Grandmas Gleanings from Newton's Woolsthorpe
Recollections from a Lincolnshire Hamlet By Margaret Anne Winn Published in 1994 Copyright M. A. Winn 1994
This is a collection of stories and facts, recording the childhood of the Robinson children and their way of life growing up in Woolsthorpe in the early 1900's.
Chapter 6 The Pig
The pig was always a very important member of the family! Its welfare meant the difference for the family between eating well and going hungry. If the pig was ill it was nursed back to health and someone would even sit up with it at night that someone would always be Lizzie. It would be treated with cough linctus or with comfrey. Comfrey was good medicine for pigs and indeed for humans! A hot comfrey poultice would heal wounds which would not heal otherwise and I can remember often having my knees bandaged with a comfrey leaf when I was little, as I was always falling down and cutting my knees. It smelled strange and as it dried it tickled your skin as the leaves are very hairy but it healed like magic and did not stick to the wound.
A new little pig was brought home to Top Cottage in the spring. It was reared carefully and fed on household scraps and barley meal. Any neighbours who brought their scraps along could expect a piece of meat in return at pig killing time. A good, fully grown pig would weigh anything up to 20 stones. It would be killed around December time to ensure plenty of food for the winter. Mr Watson from the Mill killed the pigs in Woolsthorpe by sticking a knife into the neck. The carcass was reared up onto the cratch so that the blood drained into a panchion. Next day he returned to cut it up into manageable pieces everything was used except the squeal! The hams were hung from the ceiling in the house. The sides or flitches were salted and hung up to dry on the walls; often the pictures were taken down to accommodate them.
This was used for bacon and when it was cured it was stored away in boxes. When a piece was required for frying or boiling, a lump was cut off and cooked. It was usually very thick and very fatty, just the way Fred liked it, the fatter the better! Pig killing was hard work and gallons of boiling water were needed to scrub the skin to remove the bristles. Water which had to be carried home and heated over the fire. The intestines were soaked in salt water, turned inside out and scraped with a wooden spoon, then they were used as skins for the sausages. Pork pies were made with hot water pastry which was hand raised around a pie shaped mould. Even the pigs bladder was made use of, as the children blew it up and used it for a football! Local folklore said you should always kill the pig at the time of the new moon. If the moon was on the wane the meat in the pork pies would not rise.