A friend of mine who grew up on a hog farm once told me, “Your two best days raising hogs are the day you get them and the day you get rid of them.”
I took the last batch to the processor today. Although I feel decidedly less burdened as we go into winter, I don’t agree that it’s a great day. The best days were watching the hogs roll logs over in the woods to get grubs or finding them sleeping under the trees in a big, snoring pile —seeing them live true to their nature. It’s a little too quiet out there now. No enthusiastic greetings (almost taking me out at the knees to rub hello) or running in joyful circles when I toss open pollinated ear corn like mortar rounds over the fence. I would like to have carried this second group a little longer to put more weight on them, but I’m locked in to the butcher dates. The processor is booked three months out, so the date I projected in the summer is the date I have to stick with.
A few books I’ve read on traditional butchering make references to toasting the hog before the kill or passing around a bottle of bourbon while people cut up the meat. Dropping hogs off at the processor is a long way from a traditional butchering (we’ve done it), but I wanted to sit down this evening and raise a glass to acknowledge the occasion. I have a respectable bourbon selection, but I figured a rye-based cocktail would still be in the spirit of things.
Food 52’s Genius Recipes has a drink called the Cliff Old Fashioned by Dave Arnold. (This link is a bourbon version.) This isn’t the muddled-fruit-and-brandy cocktail that reigns supreme in Wisconsin supper clubs. It’s far simpler, albeit with the complex flavors of red-pepper-flake-and-coriander syrup. The recipe recommends rye whiskey. Wild Turkey Rye is great stuff for the price. Bat Masterson Rye takes drinks to another level, but Willett Rye (4-year-old, 110 proof) will make you sit and think about every sip. I'm in a comtemplative mood. Today puts this year’s hog raising in the books—and soon into the freezer. I only raised sixteen hogs this year, but I gave them the best feeds and environment that I could provide. Quality over quantity. I made the cocktail with Willett--
A Manhattan made with Willet got me into Rye Whiskey about 4 years ago, but my 6-year-old bottle of Willet was definitely better than the current, 4-year-old bottle. In a glass-to-glass tasting against the Bat Masterson, Bat Masterson is my new favorite Rye.
Former Marine Infantry Officer. Iraq Vet. Interested in Regenerative Agriculture at any scale.
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The Odyssey Farm Journal
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