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butchering, humor, hogs, cows, anecdotes, mince-meat pies
A handwritten manuscript entitled, "Meat: Addenda", compiled by Victor C. Dieffenbach, dating from circa 1952. Within, Dieffenbach covers a variety of topics involving meat, including butchering, family recipes, and various humorous anecdotes from his youth.
Packet 577 a-206-22 to 577 a-206-34
Butchering the Bull.
Mr. Kline removes stomach. (a dream.)
I remember when at butchering-time dad would tell of how Butcher Kline (I don’t know who he was) dreamed that he was engaged in removing the stomach - “der womba”, out of a very big bull. He dreamed that he was having quite a tussle with the big maw of the animal. He finally got a good hold on it, (he usually has a towel or some similar fabric to enable him to get a firm hold on it) and started to tear loose the internal big amerets that hold it in place, when bang. Something hit him on the head that he almost fell over.
“Wos des dunner mochsht do doe“, (what the hell are you doing here) said the butcher’s wife.
“Ei, dem grossa bull der womba rous nimma; now haibt en goot, boova. Ich muss usht nuch a so en bendel obreissa - a gooter riss, no rull Ich em rous.“ (Why taking the stomach out of the big bull. Now hold him boys, I’ve got to tear one such string off, one good pull - then I’ll roll it out.)
“Rous rulla? Do dummer deyfel do bisht nuch im shlofe. Nemm sell. Wer mull wocker.“
“Roll it out? You dumb devil! You’re still in your sleep. Take that, and wake up!)
There she gave him another slap and he awoke. He was sitting on his knees in the bed aside his wife; he had a firm hold on the folds and gores of her heavy petticoat and imagining her bulky butt end to be the bull’s stomach he had torn the petticoat almost off of her. He finally woke up. He looked at her in a bewildered way and said: “Iss des dich? Ich hob gemaint des wart der bull; woo iss er don? (Is that you? I thought it was the bull; where is he?)
“'S iss kenner doe - nix we so en ferfluchter ux! (There is none here - nothing but such a cussed old ox.)
“Des honduch - woo hovvich des don grickt?" (This towel - where did I get this then?)
“Hond duch? Hond-duch dei oldts hinner-dale. Sell dort sin my hussa, won do 's wissa witt do ferdommter bulla-butcher.” (Towel? Towel your old rear end. Those are my pants, if you want to know it, you damned bull butcher.)
“Ich denk Ich wase der unnershit gschirsha ma hond-duch un ma hussa-orsch.“ (I guess I know the difference between a towel and a pants-seat.)
From that day on he was known as “der bulla-butcher” - the bull-butcher - or the petticoat butcher - “der unner-ruck butcher”.
Butcher insults the farmer
Mr. Snyder of Bernville who used to sell the Star auto years ago, told us one day of how he helped a farmer to butcher a number of very small hogs. I remember him telling that they were in a barnyard close to the main high-way. He said the hogs were small and not fat, nor heavy; when a hog was scalded and most of the bristles were off, then when he heard a team coming down the “pike” he’d grab the pig by the one hind leg, hold it away from himself and shave it with a knife held in the other hand.
Mr. Snyder said: Der butcher waur en grosser duig; dee sei waura glay, un der bauer awe, un er huts awe-nemma missa; wos hut er wella? (The butcher was a big man; the pigs were small, and so was the farmer. What could he do?)
From 65 Ibs. on down.
Old Jacob Groff told us one evening at the supper table of how a poor tenant moved into a new neighborhood from some distant place. It was early in the Spring and still cool. So this stranger came into the store in Frystown one night and asked Adam Blouch who had the store that time if he bought any ham. He said he did - he was paying 16 cents a pound. Mr. Blouch said: “Won sell dich suita doot no kenna meer bisniss do; bring see usht mitt won do ferbye coomsht.” (If that suits you, just bring it along when you come driving past here.)
“Ei de hovvich grawdt doe by meer.” (Oh I have them right here with me.) And he proceeded to get tiny hams and shoulders from the pockets of his overcoat.
“Wos hen dei sei gawaga?“ (How much did your pigs weigh?)
