Curing Hams and Pork

After dressing, the carcass should be allowed to hang till perfectly drained and cool, when it may be cut up and salted. The usual way is to pack the pork in clean salt, adding brine to the barrel when filled. But it may be dry salted, by rubbing it in thoroughly on every side of each piece, with a strong leather rubber firmly secured to the palm of the right hand. The pieces are then thrown into heaps and sprinkled with salt, and occasionally turned till cured; or it may at once be packed in dry casks, which are occasionally rolled to bring the salt into contact with every part.

Hams and Shoulders

May be cured in the same manner, either dry or in pickle, but with differently arranged materials. The following is a good pickle for 200 lbs. Take 14 lbs. of Turk Island salt; ½ lb. of saltpetre; 2 qts. of molasses, or 4 lbs. of brown sugar, with water enough to dissolve them. Bring the liquor to the scalding point, and skim off all the impurities which rise to the top. When cold, pour it upon the ham, which should be perfectly cool but not frozen, and closely packed; and if not sufficient to cover it, add enough pure water for this purpose. Some extensive packers in Cincinnati and elsewhere, who send choice hams to market, add pepper, allspice, cinnamon, nutmegs, or mace and cloves.

The hams may remain six or eight weeks in this pickle, then hung up in the smoke-house, with the small end down, and smoked from 10 to 20 days, according to the quantity of smoke. The fire should not be near enough to heat the hams. In Holland and Westphalia, the fire is made in the cellar, and the smoke carried by a flue into a cool, dry chamber. This is undoubtedly the best method of smoking. The hams should at all times be dry and cool, or their flavor will suffer. Green sugar-maple chips are best for smoke; next to them are hickory, sweet-birch, corn-cobs, white-ash, or beech.

The smoke-house is the best place to keep hams till wanted. If removed, they should be kept cool, dry, and free from flies. A canvass-cover for each, saturated with lime, which may be put on with a whitewash brush, is a perfect protection against flies. When not to be kept long, they may be packed in dry salt, or even in sweet brine, without injury. A common method is to pack in dry oats, baked sawdust, &c.


Swine should not be allowed to breed before 12 or 15 months old, unless the animals are large and coarse, when they may be put to it somewhat younger. Not only choice individuals, but such as are well descended, should be selected for the purpose of breeding. The sow should be in good condition, but not fat, nor approaching to it; and a proper degree of exercise is essential to the development of the fœtus and the health of the parent; for which reason, she should have an extended range connected with her pen.

The sow goes with young about 114 days. A week before the time comes round, a comfortable, quiet place should be prepared for her under cover, and well-protected from cold, if the weather be severe; or if warm, a range in a pasture with an open shed to retire to, is sufficient. Too much litter for bedding must be avoided, and no change or disturbance of the sow permitted, till two or three weeks after pigging, as the restlessness thereby produced may result in the loss of the pigs. The sow should be fed only with a small quantity of the lightest food or thin gruel, for two or three days, nor put on full feed for a week. If inclined to eat her pigs, she should be fed two or three times with raw pork or fresh meat. The pigs may be taught to crack oats or soaked corn after three weeks, and if provided with a trough inaccessible to the dam, they will soon learn to feed on milk and other food, preparatory to weaning. This may take place when they are 8 or 10 weeks old; and to prevent injury to the sow, let one or two remain with her a few days longer, and when finally removed, if her bag appears to be full, they may be allowed to drain the milk after 20 or 30 hours. The sow should be restricted to a light, dry diet for a few days at this period.

The swine are the first artiodactyls to show the typical cloven feet, and in them the two hind toes reach almost to the ground, so as to help the footing in the soft ground that they frequent. The foremost member of the family (Suidæ) is the wild boar of the Old World, known from the North Sea to the Bay of Bengal; and it is hard to realize that the fat hogs of our stockyards are modifications of this bristling forest boar with his muscular form, swift gait, and terrible tusks. Far more ugly in appearance, however, is the wart hog of Africa and the hairless "babiroussa" of Celebes, whose upcurved tusks far outmeasure those of the Indian boar. America has a family of native swine named peccaries—small, thin-legged, grizzled-black pigs, with very thick, bristly necks and large, angular heads. They have wicked little eyes, razor-sharp tusks in  both jaws, and no visible tails, and the young are not striped as in the typical Suidæ. These pigs go in companies, wandering mainly at night in search of food, and taking almost anything edible. They are irascible, attack with fierce energy in concert, and are formidable foes to anything afoot, driving even the jaguar up a tree when the band turns on him. One kind of peccary is common in southwestern Texas, and its roving bands do much damage by night to crops and gardens; it is called a "javelin."

