Is an old tradition in rural Romania to raise pigs, starting from early spring. They may receive a name, Ghiță being a popular choice, and become almost a member of the family: getting carefully feed, being talked to and such. Still, their final mission is to provide food for the family.
Cleverly, the pigs are sacrificed and transformed to food, at the start of the winter: on one hand, the fat pork is consistent food, will help people deal with the cold weather, on the other hand the cold weather will help with preserving the meat (in old times they had no freezers, nature was our big freezer).
On top of that, there is the religious side: is handy to have some special food for the Christmas meals. But… Christmas is preceded by a long fasting period, no meat allowed, but people were clever again, they re-used a Christian holiday, St. Ignatius (Ignat in Romanian) which takes place on 20 December for the pig sacrifice: it leaves enough time to prepare the Christmas food (bacon, sausages, leberwurst and such) and just pretend they know nothing about fasting that day.
Sorry, pictures with the pig being killed are not included, my aim here is not to shock people but to present a tradition.
Once sacrificed, the big is cleaned: the hair is removed with fire. Traditionally hay was used, but in modern days using a flamethrower is more convenient (powered by the gas one will use in the oven).
Everything is carefully cleaned: the hair has to go and leave the skin clean and tender (skin is the only part of the pig which can be eaten raw, uncooked: just add some salt).
Washed, the pig will tart looking like pork, the meat you can buy from the store.
An important tradition, before the pig to be chopped or even a single part to be eaten, a cross is cut on its forehead and they put some salt on it (from childhood, I was remembering something about holy water too, but I am unsure, it seems not used everywhere). Then the chopping begins.
With the operations still under progress, is time to bring some boiled țuică (with sugar, pepper and cloves), workers, family and guests will drink it warm wile eating some fresh, salted, pig skin.
I missed this step this year, but right after is the time for a small party, the pig’s requiem, with freshly cooked pork, pickles, polenta and more boiled țuică. More work will start after that, the meat has to be prepared to last for the winter: stuff the sausages, boil the bacon, dry, smoke and so on.
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