“Ei, funf-un-sechtsich, un no ols leichter.“
“Why, sixty-five pounds, on down.”
Farmer kills the cow that kicks.
This is what John Troxel told me one night as we were out raccoon-hunting. I remember how he sat with his back against a pine tree, smoking and his eyes half closed. He said there was a farmer and he wanted to butcher; when the butcher asked him if he had a bull or steer, he said: “Nay, mer nemma so en oldty coo”. (No, we take such an old cow.)
So, when they came into the stable, the butcher asked him which one was the cow that he was going to kill for beef.
“Ach, ich wase evva nuch net.“ (Ach, I don’t know it yet.)
So the farmer walked back through the run-way of the stable and half-way back a cow kicked out and hit him on the leg. “Sell iss see”, he said. (That is her.) And they killed that cow John said, regardless of her condition.
Roasted Pig's Ears - “Gabroadna Sei-ora”.
My dad used to relate that when he went to school about 90 years ago, where what was later called Schott's District, one of his school mates called Dave Zeller got a paper package out of his desk at noon and unwrapped it. He held up a big hog’s ear roasted to a nice golden brown color. Holding it with both hands, he said: “De Mem hut gsawdt deer wert wull lacha, owver der maikt; see sin goot. (Mother said you would maybe laugh, but you may - they are good.)
Hog’s Snout - “Sei Riesel”.
When we were butchering for the very first time when we started housekeeping, my wife would tell of how old Geo. Webber used to butcher for her parents. I remember her telling of how he would cut up a hog’s head and would save all the trimmings from the sei-riesel; the edge of it all around the mouth is cut off. This skin - “de schword” George would always take along home if the farmer allowed him to do so.
Then he would scald and shave every little piece, and boil it until tender. Then he put vinegar on it and put some pepper and salt on it, and said: “Won des net des besbt waart on der gonsa sow don date Ich des net.” (If this wasn’t the best of the whole hog, I wouldn’t do this.)
When my dad was engaged in butchering for market, his customers would ask for mince-meat. He had none for sale. “Well, can’t you make some for me? I’ll pay you for it!” So, the next week he told me to make some mince-meat to take along. I will always remember the mince-pies we used to have at home; one every morning, and many a time there were two. I knew how he made it, so he just let me go ahead. While he did only cut pieces of beef off of the big bones that were boiled for pudding meat, I went one step further - I left a lot more meat on the bones before they went into the big kettle. I only took nice chunks, free of gristle; every once in a while a nice chunk of pork. When we ground or chopped it up, we added a few peeled apples; Some suet - “neera-unschlich” and then packed it in a small tin kettle. The next day we took it along to Pine Grove.
The next week that woman ordered 10 pounds of it for herself, and ten more for a friend. She said it was the best she ever ate. When she asked Dad how he made it, he told her I had made it. She said: “Seller yung? Con seller so mince mocha? Yunger wos husht dort nei?” (That youngster? Can he make such mince? Young man, what did you put in it?) I told her and she insisted that the pork in it was what made it so good. One customer would tell someone else, and then they ordered some. I was on that butcher wagon myself for eight winters and in that time I sold a lot of the tasty stuff - some weeks as much as fifty pounds. We got 20 cents a pound as it took some extra work to make it. Of course this was way back in the beginning of the century.
Mother’s Mince Pies.
Not just because she made them, but because they were so good, I will never forget them. When my wife and I started housekeeping and had done our first butchering, I helped her putting away different things the next day. When it was time for mixing the mince-meat she told me that she had never done it - her mother would always do such jobs herself. “And your mince-pies (meaning what she had ate while at my parents home) are much better than ours ever were, so just go ahead and make it as you always do.” I did. I put in salt and sugar, cloves, cinnamon, allspice and a bit of nutmeg; then some of the best Jamaica rum, and mixed it with a big metal mixing spoon. We both had to taste it, and it tasted so good that we just ate it up like candy. She packed it into glass jars, filling them a layer at a time and tamping it down and then put in some of the juice to fill up all the small air-holes. When it was almost to the top of the jar, I poured in more rum and then she sealed it. Then we put it in a dark, cool cellar on a shelf.