The swine occupy a somewhat intermediate place between the solid-hoofed and the split-hoofed sections of the Herbivora; and the stomach is simple except in the peccaries, where it takes a complicated form that approaches that of the ruminants. This simplicity, with the correlated fact that swine do not chew the cud, enabled the leaders of the ancient Hebrews to set pigs apart, as unclean, by a more general definition than a mere name could give, thus leaving no way of escape for those who might be inclined to dodge the prohibition by quibbling. All other Herbivora are ruminants, that is, chewers of the "cud"—those that gather and swallow their food  in haste, and then at leisure recover it and thoroughly rechew it in small quantities (cuds).


The hog is a cosmopolite of almost every zone, though his natural haunts, like those of the hippopotamus, the elephant, the rhinoceros, and most of the thick-skinned animals, are in warm climates. They are most abundant in China, the East Indies, and the immense range of islands which extends over the whole Southern and Pacific Oceans; but they are also numerous throughout Europe, from its southern coast to the Russian dominions within the Arctic.

Fig. 32. 
The Wild Boar.

In the United States, swine have been an object of attention since its earliest settlement, and whenever a profitable market could be found for pork abroad, it has been exported to the full extent of the demand. For near twenty years following the commencement of the general European wars, soon after the organization of our national government, it was a comparatively large article of commerce; but from that time, exports have not been justified to any extent, till within the last two years, since which, a material reduction in the British import duty on pork, lard, and hams, has again brought it up as a prominent article of trade with that country. The recent use which has been made of the carcass in converting it into lard oil, has still further increased its consumption.

Swine are reared in very part of the Union, and when properly managed, always at a fair profit. At the extreme North; in the neighborhood of large markets; and on such of the Southern plantations as are particularly suited to sugar or rice, they should not be raised beyond the number required for the consumption of the coarse or refuse food produced. Swine are advantageously kept in connection with a dairy or orchard, as with little additional food besides what is thus afforded, they can be put into good condition for the butcher. But it is on the rich bottoms and other lands of the West, where Indian corn is raised in profusion, and at small expense, that they can be reared in the greatest numbers and yield the largest profit. The Sciota, Miami, Wabash, Illinois, and other valleys, and extensive tracts in Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and some adjoining states, have for many years taken the lead in the production of swine; and it is probable the climate and soil, which are peculiarly suited to their rapid growth, as well as that of their appropriate food, will enable them forever to remain the leading pork-producers of the North American continent.

Diseases of Swine

Mortifying as the fact may be to human pride, it is nevertheless certain, that the internal arrangements, the viscera, digestive organs, omnivorous propensities, and the general physiological structure of the hog and the bear, more nearly resemble man, than any other animal. Many of their diseases may therefore be expected to be a modification of those of the human species, and require a similar treatment.

Fig. 36. 
Skeleton of a Pig.

A Maxilla inferior, vel posterior; lower jaw.—B Dentes; the teeth.—C Ossa nasi; the nasal bones.—D Maxilla superior, vel anterior; upper jaw.—E Os frontis; the frontal bone.—F Orbiculus; the orbit or socket of the eye.—G Os occipitis; the occipital bone.—H Atlas; the first vertebra of the neck.—I Vertebræ colli, vel cervicales; the vertebræ of the neck.—J Vertebræ dorsi, vel dorsales; the vertebræ of the back.—K Vertebræ lumborum, vel lumbales; the vertebræ of the loins.—L Ossa coccygis; the bones of the tail.—a Scapula; the shoulder-blade.—b Humerus; the round shoulder-bone.—c Sternum; the breastbone.—d Ulna; the elbow.—e Radius; the bone of the fore-arm.—f Os naviculare: the navicular bone.—g Phalanges vel ossa pedis; the first and second bones of the foot.—h Phalanges, vel ossa pedis; the bones of the hoof.—i Pelvis, (ossa innorninata;) the haunch bones.—j Os femoris; the thigh-bone.—k Patella; the stifle-bone.—l Tibia; the upper bone of the leg—m Tarsus, (one of which is the (N) os calcis;) the hock-bones.—n Os naviculare; the navicular bone.—o Digiti, vel phalanges, (ossa pedis;) the first digits of the foot.—p Digiti, vel phalanges, (ossa pedis;) the second digits of the foot.

