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From a Sow's Ear

From a Sow's Ear

From A Sow’s Ear

Larry Weishuhn

“Making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”

I have heard that old saw for many years when someone referred to making something out of basically nothing! But there is certainly merit in what it means!

Recently while visiting with Greg Simons, fellow wildlife biologist and wildlife entrepreneur with Wildlife Systems we talked about a myriad of outdoor topics, from his soon to be released new book on the hunting industry to merits and demerits of wild hogs. One of the things we discussed was how wild hogs might be somewhat wrongly maligned, particularly how they could be an excellent food source for humans during tough times, even though today many are shot and not utilized. “I’d guess maybe ten-percent of the wild hogs killed here in Texas are saved and used for human food. Really a shame when you think about the amount of protein being wasted each year. Although I guess if allowed to returned to the soil and there may be some benefits there.” Said Greg. He continued “A few years ago I was at a wildlife meeting near Albany (Texas). We were discussing wild hogs. Johnnie Hudman stood up and said, “I think it’s time we started utilizing wild hogs and make a silk purse out of sows’ ears…no pun intended!”. It was his way so saying it was time we took what many considered a negative and turned it into a positive doing so in a fun and yet appropriate way! At a minimum think of what we could do providing protein from wild pork to those people who are hungry and in need of food.”

“Typical of Hudman! But also an excellent point!” I added.

Johnnie Hudman and I have been friends and occasional hunting partners since the the middle 1970’s, when I was a wildlife biologist stationed in Abilene a few miles south of Albany where Johnnie lived. Initially mere acquaintances, we soon became dear friends who shared a love of the hunting, history and the outdoors.

Back then people were just becoming aware of wild hogs even though they had been in Texas since the days of the early Spanish explorers. Spanish “Conquistadores” brought “swine” with them wherever they explored and hoped to eventually colonize. Hogs traveled well on ships. They survived on eating just about any and everything and did well in confined areas while on the sailing ships. They were highly adaptable to a wide variety of terrain and weather conditions. And, they have a high reproductive rate, producing two and a half litters per year.”

Some of the Spaniards’ hogs escaped the swineherders and survived in their new home. Some too, were undoubtedly released in hopes they would survive, reproduce and provide food for future expeditions into the “New World”. Later with the the arrival of European settlers, they too brought hogs. Like with the Spanish explorers some escaped and others were “stocked” to reproduce so the immigrants that followed had pork and lard as a potential food source.

The concept of bringing animals into new areas which might later be colonized was not a new one. In another era, Roman armies brought fallow deer with them wherever they traveled. Some were herded and others were released to form broodstock to create a future food source for their armies and settlers. Much of Europe these days has fallow deer because of those early introductions by the Romans.

As a youngster I remember my dad telling stories of how my granddad and other area farmers and ranchers, just up from the edge of Texas Gulf Coast Prairie, would during late summer release large numbers of hogs into the area’s woods to fatten on the region’s plentiful acorns and pecans. Late winter the fattened hogs were rounded up. Some were slaughtered, turned into sausage, bacon, ham and and very importantly lard. Others were sold.

I remember as a youngster my family, my grandparents, uncles and aunts and neighbors fattened hogs to be butchered in November or December after temperatures cooled. My paternal granddad bought older boars, castrated them and then put them on feed for three or four years. Those barrows grew huge bodies some of which weighed in excess of 800-pounds on good scales. Those monstrous hogs provided huge slabs of bacon and hams which were salt cured and smoked to preserve them. They also provided many “rings” of sausage. Mostly these were smoked and dried. And, we rendered many gallons of lard from their “fat”. Hog butchering often involved numerous hogs and several families becoming involved.

Many food “items” were made from the hogs we butchered. But, I do not think we actually ever turned a sow’s ear into a silk purse. But then silk purses inedible, a sow’s ears were!

My grandparents owned real “ice boxes” which depended upon ice to keep things cool. Ice was not always available. So they found alternate ways to preserve meat by submerging it in lard. Lard was created by cutting the hog’s fat into small strips, squares and boiling those in huge cast iron tubs. This boiled the fat out turning it from a solid to a liquid while it was hot and a “mushy” liquid when cooled. This left “cracklings” which were left after the oil had been rendered out of it. “Cracklings” were used in cooking and some baking, particularly they were mixed in the batter when baking corn bread.”

