January 13, 2023 at 9:10 p.m.
The season is over for some people, but as I’m writing this, our family is still celebrating or at least doing activities together that are traditions for us, like going skiing and playing lots of board games. Our family tends to stretch Christmas and New Year’s out over at least a couple weeks. In my opinion, this is the best way to do it as I feel awful if I eat more than one huge holiday meal in a day but prefer to eat as many seasonal meals and hang out with as many family members and friends as possible per holiday.
I used to think it was just our family that celebrated Christmas from around Dec. 20 to Jan. 10. Turns out we just celebrate like they do in Romania and Moldova.
Occasionally, we get calls from people who want to process their own hog for a special event or holiday. A couple weeks ago, a family called us wanting a Christmas pig to butcher for their celebrations. I told them I had a few extra pigs that weren’t spoken for yet and could help them out with that. They came out to the farm with the whole family, food, drinks and a large propane torch. I’m glad it was a Sunday, and I didn’t have big plans for the middle of the day.
I sorted out the pig they wanted with a little help from them running the gate. We then spent the next four hours having the best time drinking, eating, laughing and disassembling a pig. I mostly stood around and chatted and drank wine as only so many people can torch, wash and scrape hair off a pig at a time, and no one had expected me to be involved past providing the pig. A week later, we repeated the party for some friends of theirs from Moldova who also wanted a pig for their Christmas celebrations.
I learned a lot about the countries of Romania and Moldova and how they celebrate the holidays.
Turns out, they celebrate Christmas like our family does. They begin celebrating around Dec. 20 and end Jan. 7. The family kills a pig at the beginning of the Christmas celebration, and they make different pork dishes throughout the couple weeks of celebrating.
A delicacy I’d never had until this year that they insisted I try was skin right off the pig. At first, I thought that didn’t sound all that sanitary, but then, they had torched, scraped and washed the whole thing twice then wrapped it in plastic covered in salt. Pig skin and ears are pretty good with a sprinkle of salt.
Over the years while raising hogs, I’ve never butchered one myself for our family. With the farm store just a quick walk through our garage, we don’t generally have pigs in our basement freezer just for ourselves. We usually are eating all the dropped, weird-looking or odd-sized packages of meat.
That said, after seeing how much those families enjoyed the process of working together while having a great time butchering their own hog, I might propose we add one more tradition to our Christmas season. After seeing quite a few people butcher hogs here, I know there are at least 20 different ways to do it, because not a single one of them has done it the same as the last person.
Maybe try that method of roasting a whole hog in a hole in the ground. That has always intrigued me, but if we’re going to do that for Christmas, I better plan ahead and dig that hole in the fall before the ground freezes.
Until next time, keep living the dream, providing the foods that make people’s holidays a bit merrier. And, if someone offers you something you’ve never eaten before, give it a try. You never know what weird things you may find enjoyable.
Tim Zweber farms with his wife, Emily, their three children and his parents, Jon and Lisa, near Elko, Minnesota.
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