Pulmonary Affections, Colds, Coughs, and Measles

To each of these, swine are peculiarly liable, and, as with most other evils, prevention of disease in swine is more easy and economical than cure. A dry warm bed, free from winds or storms, and suitable food, will most effectually prevent any injuries, or fatal attacks. The hog has little external covering to protect him against cold. Nature has provided this immediately within the skin, in the deep layer of fat which surrounds the full, plump hog. Fat is one of the best non-conductors of heat, and the pig which is well-fed bids defiance to the intense cold, which would produce great suffering, and consequent disease, in the ill-conditioned animal. By the observance of a proper medium between too much fat or lean, for the store or breeding swine, and providing them with comfortable beds and proper feed, nearly all diseases will be avoided.

For Coughs and Inflammation of the Lungs, bleeding should immediately be resorted to, after which give gentle purges of castor oil, or Epsom salts; and this should be followed with a dose of antimonial powders—2 grains, mixed with half a drachm of nitre.

For Costiveness  or loss of appetite, sulphur is an excellent remedy, given in a light mess.

Itch  may be cured by anointing with equal parts of lard and brimstone. Rubbing-posts, and a running stream to wallow in are preventives.

The Kidney Worm  is frequently fatal; and always produces weakness of the loins and hind legs, usually followed by entire prostration. A pig thus far gone, is hardly worth the trouble of recovering, even where practicable.

Preventives, are general thrift, a range in a good pasture, and a dose of half a pint of wood-ashes every week or fortnight in their food. A small quantity of saltpetre, spirits of turpentine, or tar, will effect the same object. When attacked, apply spirits of turpentine to the loins, and administer calomel carefully; or give half a tablespoonful of copperas daily for one or two weeks.

Blind Staggers

This is generally confined to pigs, and manifests itself in foaming at the mouth, rearing on their hind legs, champing and grinding their teeth, and apparent blindness. The proper remedies are bleeding and purging freely, and these frequently fail. Many nostrums have been suggested, but few are of any utility. It is important to keep the issues on the inside of the fore-legs, just below the knee, thoroughly cleansed.

The tails  of young pigs frequently drop  or rot off, which is attended with no further disadvantage to the animal than the loss of the member. The remedies  are, to give a little brimstone or sulphur in the food of the dam; or rub oil or grease daily on the affected parts. It may be detected by a roughness or scabbiness at the point where separation is likely to occur.

Bleeding.—The most convenient mode, is from an artery just above the knee, on the inside of the fore-arm. It may be drawn more copiously from the roof of the mouth. The flow of blood may usually be stopped, by applying a sponge or cloth with cold water.

The diseases of swine, though not numerous, are formidable, and many of them soon become fatal. They have not been the subject of particular scientific study, and most of the remedies applied, are rather the result of casual or hap-hazard suggestion, than of well-digested inference, from long-continued and accurate observation.

Breeds of Swine

The breeds cultivated in this country are numerous, and like our native cattle, they embrace many of the best, and a few of the worst to be found among the species. Great attention has for many years been paid to their improvement in the Eastern states, and nowhere are there better specimens than in many of their yards. This spirit has rapidly extended West and South; and among most of the intelligent farmers who make them a leading object of attention, on their rich corn grounds, swine have attained a high degree of excellence. This does not consist in the introduction and perpetuity of any distinct races, so much as in the breeding up to a desirable size and aptitude for fattening, from such meritorious individuals of any breed, or their crosses, as come within their reach.

Fig. 33 , represents an English breed of hogs, a century or more ago: though coarse and slouch-eared, it is yet the portrait of a tolerable hog, and far before many of the swine that still maintain their ascendency in various parts of the European continent. This breed is nearly extinct, having been crossed successively by the Chinese and other good breeds, thus diminishing the size and materially improving its thrift and tendency to fattening. We have few such animals in the United States, though we have many that are worse.

Fig. 33. 
Old English Hog.

