When we first began butchering large animals with our community, the process could take multiple days! Of course, there are often several pigs or a couple of steers to be cut and wrapped. But the primary reason things took so long was our own lack of skill.
Only our neighbor Barry had extensive experience with the job. And, in any case, more than half our butchers at that time were children. Now those children are teaching their own children to cut sausage meat, scrape casings and grind fat for lard rendering.
And we’re all a lot better at our jobs!
Even so, there was then and is now a real air of festivity around butchering time, a feeling of community and plenty that makes even messy work, cold hands and feet, and long, tiring days part of the overall fun of the event. Friends come in from all over the county and even farther to help with this homestead harvest.
Everyone wants to do something, even the small children. And there are usually jobs for all.
Butchering time, unless you own a walk-in cooler, is a winter thing. And cold weather means hungry helpers.With so many folks on the farm, hospitality is important!Feeding the crowd takes planning and lots of preparation.
Here are some tips for a joyful butchering party celebration.
1. Plan Ahead for a Butchering Party
Come up with menus that can be prepared in advance, made in large quantities, and don’t require a lot of utensils. One-plate meals are easiest, and the fewer side dishes you need, the easier setup and clean-up will be.
Chili and corn muffins or pasta and garlic bread are good warm foods to stoke up your butchers for an afternoon of cold work. A hot oven stew full of meat and potatoes, or lasagne and salad, are also good options, especially if stove top space is taken up with other cooking.
Serving can be an issue with a large butchering party crowd. At our winter butchering event, the whole community seems to come out. But no table is big enough to seat us all!
If you can’t find room for the entire butchering crew simultaneously, divide the diners into teams and stagger seatings. Often we feed the smallest children early and then put them down for naps or send them out to play before the work crew comes in.
Then, when the outside workers have eaten, the kitchen folks get their meal before they clear away and start dinner.
Don’t forget paper products! Life is going to be a lot easier if you can use disposable dining ware. Go the extra mile and buy biodegradable products. You’ll know it’s more consistent with the good farm work you are already doing.
2. Definitely Delegate
Let several people help out with the food preparation and serving. Assigning different meals to the various households attending is one way of keeping the KP duty reasonable. Coordinate meals so the day stays interesting, and keep communication lines open.
Have folks who will make sure the little things don’t get missed, such as:
- Is there plenty of coffee in the house?
- Who is in charge of serving between-meal snacks?
- What about paper products?
- Drinks for the non-caffeinated?
Putting one person in charge of “stage management” for your butchering party means everyone knows where to go with questions.
3. Clear the Decks!
Butchering is an event where you want speed and focus. When possible, put other activities on hold for the day or days. Reschedule appointments, lessons and sports to keep all hands available for the farm tasks.
Where it is practical, prep farm chores the day before to keep necessary tasks streamlined. Making sure stock water tanks are full, livestock are snug, and feed is ready and available before the butchering day will do a great deal to build focus and teamwork during this big job.
4. Dial up the Calories
Cold work burns a lot of energy, so plan snacks for mid-morning and mid-afternoon: cinnamon rolls and hot cocoa, coffee and doughnuts.
Hummus and carrots give a protein boost. So do brownies with lots of nuts.
Keeping hot drinks always available helps the outside workers stay warm, so we make sure the coffee pot is always perking and a pot of hot cocoa shares space with the lard kettle on the fire.
Have fun with this! Break a few dietary rules if you have to. A butchering crew deserves some indulgence, and this is a party after all!
A butchering party is one of the times when the farm gets to see the fruits of its work. So make this a celebration your community will look forward to all year!