Angus Farm Goes Whole Hog for Friends and Community

1/19/2013 7:00 AM
By Shannon Sollinger Virginia Correspondent

ALDIE, Va. — Friends, neighbors, family and employees gathered Jan. 5 in the Whitestone Farm sales barn, donned aprons and went to work transforming four Yorkshire cross hogs into sausage, chops, bacon and ham.

Hog butchering day at Whitestone — this was the 19th annual — is something like making omelets: There’s some mess involved, but the results are worth it, and everyone heads home with a freezer-load of sausage and pork.

“It’s a day I look forward to every year,” said Mark Duffell, general manager of the Aldie, Va., Angus seedstock enterprise for the last 25 years. “I grew up butchering hogs and processing the meat and it always takes me back to my childhood. I love it.”

The 20-plus volunteers sorted themselves into an assembly line. Jason McIntosh, Whitestone herdsman since 2006, picked the hogs up in Greencastle, Pa., the day before. He took the lead, sawing the eight sides into manageable pieces.

Jason, like many of the crowd, brought a lot of experience to the task. When he’s not tending to Whitestone’s herd, he processes hogs and deer at his nearby McIntosh Custom Processing.

“I’ve done this all my life,” McIntosh said. “We usually butcher once or twice a year.”

John Wood formerly owned Tanyard Farm not far away on U.S. 15 and has been a regular at hog day for more than a decade.

Alice Tumblin and her late husband, Edward, butchered on their Bull Run Farm for years before Edward came to work at Whitestone in 1995 and was a key staff member until his death 15 years ago. Alice moved to Front Royal to be closer to relatives but never misses hog day at Whitestone.

Tumblin said Duffell includes a lot of high-grade meat in his sausage mix that she would have kept out for chops or roasts. But Duffell was in charge and she complied. She also watched and made sure none of the novice cutters included chunks that included blood.

For others, there was a lot of on-the-job-training.

Wood brought along his neighbor, Mark Salesses, and Mark’s wife, Laurie, “to liven the place up with his incredible sense of humor.” Both were new to hog processing.

Nick Williams met Duffell on a camping trip to Lake Anna a few years ago and “I helped him with his camping. Now I’m helping him with his hogs.”

In the sales barn kitchen, Duffell supervised weighing out 20 pound lots of the meat and getting it seasoned — Morton’s Sausage and Meat Loaf Seasoning mix, rough sage, red pepper, ground Malabar black pepper. More volunteers went to work kneading the seasonings through the meat mix.

Duffell and Trey Williams pushed the meat — twice for a good mixture — through the 60-year old industrial-size grinder and fellow Angus rancher Dixie Noffsinsger captured it in one-pound plastic bags. Alice Williams and Laurie Salesses sealed, dated and labeled the bags.

The four hogs ended up as about 800 pounds of table-ready sausage and assorted chops, hams, steaks and bacon.

The day ended with a country breakfast, hosted by Whitestone owner George Lemm — sausage (what else), scrambled eggs, breaded chops and grits.

Then it was back to the cattle business. Duffell and his staff are hard at work getting 90 yearling Angus bulls and 40 open heifers in top condition for the March 23 Pasture Performance Tested Bull and Female Sale.

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