The Byefield, some 30 years ago, was a valuable hog in the Eastern states, and did much good among the species generally. They are white, with fine curly hair, well made and compact, moderate in size and length, with broad backs, and at 15 months attaining some 300 to 350 lbs. net.

The Bedford  or Woburn  is a breed originating with the Duke of Bedford, on his estate at Woburn, and brought to their perfection, probably, by judicious crosses of the China hog, on some of the best English swine. A pair was sent by the duke to this country, as a present to Gen. Washington, but they were dishonestly sold by the messenger in Maryland, in which state and Pennsylvania they were productive of much good at an early day, by their extensive distribution through different states. Several other importations of this breed have been made at various times, and especially by the spirited masters of the Liverpool packet ships, in the neighborhood of New York. They are a large, spotted animal, well made, and inclining to early maturity and fattening. They are an exceedingly valuable hog, but are nearly extinct both in England and this country, as a breed.

The Leicesters  are a large, white hog, generally coarse in the bone and hair, great eaters, and slow in maturing. Some varieties of this breed differ essentially in these particulars, and mature early on a moderate amount of food. The crosses with smaller compact breeds, are generally thrifty, desirable animals. Other large breeds  deserving commendation in this country, are the large Miami white, the Yorkshire white, and the Kenilworth, each frequently attaining, when dressed, a weight of 600 to 800 lbs.

Fig. 34. 
China Hog.

The Chinese  is among the smaller varieties, and without doubt is the parent stock of the best European and American swine. They necessarily vary in appearance, size, shape, and color, from the diversity in the style of breeding, and the various regions from which they are derived.

The Fig. represents the pure China pig, and is a striking likeness of many of the imported and their immediate descendants that we have seen in this country. They are too small an animal for general use, and require to be mixed with larger breeds to produce the most profitable carcass for the market. For the purpose of refining the coarse breeds, no animal has ever been so successful as this. They are fine-boned, short, and very compact, with bellies almost touching the ground, light head and ears, fine muzzle, of great docility and quietness, small feeders, and producing much meat for the quantity of food consumed.

From the rapidity with which generations of this animal are multiplied, the variety of other breeds on which they are crossed, and the treatment to which they are subjected, it is not surprising that their descendants should rapidly assume distinct features. They furnish not only a strong dash of blood in the best class of large breeds, but in such of the smaller as have any pretensions to merit, they constitute the greater part of the improvement. Such are the Neapolitan, the Essex half-black, the Grass breed, and some others.

Fig. 35. 
Berkshire Hog.

The Berkshires  are an ancient English breed, formerly of large size, slow feeders, and late in maturing. Their color was a buff or sandy ground, with large black spots, and the feet, lower part of the legs, and tuft on the tail, buff. The latter color has given place, in most of the modern age, to white in the same parts. This variation, with the more important ones of early maturity and good feeding properties, are by Professor Low ascribed to a Chinese cross, which has added the only characteristic in which they were before deficient.

They were first introduced and reared as a distinct breed in this country by Mr. Brentnall, of Orange Co., and Mr. Hawes, of Albany, N. York. In their hands, and those of other skilful breeders, their merits were widely promulgated. No other breeds have been so extensively diffused in the United States, within comparatively so brief a period, as the Berkshires, since 1832, and they have produced a marked improvement in many of our former races.

They weigh variously, from 250 to 400 lbs. net, at 16 months, according to their food and style of breeding; and some full-grown have dressed to more than 800 lbs. They particularly excel in their hams, which are round, full, and heavy, and contain a large proportion of lean, tender, and juicy meat, of the best flavor.

None of our improved breeds afford long, coarse hair or bristles; and it is a gratifying evidence of our decided improvement in this department of domestic animals, that our brush-makers are under the necessity of importing most of what they use from Russia and northern Europe. This improvement is manifest not only in the hair, but in the skin, which is soft and mellow to the touch; in the finer bones, shorter head, upright ears, dishing face, delicate muzzle, and mild eye; and in the short legs, low flanks, deep and wide chest, broad back, and early maturity.

Management and Fattening

There are but two objects in keeping swine, for breeding and for slaughter, and their management is consequently simple. Those designed for breeding, should be kept in growing condition, on light food, and have every advantage for exercise. Such as are destined exclusively for fattening, ought to be steadily kept to the object.