For baking she (as well as my mother before her) would dump the contents of a jar into a mixing bowl and give it a good stirring up; if this was not done, the top part would be much stronger flavored.
When we wanted a mince-pie for break-fast, or for any meal, she would take it from the plate on which it had been in the cellar, and put it in a pie-tin, or “patty-pan”. Now she put a heaping table spoonful of brown or yellow sugar in a tea-cup, pour in rum until the sugar is dissolved; then add hot water to it until the cup is almost full. Now she took a spoon and poked a hole in the center of the top-crust of the pie, and poured the contents of it into the pie until it overflowed, flipped the crust back into place, and poured the rest over the top of the pie. Now she put it in the oven and by the time we were ready for it, it would be piping hot, nice and soft, and good for a king, the preacher, or anybody.
I remember that a neighbor ate at my Dad’s one day, and after he had his mince-pie downed, he said: “Won Ich tsuffa will worra no gain Ich ons werts-haus.” (If I want to get drunk, I’ll go to the hotel.) I felt like braining him with one of them for insulting my mother that way.
He and Dad went out to do some job, and ten minutes later they came back in and had the preacher with them. He had just arrived with a big bay horse in a cutter - “yawg-schlitta”. He had figgered on having his dinner at our place, and got stuck in a drift and upset the sleigh and busted the harness. He had wet feet and was half-frozen. He said: “Ich do de shoe ous fer ny nossa fees drickda; ferleicht hut der aint tsaya en luft luch, so os er besser schnoufa con“. (I’ll take off my shoes, so I can dry and warm my feet; perhaps one of my toes has an air hole in the sock, so he can breathe better.) He had. My sister got a meal ready for him, and knowing he was fond of mother’s kind of mince-pies she put one in the stove and warmed it up for him. He watched her as she put it in, kind of licked his mouth, and said: “Ken wunner sin see ols so goot.” (No wonder they always are so good.)
So, when it was ready he sat down, said three seconds grace, and ate for half an hour. He cut a full quarter out of the mince pie, and ate it; he looked at my mother and said - “Er iss so goot - Ich denk Ich nemm nuch en shtick”. (It is so good, I think I’ll take another piece.) It was now over a half of it gone. He smiled and then he laughed and said: “'S iss net dawaart os mer leega will waya ma hoha mince-pie-er iss nimmy holver - Ich gleich see so arrig”. (It isn’t worth while trying to tell a lie about a half of a mince-pie (and it is no half left) and I like them so.) And there he fetched the rest - patty-pan and all. He ate the rest of the pie and drank the little bit of sweetened rum out of the tin. I thought that if it didn’t hurt the preacher it wouldn’t hurt the other fellow.
By that time Dad and his helper came in and sat and talked with the preacher. Dad had a big smoked sausage that he gave to him and some meat; and there the old preacher started to beam and smile and said to my mother “If you could spare me one of those mince-pies - even if I did eat a whole one, but the others at home couldn’t taste how good it is”. She said O.K. and I yelled out at the other feller: “Ich denk by - dort husht ‘s!” (I guess by - there you got it.)
Everybody laughed but the preacher and the other guy; he didn’t feel like laughing, and the preacher didn’t know what he had said. But the preacher said to me - “Ferwos husht do fortich so gschluckt?” (Why did you gulp so, a bit ago?) and dumb kid that I was, I replied: “Wile Ich net grawdt draw gaduckt hob os do der Porra bisht un Ich het by Gott gly gflucht.” (Because I didn’t think of you being the preacher, and by God I almost swore.)
That preacher, Rev. A. Johnson Long, who died close to fifty years ago, he laughed the loudest and the hardest of us all. He said: “Sell dort waur goot. Sell iss gsundt, won mer so lacha con uff so en essa. Un do husht de wohret gsawdt“. (That was good. That is healthy if one can laugh like that on top of such a meal; and you told the truth.) The neighbor was Samuel D. Snyder; he is still living, and is still of the same stripe. Whether you use his name or not I don’t care; but maybe he does. But if that preacher was living he wouldn’t mind a ---- He was a wonderful man; and it should be spelled with capitals as high as the steeple on the church. He baptized me; he united us in marriage, and it is a pity that he cannot officiate once I quit writing and shuffle off of this mortal sphere.