“My grandmother preserved meat by frying it, then putting it into a large earthen crock. She poured in lard, added another layer of fried meat, then poured in a layer of lard, more fried meat, more lard until the crock was filled. This preserved the meat for a very long time!

To prepare meals she the the already fried meat out of the lard, heated it in her oven or on top of the stove, then served it. The lard was also used in baking and frying other dishes. As I recall, the “larded meat” was quite delicious. Food fried and dishes prepared with lard were a standard in our part of Texas during the days of my youth.

Because most people of that era did hard physical labor very few ever had health issues related to eating large amounts of salt or lard. Even so for a long time lard was considered “evil”. Interestingly these day, after years of lard being given a bad rap, nutritionists are now saying rendered hog lard is better for us than a lot of the other oils used these days in preparing food. Lard surely makes foods prepared with it or fried in it taste better!

At the possibility and risk of aggravating and possibly alienating some people I think it might be time we start looking at wild hogs as a serious food source. In a time when crops grown for food are at risk because of possible climate change and not so reliable precipitation, maybe we should look a little closer at wild hogs. They are found in considerable numbers throughout southeastern to southwestern US, with the capability of greatly increasing and expanding their range. Wild hogs can live in forests, coastal plains, hills, mountains, desert habitats and even in the suburbs.

Gilts, yet to be bred females, mature at 6-months. Upon reaching puberty sows have the capabilities of producing 2 ½ litters of piglets in the course of a year. This means by the time a mature sow is pregnant with her third litter, those females from the first litter are also pregnant. Litter sizes vary based on nutrition and predators, usually from 2 to as many as 13 or more pigs. If there are few predators such as coyotes and bobcats, most of the pigs born are later weaned and soon start reproducing.

When it comes to harvesting hogs, a wide variety of firearms or weapons can certainly be used. I prefer hunting hogs with my Mossberg Predator rifles, topped Trijicon Huron or AccuPoint scopes. I also like hunting them with my Taurus Raging Hunter handguns, topped with Trijicon’s SRO red dot sights. I use appropriate Hornady ammo in both my rifles and handguns.

I personally do not hunt hogs with semi-auto rifles, or hunt at night using thermals, nor with archery or crossbows, although in years past I hunted with archery equipment. I have no problem with someone using semi-autos topped with thermals, bows and arrows or crossbows. These simply are not “my thing”! If someone wants to shoot hogs at night, or from a helicopter that is fine, but, the animals taken should be collected and processed for human use rather than left to rot.

Wild hog pork is delicious! Any domestic pork recipe will work equally well with wild pork. But remember it is important the interior temperature of the meat reaches and exceeds 180-degrees Fahrenheit.

Luke Clayton is my go-to person when it comes to wild hogs. He is great friend with whom I do a weekly radio show, two weekly podcasts (“Catfish Radio” which can be listened to at, where we also do a weekly digital TV show with Jeff Rice, “A Sportsman’s Life”. Too is where my personal weekly podcast “DSC’s Campfires with Larry Weishuhn” can be found, among other places such as Spotify, Stitcher, ApplePodcasts, iHeartPodcasts and others. Luke and I also do another weekly podcast, “Camp Talk with Luke and Larry” featured on Sporting Classics Daily as well numerous other places. I mention these because Luke and I often address wild hog hunting and cooking them. My old friend has long been a wild hog aficionado and great supporter of them.”

“Luke is one of the best wild hog cooks I have ever met. A few years ago he wrote a book about hunting and cooking wild hogs, “Kill to Grill, The Ultimate Guide to Hog Hunting”. It can be purchased by going to Amazon.

Hopefully wildlife officials and those truly concerned about climate changes and the effect it might have on our future food supplies will take a serious look at wild hogs as a human food source. That certainly would be ever better than making a silk purse out of sow’s ear!

Taurus USA From a Sow's Ear
Taurus USA From a Sow's Ear
fire burning on point with larry

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