It is the usual, though a bad practice in this country, to let spring pigs run at large for the first 15 months, with such food as is convenient; and if fed at all, it is only to keep them in moderate growth till the second autumn. They are then put up to fatten, and in the course of 60 or 90 days are fed off and slaughtered. During this brief period, they gain from 50 to 100 per cent. more of dressed weight than in the 15 or 18 months preceding: nor even then do they yield a greater average weight than is often attained by choice, thrifty pigs, which have been well-fed from weaning to the age of 8 or 9 months.

Three pigs of the Bedford breed, when precisely 7½ months old, dressed 230, 235, and 238½ lbs. Two of the Berkshire and Leicester breeds, at 9 months, dressed 304 and 310 lbs. Three others of the Berkshire and Grass breeds, 7 months and 27 days old weighed 240, 250, and 257 lbs. net. Innumerable instances could be adduced of similar weights, gained within the same time, with a good breed of animals under judicious treatment. We have no one accurate account of the food consumed, so as to determine the relative profit of short or long feeding. But that an animal must consume much more in 18 or 20 months to produce the same quantity of dressed meat, which is made by others of 8 or 9 months, does not admit of a doubt.

We have seen that an ox requires but little more than double the quantity of food to fatten, that is necessary for supporting existence. If we apply this principle to swine, and state the quantity of food which will fatten the pig rapidly, to be three times as great as for the support of life, we shall find that the pig will fatten in 7 months, on the same food he would consume to keep him alive for 21. This is based on the supposition that both animals are of equal size. But the pig that matures and is slaughtered at 7 months, has only a moderate capacity for eating. During the early stages of his growth, his size and the consequent incapacity of the digestive organs, prevent the consumption of the same quantity which the larger animal requires; and his accumulating fat, his limited respiration, consequent upon the compression of his lungs, and his indisposition to exercise, all conspire to keep the consumption of food within the smallest possible limit. This result, in the absence of any experiment, must be conjectural entirely; but we believe that experiments will show, that of two thrifty pigs from the same litter, one of which is properly fed to his utmost capacity for 7 months, and the other fed with precisely double the quantity of similar food for 21 months, the first will yield more carcass and of a better and more profitable quality than the latter, which has consumed 100 per cent. the most.

The food is only one item in this calculation. The oldest requires the most attention, is liable to more accidents and disease, besides the loss of interest. We are necessarily forced to the conclusion, that by far the cheapest mode of wintering pigs is in the pork-barrel. We can readily anticipate one objection to this practice, which is the want of food at the requisite season of the year to fatten them. This can be obviated, by reserving enough of the previous year's grain, to keep the animal in a rapidly thriving state, till the next crop matures sufficiently to feed.

In the rich corn regions, on its beginning to ripen, as it does in August, the fields are fenced off into suitable lots, and large herds are successively turned into them, to consume the grain at their leisure. They waste nothing except the stalks, which in that region of plenty are considered of little value, and they are still useful as manure for succeeding crops; and whatever grain is left by them, leaner droves which follow, will readily glean. Peas, early buckwheat, and apples, may be fed on the ground in the same way.

There is an improvement in the character of the grain from a few months' keeping, which is fully equivalent to the interest of the money and cost of storage. If fattened early in the season, they will consume less food to make an equal amount of flesh than in colder weather; they will require less attention; and generally, early pork will command the highest price in market.

It is most economical, to provide the swine with a fine clover pasture to run in during the spring and summer; and they ought also to have access to the orchard, to pick up all the unripe and superfluous fruit that falls. They should also have the wash of the house and the dairy, to which add meal, and sour in large tubs or barrels. Not less than one-third, and perhaps more, of the whole grain fed to swine, is saved by grinding and cooking or souring. Yet care must be observed that the souring be not carried so far as to injure the food by putrefaction. A mixture of meal and water, with the addition of yeast or such remains of a former fermentation as adhere to the side or bottom of the vessel, and exposure to a temperature between 68° and 77° will produce immediate fermentation.

In this process there are five stages. The saccharine, by which the starch and gum of the vegetables, in their natural condition, are converted into sugar; the vinous, which changes the sugar into alcohol; the mucilaginous, sometimes taking the place of the vinous, and occurring when the sugar solution, or fermenting principle is weak, producing a slimy, glutinous product; the acetic, forming vinegar, from the vinous or alcoholic stage; and the putrefactive, which destroys all the nutritive principles and converts them into a poison. The precise point in fermentation when the food becomes most profitable for feeding, has not yet been satisfactorily determined; but that it should stop short of the putrefactive, and probably the full maturity of the acetic, is certain.

