Saint Andrew’s day on the 30th November is nearing. In olden times this day was special for girls because on the eve of the day they could predict their future husband. For farmers in general, however, it had a more universal significance: it marked the end of the agricultural year and as cold weather set in it was high time to do the first pig-killing.
By the end of November the harvest was finished and most work on the fields was over. The long dark evenings can’t really be spent with much else but talking, singing, playing, maybe mending tools. But, once the cold weather sets in people start to have hunger for more hearty food. The time is right: there are many free hands, it’s cold, the pigs are big enough to be killed and their meat processed so that there is ample food for the extensive family for the coming festive season. Cold weather helps preserve the meat and the first freshly crushed or ground paprika from the new crop is ready to spice up the kitchens.
The first pig-killing of the winter was the biggest test of the new paprika powder, especially when used to spice and colour the sausages and salamis. A typical sausage recipe reads like this: for about 10 kgs of fresh minced meat use about 30 dkg freshly ground paprika powder, 20-22 dkg salt, 2,5 dkg ground black pepper and another local product: half a handful of crushed garlic. Mix and fill the sausage casings.
Pig-killing was and is a time for festivity. The day never starts without having a few shots of home-made pálinka to make sure people have enough courage to face the ordeals of the day. Today pig-killing is less about celebrating the abundance of food, but in the past it was really one of those rare extraordinary times when food was plenty and that had to be thanked for and celebrated. Chambers were filled with smoked pieces of meat and sausages. Pots were filled with stuffed cabbages, stews, cooked kidney, fried blood and marrow. Food lasted for weeks and also served as payment for helping hands.
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