A week ago, Hellmut the pig saw his last morning. I had no intentions of keeping him as a pet and the time had come to kill and butcher him. This was not something I had done before, so I was glad that one of the local Barrier boys was keen to help out. Here is a recap of what turned out to be a quick and clean job with photos and thoughts on the experience.
Barney had expressed his interest in helping with the process something in the order of 10-15 times. Hold on, I should probably go figuratively a step back and mention that pig hunting is a traditional pastime for Kiwi lads. They are usually introduced to the sport at a young age, Barney ‘did’ his first pig at the age of 7.
He tells me that you basically need at least one good dog, a knife and a sowing kit comes handy as well. Imagine searching and chasing wild boars through the bush, somewhere remote and rugged, and what it feels like walking back from a successful hunt with a boar on your back.
Soon after Barney and Chop arrived, it started raining which wasn’t going to bother us. Previous rainfalls had rendered the pig pen into a mud trap anyway.
We thought about letting Hellmut out and also trying to get a rope around his neck, but decided to just open the pen, let Chop inside and follow up with turning the pig on the side and sticking a knife into his heart.
I was astonished at how calm Chop was during the entire process. He didn’t bark, didn’t seem anxious or in any way menacing. Poor Hellmut, being used to dogs, thought there was another play buddy on the other side of the fence and was very keen to get out.
So here goes: I open the door, there is at least 10 cm high, liquid-like mud on the ground, Chop calmly gets in, Hellmut steps forward to have a sniff before realizing that this dog wasn’t here to play. The pig turns around and tries to find a place to hide, Chop calmly bites into his back leg, Hellmut squeals loudly, Barney gets in – loses immediately both his shoes to the mud – grabs Hellmut by the tail and back leg and pulls him away from the fence.
It gets a bit rough, high-pitched, extremely loud squealing, mud flying everywhere, the only calm part of this scene is Chop the dog. Barney is still holding onto his knife and asks me to take it, as it is not possible to manoeuvre in the mud, turn a pig on his side and hold onto a knife.
It’s all good though, Barney man-handles Hellmut, Chop keeps holding onto the back leg, the pig is squealing for his life now. I stick him with the blade.
A stream of warm blood shoots out and some pours into my gum boot, it is warm and a bit sticky, I continue cutting up toward the neck.
Hellmut’s tongue is out, he is staring at me in shock and full of fear. He wasn’t expecting a violent attack and I feel that he is communicating to us: “What are you doing?, if this continues, I’ll die!”
10 seconds after inserting the blade into his heart, severing the main artery and cutting into the lung, there is utter silence. Hellmut’s tongue is relaxed, rolls into the mud and his body is motionless. He’s dead. His eye remains open, as if he was still maintaining eye contact with us.
With a rope around a tree branch, we pull the pig by a back leg up into a good working height and after hosing it down, begin with the gutting process. This starts with removing his male reproduction organs and bladder. Barney opens the pig from the anus toward the neck. He guts the animal cleanly and effortlessly, there is no mess, the entire insides come out as one collection.
The next step was skinning Hellmut. Instead of skinning, one can flame the hair off, some dunk a pig into a hot water bath and then scrape it off. This process can be tricky though as you’ll have to get the temperature perfectly right.
I have mixed thoughts on that. Pigs have heaps of fat, and as delicious as crackling tastes, taking into account that I will consume the entire pig, skinning was not only the most feasible option today. It was also a healthier choice.
To complete the task of gutting, skinning and cutting the meat into portions, you need the following tools:
- knife with flexible blade and sharpening tool
- wheel barrow or similar for all the parts you will not eat
- a large container for the parts you will eat
- water to hose down and clean
- a hacksaw to cut through bones
It took us in total about 90 minutes to kill and butcher Hellmut. It doesn’t have to be a messy or uncomfortable job, you just need to get a plan together and have your tools ready. I grilled a quarter of the ribs slowly on a gas bbq and they were very delicious.
Thanks for your help and advice Barney. I was impressed by how calm and well trained Chop is, and you did an excellent job in butchering Hellmut. Let’s go hunting mate and catch a wild one!