The Whole Hog

In rural communities across the South, pork is what’s for dinner—and lunch, and breakfast, and snack time, and …

In many rural Southern communities, pork, particularly smoked pork, is the linchpin of cooking. Pork is economical: In the Appalachian community of Helvetia, West Virginia, home-raised pigs thrive on table scraps and whey from cheese making, which gives their flesh a particularly delicious flavor, and every bit of the animal is used. Slabs of pan-fried ham are a staple, and bacon fat is the cooking medium of choice. The best cuts are frozen for the long winter, and bacon and hams are cured and smoked. Lard is rendered for frying or making pastry. The head can be boiled and made into mincemeat or head cheese. Scraps and knuckles flavor beans and stews. Then there's the endless array of sausages, including blood sausage and breakfast sausage seasoned with sage and marjoram.

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