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Foodways Traditions – Working up the meat

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Terri Hunter

There were pigs on Mammaw and Grandaddy’s farm. Susie, who came as a piglet in my aunt’s car all the way from Arkansas, was a rusty red color. She was a brood sow, and Mammaw and Grandaddy sold her piglets for much-needed cash. 

Nameless pigs were slaughtered and what a production that was. I’m not a vegetarian, but seeing that deceased porker hanging was enough to make me change my mind. Mammaw was in charge of “working up the meat,” which included canning sausage. They owned a freezer, so what was not canned, salted, or eaten was frozen.

Milk cows also lived on the farm. Mammaw called, “Suke, cow, suke,” and they slowly walked from the field to the barn. If Granddaddy called, they usually pretended they didn’t hear him and someone had to go herd them up the hill to the barn.

Mammaw opened a stall and escorted the cow into it. There was sweet feed for the cow to munch while she was being milked. Mammaw washed the udder with water she has carried from the house, rinsed the bucket, and bent over to milk the cow. When her bucket was full she carried it back to the house, where she strained the warm milk with a fine, thin cloth.

Mammaw poured the strained milk into the gallon glass milk jar, where it separated as it cooled. The cream rose. It was a pale yellow and about 3 inches thick. The cream was stirred back into the milk before we drank it.

Mammaw churned to make buttermilk and butter. She had a way of making churning look fun. Sitting primly with her knees to one side, she spun the dasher with each upward movement. She gave me a turn when I asked. It was not fun, after all.

When the churning was done, she gathered the clumps of butter, rinsed out the milk with cold water, and molded the butter into beautiful cakes. Her butter mold was wooden and left a pretty design on the butter. She got as many as five pounds at each churning. She wrapped them in waxed paper and put them in the fridge.


Mammaw’s banana pudding was absolutely the best and was the dessert of special occasions. To make the pudding, egg yolks were combined with sugar, milk, and a little flour and cooked until thickened, and then vanilla flavoring was added. The dessert had layers of vanilla wafers, ripe bananas, and pudding topped with frothy meringue. With farm-fresh eggs and creamy milk, the dessert was indescribably delicious.

If you ever visited the little farm at dinner time, you would have certainly been invited to eat some of the finest food ever cooked. Mammaw would have insisted, as she put another plate on the table.

Disclaimer: Those who eat food prepared in a healthy manner are now shaking their heads in disbelief at eating lard, butter, cream, fatback, streaked meat, and whole milk. Granddaddy lived 83 years and Mammaw made it to 93. Neither had high blood pressure or cholesterol troubles.

This is Part II of a focus on the Foodways Traditions of Terri Hunter’s grandparents. To read Part I click here