The roots for fattening animals ought to be washed, and steamed or boiled; and when not intended to be fermented, the meal may be scalded with the roots. A small quantity of salt should be added. Potatoes are the best roots for swine; then parsnips; orange or red carrots, white or Belgian; sugar beets; mangel-wurzel; ruta-bagas; and the white turnips, in the order mentioned. The nutritive properties of turnips are diffused through so large a bulk, that we doubt if they can ever be fed to fattening swine with advantage; and they will barely sustain lift when fed to them uncooked.

There is a great loss in feeding roots to fattening swine, without cooking. When unprepared grain is fed, it should be on a full stomach, to prevent imperfect mastication, and consequent loss of the food. It is better indeed to have it always before them. The animal machine is an expensive one to keep in motion, and it should be the object of the farmer to put his food in the most available condition for its immediate conversion into fat and muscle.

Swine ought to be kept perfectly dry and clean, and provided with a warm shelter, to which they can retire at pleasure. This will greatly hasten the fattening and economize the food. They thrive better and are generally less subject to disease, when long confined in yards, by having a clear running stream always accessible, to wallow in. This is one of the best preventives of vermin and cutaneous diseases. A hog ought to have three apartments, one each for sleeping, eating, and evacuations, of which the last may occupy the lowest, and the first the highest level, so that nothing shall be drained, and as little carried into the first two as possible. They must be regularly fed three times a day, and if there is a surplus, it should be removed at once. If they are closely confined in pens, give them as much charcoal twice a week as they will eat. This corrects any tendency to disorders of the stomach. Rotten wood is an imperfect substitute for charcoal.

Graves, scraps, or cracklings, as they are variously called, the residuum of rough lard or tallow, after expressing the fat, are a good change and an economical food. Some animal food, although not essential, is always acceptable to swine. When about to finish them off, many feed for a few weeks on hard corn. This is proper when slops or indifferent food has been given, and meal cannot be conveniently procured; but when fattened on sound roots and meal, it is a wasteful practice, as the animal thus falls behind his accustomed growth. It is better to give him an occasional feed of the raw grain, for a change, and to sharpen his appetite.

The products furnished by the carcass of swine  are numerous. Every part of the animal is used for food, and it admits of a far greater variety of preparation for the table, than any other flesh. From the remotest antiquity to the present time, and in every grade of barbarous and civilized life, it has been esteemed as one of the choicest delicacies of the epicure.

Lard-oil  (oleine ) has, within a few years, given to pork a new and profitable use, by which the value of the carcass is greatly increased. At some of the large pork-packing depots of the West, one-third of the whole quantity has been thus disposed of. This has withdrawn a large amount of pork from the market, and prevented the depression which must otherwise have occurred.

Where the oil is required, the whole carcass, after taking out the hams and shoulders, is placed in a tub having two bottoms, the upper one perforated with holes, on which the pork is laid, and then tightly covered. Steam, at a high temperature, is then admitted into the tub, and in a short time all the fat is extracted and falls upon the lower bottom. The remaining mass is bones and scraps. The last is fed to pigs, poultry, or dogs, or affords the best kind of manure. The bones are either used for manure, or are converted into animal charcoal, worth about three cents per pound, which is valuable for various purposes in the arts. When the object is to obtain lard of a fine quality, the animal is first skinned, and the adhering fat carefully scraped off. The oily, viscid matter of the skin is thus avoided. When tanned, the skin makes a valuable leather. An aggregate weight of 1790 lbs. from four well-fattened animals, after taking out the hams and shoulders, say about 400 lbs., gave within a fraction of 1200 lbs. of the best lard.

Stearine and Oleine.—Lard and all fatty matters consist of three principles, of which stearine contains the stearic and margaric acids, both of which, when separated, are solid, and used as inferior substitutes for wax or spermaceti candles. The other, oleine, is fluid at a low temperature, and in American commerce, is known as lard-oil. It is very pure, and extensively used for machinery, lamps, and most of the purposes for which olive or spermaceti oils are used.