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Pork terms from pen to pit to plate:

Raising Hogs

  • Farrow: As a noun-a little pig; as a verb to give birth to pigs.
  • Piglet: A young male or female pig.
  • Pig: Term used for animals up to about 150 lbs.
  • Hog: Term used for animals starting after they pass the pig stage, generally about 150-160 lbs. up.
  • Boar: Male hog used for breeding.
  • Barrow: a castrated male pig
  • Sow: Female hog used for breeding.
  • Gilt: Young female pig that has not produced piglets
  • Shoat: Young hog.
  • Feeder pig: Piglets fed until they reach about 50 lbs., then sold to a farmer who will raise the pigs to hog weight.
  • Feral Hog: a domestic hog that has escaped confinement and reverted to a wild state.
  • Pig Pen: Confinement for pigs usually dirt floor with wooden fence.
  • Pig Lot: Larger confinement for free ranging pigs containing woods (preferably oak trees for acorns) water source and shelter.
  • Pig Nest: The nest made by a sow in which to give birth and care for her piglets
  • Slop: The feed, generally table scrapes, restaurant and grocery store discards, supplemented by commercial hog food, acorns, peanuts and corn etc.
  • Stand ‘um up: When the weather begins to cool in early Fall the farmers will place their pigs on floored pens and feed the pigs extra rations (mainly corn and peanuts) to clean them out and fatten them up before slaughter.
  • Hog Killing Weather: Late Fall when the temperature is around 40-45 degrees or lower in the daytime so the farmers could slaughter, dress and butcher the hog without risk of spoilage.

The Pig

  • Bob: The nose or snout.
  • Corkscrew: The tail.
  • Trotters: The feet.
  • Chitlins: Intestines-washed thoroughly, boiled, battered and fried - enjoyed by some.
  • Fatback: The fat layer on top of the hogs back.
  • Lights: The lungs (some add ears, feet and liver for the fat taste) are made into a dish called haslet and enjoyed by the adventuresome.
  • Hog Jowls: The cheeks.
  • Lard: The drippings or grease from pig fat after it has been rendered (cooked and pressed out).
  • Loin: The meat below the fatback.
  • Tenderloin: The premium part of the loin-two small strips.
  • Middling: The side of the hog with ribs attached. Generally cured like bacon.
  • Souse meat: The ears, nose and jowls of the pig ground and made into a gelatin block usually served in small squares with vinegar, salt and pepper and saltine crackers. Often referred to as "head cheese".
  • Cracklins: Small cooked pieces of fat after the lard has been rendered. Often used in cornbread, cracklins cost three to four times the price of ham. Fifty (50) pounds of lard will only produce about two (2) to three (3) pounds of cracklins.
  • Mountain Oysters: Pig testicles often cooked by dipping in batter, deep frying and slicing like an egg (not for the faint of heart).
  • Pig fries: Another term for Mountain Oysters.
  • Spare Bone: Cartilage located behind the pig's nose (discarded by most when dressing hogs) don't know why as some eat anything else a pig produces including the blood (used in sausage in some parts of the world.
  • Oink: The grunt of a happy pig.
  • Squeal: Sound made by an unhappy pig.

The Pit

  • Ground Pit: A long hole dug in the ground, generally about three/four feet wide and two feet deep, the length depending on the amount of meat to be cooked.
  • Raised Pit: Generally built with cinder blocks above ground. Most build a pit three blocks high, closed on one end and open on the other to permit adding hot coals from the fire box (usually an open top 55 gallon drum with holes punched around the bottom).
  • Pit Rods: Traditionally rods placed across the pit to support the meat over the fire. Some use rebar. Some pit masters are using expanded metal with 2 inch holes as a grill in place of rods to avoid having a pig breakup when removing it from the pit and large pieces of meat fall into the fire. Some pit masters use rods with hog wire over the rods to prevent loss of meat.
  • Pit Cover: A covering placed over the pig while the pig is on the pit smoking. Some use heavy foil, some use cardboard and some add a layer of tin roofing. This cover traps the heat and smoke. Some refer to this step as "wrapping the pig".
  • Fire Up: Getting the wood or charcoal started to make hot coals.
  • Bank the Fire: Moving the hot coals to the sides of the pit to produce low even heat for a long period of time. This is the same principle used by folks with homes heated by fireplaces for hundreds of years. At bedtime they would bank their fire by pushing the hot embers to the rear of the fireplace and covering the coals with ash to hold the heat over night. In the morning they would add wood, rake the coals out under the wood and with a few pumps of the bellows they had a fire.
  • Smoking a Hog: The process of cooking a whole hog.
  • Stoke up: Stir the coals to achieve a hotter heat.

The Plate (Barbecue terms)

  • Bark: aka, "Outside Brown": The part of the meat exposed to the most heat and smoke (preferred by many BBQ aficionados because of its more intense smokey, woodsy, nutty flavor).
  • N.C. Eastern Style Sauce: A vinegar based sauce made generally from a mild vinegar, water, white sugar, hot peppers, black pepper and cooked down a bit.
  • N.C. Western Style Dip: A vinegar based sauce with the addition of tomato (paste, puree or ketchup) plus brown sugar and spices. West of Raleigh, NC this condiment is referred to as "dip". The terms Western Style and "Lexington Style" are interchangeable. The Western Style Pits also put this "dip" on their slaw (chopped cabbage) and make what they call BBQ Slaw.
  • Chopped BBQ: Done by hand or machine and the pieces are generally about the size of pecan halves.
  • Coarse Chopped BBQ: Done by hand or machine and the pieces are generally one to two square inches in size.
  • Blocked BBQ: Same as coarse chopped BBQ.
  • Minced BBQ: Done generally by machine and running the meat through three times to produce a much finer chopped product. This style is found mostly around the Hertford, NC area.
  • Sliced BBQ: Meat sliced approximately 1/4 inch thick, sometimes thicker depending on the pit master. Generally, this offering comes from the ham or in the Western Style area from a larger round outside muscle of the shoulder which is lighter in color than the rest of the shoulder.
  • Pulled BBQ: Meat hand pulled from the cooked pork shoulder. Considered by many as the "best" of the best.
  • Pig Pick'n: A party where the cooked meat is pulled from the pig by hand and served to the guest by the pit master or backyard cook or the guest pulls their own cooked meat with tongs or rubber gloves.
  • Eating High On The Hog: A term used when one is eating the choice parts of the pig that are located on the top half of the pig, i.e. Boston Butt, (the top half of the shoulder) loin, tenderloin, ham etc. This term is used in the South to describe eating well in general or living large. He is eating "high on the hog" or living "high on the hog"

If you know other pork terms that you would like to share with our viewers please e-mail to NCBS at:

Thank you for your support as we try to "keep the fires burning"
~ Jim Early

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