What Is Amish Butchering Day Like?

It must be that time of year. After Lovina Eicher gave us an up-close look at pon hoss, Gloria Yoder describes a butchering event in her church.

I know some people don’t like to read about these topics. But on the other hand, it’s good to recognize and appreciate that meat doesn’t just come from a grocery store.

A reality of life in Amish communities today…and some generations ago, this would have been reality for many of us.

From Gloria’s latest Amish Cook column:

Tuesday and Wednesday will be the big butchering days for our church. There are 21 hogs to be turned to sausage, bologna, bacon, kielbasa, liverwurst, and the likes. It’s a major undertaking, yet many hands make work light.

The assortment of jobs is large enough that most folks can find something they are comfortable with doing, even if they aren’t fond of butchering itself. Besides the actual butchering, there is mixing pork with seasoning, then packaging the seemingly endless stream of huge bowls and totes of sausage or marking packages. Then there is always a need of hearts who are willing to scrub sticky canners and totes for hours — literally! Then there is always the need for serving the food we ladies had prepared the days before.

Oh yes, I think I forgot to mention the butchering event is hosted here at our woodworking shop since it has the needed space for all the grinders, stuffers, our 80 church folks, and so on.

The day is a highlight for all of us. Yet, somehow, as a mother of five little ones, including a few that have had a tendency to get stressed out when things get kicked out of their routine, perhaps (and maybe I shouldn’t even be so honest) the best part of the day is when the last of the meat has been processed, the final grit and grime washed down from the sticky shop floor, and the last buggy taillights have gone blinking out the driveway, and the foster children’s whose world has come back together.

It all happened so quickly, almost too swiftly. We had a big butchering day, processing about 4,500 pounds of meat. This count includes the venison that was brought to be mixed with pork to make hot dogs and bologna. Things went exceptionally well. Even though I’ve helped for 17 years, I was once more fascinated and amazed to watch the large home-fabricated stuffers stuff pound after pound of kielbasa to watch it go through the smoking process, then quickly cooled down before passing the skillful hands that placed them into vacuum seal bags and distributed to the owners. Every bowl was marked with the owner’s name and a description of the type of sausage. I admire the ones who keep the large mixers going with each individual’s sausage, their proper seasonings, and the prescribed amount of ice water and the likes.

Twenty-one hogs + the work of 80 church folks = 4,500 pounds of meat.

I wonder how long all that sausage, bacon, and bologna lasts.

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    1. Habitatman

      I enjoy my Central NY Amish neighbors and they know I’m dependable to give them rides for medical issues etc. I’m sure that they’re a bit miffed that my wife and I are vegetarians. Of course we don’t try to discuss much about cultural differences and they are aware that I’m not judgemental. I did once watch (for a brief period) a young Amish neighbor grind up a carcass when I stopped for eggs.

      1. I haven’t met many Amish vegetarians that I know of (read: zero so far), but thinking about it the health angle *could* appeal to some. Still waiting to meet that first person though:)

    2. Al in Ky

      I enjoyed reading Lovina’s detailed description about butchering.

      I liked your second sentence:”..some people don’t like to read about these topics”. I grew up on a farm, and between us and several relatives just down the road, we raised dairy cattle, beef cattle, hogs, sheep, and chickens. We sometimes said to each other that we thought there would be a lot more vegan vegetarians if non-farm people came and observed for a day or two all of the “messiness” involved in raising livestock (and butchering).
      And Lovina’s comment was interesting that (even amongst farm people) some “aren’t fond of butchering itself”.

      1. You caught an interesting detail there Al. I wonder how many would describe themselves as “fond” of it? I could see fondness for the entire day of coming together as a church community to get it done – and knowing you’ll have a whole range of tasty meats for the rest of the year for it.

    3. Terry Berger

      These times

      I remember butchering days as a kid. We lived in the country, not necessarily farmers, and still my dad and uncles went together on several pigs to butcher. One of my jobs was to take the intestines, hook them to a garden hose and flush with water, then turn them inside out and scrape the cilia off in preparation for them being sausage casings. My other job was either slowly sprinkling the buckwheat flour into the panhaas (scrapple) so it didn’t get lumpy, or when older, I stirred the panhaas while mom sprinkled the buckwheat flour into it. It was a lot of work, usually with eight people but the rewards just couldn’t be beat!! Everything was so fresh and you knew exactly what was in it.


      1. Terry, your additional details brought the process to life more vividly for me, and simultaneously enhanced my appreciation for those who do prepare the foods I eat:) Knowing exactly what is in it is one benefit I don’t enjoy, however.

    4. Blair

      Love this

      I would love to visit an amish farm on butchering day and help. Like the old days with my grandparents. Would love to know if there is an event i can attend