Brains. “Des Hern”.
John - walked into the butcher-shop and he told – Weissinger, the butcher, - “Ich brouch feer pundt hern”. (I need four pounds of brains.)
Weissinger was a German, a clown, and he lived in Millersburg, Berks County, about 100 years ago. I do not know who John was, except a village character - a ne'er-do-well and a friend to any bottle; and he had some kind of an “eating-house”, it was called in those days. The teamsters would stop to water their teams at the big trough at the intersection or crossroads - “der greits-wake”, they called it in those days.
While the horses refreshed themselves the men would go to John’s place nearby and get some tripe, tongue, flank heart or brains or whatever he had on hand. So the butcher said: “Bisht do shure os sell ganunk iss? Do kennsht denk mainer usa.” (Are you sure that is enough? I think you could use a lot more.)
“We dumm mainsht do os Ich bin?” (How dumb do you think me to be?)
“Oh, witts fressa?” (Oh, you want to eat it.)
“Ei be shure! Wos shunsht?” (Why to be sure! What else?)
Well, 's gingt net in dei kupp-er iss net hole.” (Well, it wouldn’t go in your head - it isn’t hollow!)
“'S gingt in deiner, do ferdommter dick-kupp do!“ (It would go in yours - you damned block-head you!)
There they started mixing it up and soon the German threw John out the door in the street and fired the kettle with the brains after him: “Dort husht dei ferts hern; do brouchshts”. (There you got your d-d brains - you need ‘em!)
The kettle flew open, the brains spilled out, and a dog came and ate them all up; and a boy ran up town and yelled: “Dunnerwetter! Der Deitsch hut der - John nous-gschmissa - er hut sei hern-shawl ferschpreckt - sei hern liedt uff der schtrose, un en oldta abs Klinger sei bitch iss on fressa draw. Wos doot der - John now?“ (Thunderation! The German threw John out into the street; he cracked his skull - his brains lie on the ground, and old Abs. Klingers slut is eating ‘em. What will poor - John do now?)
(This you can publish, names and all. All of it is true. I never heard John’s name. But my grandfather often told this tale; he knew Weissinger well.)
This is considered a delicacy by many. Harking back to the days when I was still at home with my parents I can remember about all of what my mother and sister would do for a few days before and after the regular farm butchering. The pig’s-feet or legs (the feet had been chopped off) were usually kept in a cold place until the most pressing chores were done. They were now placed in a big dish-pan on the kitchen table and whoever wanted to help was not denied. But each had to finish the leg he or she started to work on. They were either shaved clean with a very sharp knife or were skinned; washed clean and put in a kettle and boiled until soft. Then all the meat was trimmed off and cut into small pieces and put into bowls or big cups; the liquid was strained to remove tiny fragments of bone, and it was then poured over the meat. Salt and pepper were added as well as a little vinegar. Then it was put in a cool place until wanted for use.
Some hog’s legs were usually served on a big platter, red-hot from the kettle, for supper. Each member of the family would fetch one or more and put it on their plate and then eat it as well as you could. I did not care over much for them myself, and I remember one night when I burned my fingers on a big hind-leg and let it drop on the floor. Tip, the pug-dog liked it but it was still too hot and he made some awful faces before he quit and let it cool off. We used to sell lots of it on market.
Dried Beef - “Gwolla-Flaisch”.
The word “gwolla” is a misnomer, being derived from the German “Jualmeir”- to smoke. The ham from a hind-quarter of beef is used for this purpose, and once it is dissected or all the big muscles are separated it is salt-cured the same as other meat, of which more later on another page. It is then dried or smoked and is very good when finished. It will keep for several years.
English and Pennsylvania German
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Dieffenbach, Victor C., "Dieffenbach on Meat: Addenda, Part I" (1952). Alfred L. Shoemaker Folk Cultural Documents. 274.
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