled, we'll separate the meat from the bones, and scrape the gelatinous coating off the ears, discarding the crunchy cartilage, and run it all through a sausage grinder. The blood comes in a double-bagged plastic sack, and some of it will be ladled into the ground meat mixture for the boudin, though most of it is discarded. Florence mentioned yesterday that they tried to make the thickened blood-only sausage (mixing the blood with cornstarch) but that they couldn't get them to come out right, so they gave up. There's usually one sausage casing that gives way when the boudin are being boiled in the rich pig's-head broth, and if so, we'll probably have it for dinner tonight, crisped in a hot pan and served with fried eggs from free-roaming chickens, the pumpkin-orange yolks running across the black shreds of the iron-rich sausage meat.

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