A round silver moon rose over Pilot Knob last night, cold and unapproachable, and sailed majestically through the heavens. It brushed aside a few drifting white clouds and continued its path across the sky.

This full moon in December was called the “Cold Moon” or “Long Nights Moon” by the American Indians. When the frigid wind howled around their teepees, and ravenous wolves echoed the howls, they knew that winter cold had fastened its grip.

This was also called the “Snow Moon” and “Moon before Yule.” Long Nights Moon describes it best, as the nights are at their darkest and longest during this time. We have the bright lights and gay festivities of the Christmas season to brighten this month, but it must have been a long and dark month for the Native Indians.

Daddy used to wait until late November or early December, after the weather turned cold, to butcher the hogs for winter use. Hog-killing time was a hard and messy job, and we hated it when he butchered on Thanksgiving. Without a modern cooler, the weather had to be cold enough to hang the hogs outside to chill.

We would get up early, and Daddy would build a fire to heat the water to scald the poor animals. When he went to the pigpen to shoot the fat hogs, we girls would bury our heads in pillows to keep from hearing the shots and squealing.

I remember how Daddy would load the dead hog on a sled, and pull it to the chosen spot where the water was boiling. He would cover the hog with coffee sacks (gunny sacks to the younger generation) and pour hot water over it. The water had to be the right temperature—if it was too hot it would set the bristles on the animal, and too cool would not soften the bristles enough.

With sharp knives the men would scrape the whole hog, then hang it on a gambrel stick and split it down the belly. It was gruesome to see the entrails spill out, but we watched anyway. The liver and heart would be placed in a large dishpan, along with the leaf lard. (Remember that?)

The hog would be left to hang until the next day, when the head and feet were removed and also processed for use. Our first mess of fresh pork would be the fresh liver and onions, and when the hog was cut up, we would have ribs and backbones. There is nothing any better than fresh ribs and backbones cooked together.

Daddy would cut off the jowl bacon, and take the head to Mom to make souse.

The feet and head would be thoroughly scraped and cleaned, and cooked tender for souse or headcheese. (The tongue was removed and cooked separately.) Mom’s souse was so good.

Ruby James sent me a recipe for “Pennsylvania Dutch Souse” but it is different from the way Mom made it. This recipe calls for the head and feet to be cooked tender, and salt and pepper, several onions, cut in chunks, peppercorns, a bay leaf, a blade of mace, and cider vinegar to be added later.

The meat is cooked tender and bones removed. Cook onions and spices in the broth, simmer until it is reduced by half, strain and cool. Bring meat and vinegar to boil, place in loaf pan and add broth. When cold, slice like cold cuts and eat in sandwiches, or just plain.

Mom did basically the same thing only she used chopped pickle, onions, fresh horseradish and a little hot pepper along with the vinegar—and salt and pepper of course–in the mixture. The pig feet will cause the souse to jell, and when it is chilled it slices easily.

The head can be used to make scrapple, using corn meal and sage in the cooked meat. After it is molded in loaf pans, it is rolled in flour and fried in hot oil (or we used lard).

The Lord blessed us with a bounty of farm food, and we ate heartily. Still, I don’t miss the lard mess (we rendered and canned the lard) or canning sausage by frying it and placing it in glass jars. We also ground the lard and sausage using a hand grinder. It was hard labor, but we developed good muscles.

Many folks are beginning their holiday baking now, and I am happy to report that we received a recipe for stacked apple pies. This was requested some time ago and, the recipe was submitted by Jean Williams of So. Charleston.

She added that her husband’s grandmother used to make them on Saturday for Sunday dinner, as they always had a crowd. She would make ten or twelve and stack them one on another.

She would cook a big pot of apples on top of the stove until they were boiled down thick and mushy. She ran them through a ricer to get the consistency she wanted, and added sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste.

Put enough apples in unbaked pie crust to fill about half an inch, and smooth them out. Prick top crust with a fork and cover pie. Bake at 450 degrees about ten minutes, reduce heat to 375 and bake until nicely browned. Repeat until desired amount is obtained, cool each pie completely, and stack them.

I had such a heart-warming experience today that I have to share it. I went to the grocery store, and when I left the temperature was sunny and mild. I didn’t wear a coat and during the day the temperature fell and it became quite chilly. I was shivering in the store when I met a lady from Bomont who was a stranger, but she recognized me.

We talked for a little while, and then continued shopping. While I was checking out, she came up to me with a coat and insisted that I wear it. I have heard of giving someone the shirt off your back, but had never experienced it. (She did have another coat.)

It was such a gesture of Christian love and compassion that it touched my heart. Thank you, Garnet Taylor. I pray the Lord will bless you richly.

The Waynedale News Staff

Alyce Faye Bragg

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