Zagreb

Our Beloved Pig Slaughter Tradition

19 Nov 2021
 

Who could take away this eternal practice that takes place in the early days of an icy winter, most often round early December? Whereby a pig is usually the source of a handful of delicacies that would last the entire year with
bacon, pancetta, ham, prosciutto, kulen, kulenova seka, and sausage such as black pudding, or dried ribs, pig’s trotters, and more to be had…



You see, pig slaughtering in this region is in fact, and no matter whatever animal rights activists say, more than just a way of saving whatever delights for the winter and to survive the year more easily. Pig slaughter, regardless of how it may sound wrong, were and still are popular celebrations.

It all begins early in the morning; the entire family gathers in the courtyard, the neighbours are probably there too, before
the family that is, excitement all-round! It’s a big deal, everyone has very precise tasks. Men, for example, slaughter
and cut the pig, whilst women wash the pork lining in preparation for delicious sausages; and the biggest master
is the one who knows how to make the perfect meat products, kulen, sausage, ham and prosciutto. As true as it is,
sometimes one has too many drinks and sings indeed a tune or ten, jokes a little on his own or someone else’s account,
but at the same time there is nothing better than the ‘first’ meat thrown on a fire, just like the sound of that pork
fat when turned into crackling. When a pig’s life is taken it isn’t a beautiful sight, but many say that it’s part of a natural chain; whilst one day ends, another dawns. For anyone who has attended the tradition of ‘pig slaughter’ during their lifetime, even if not for the entire ceremony not if every moment had been up to their liking, today they will remember only the good and treasured details.




For example, that fresh liver that was eaten for breakfast will always be a dearer memory than the somewhat weird parents’ need to force their children to hold a basin under the neck of a pig with blood dripping. This tradition meant so much to people that they would take their annual vacation during the pig slaughter period, unless of course a public holiday would fall around that time, when it gets cold in November and December.

New times, however, have brought some new traditions. People lead faster lives, there is not enough time anymore,
retail chains now offer all the wonders made of pork and therefore make it all seem so much easier. So the most important
element of the pig slaughter, which is the socialising and gathering of family and friends, has somehow lightly been ignored. Even more depressing is that we have ignored the truth, factory products and mass production will never have the same quality as a domestic product. It cannot be the same when the meat for sausages is mixed in a machine, or when it is made with love by a grandfather or father. A warm supermarket cannot compete with a child’s pink cheeks from cold nipping, not even a CD with pop music or announcements that entice you to purchase products can compete with the chorus’ and verses which are uttered by jolly folk followed by rakija (a drink to help keep warm in the winter). Neither can the ‘joy’ of when one comes home from shopping with a full trolley come even close to the joy of when one comes home from the pig slaughter filled with bags of the first pork rind/scratching (čvarci).

Unfortunately, it is true that the pig slaughteris no longer what it used to be, but fortunately this nice tradition is still
being retained even if the wealth of a family is no longer measured by the number of pigs ready for slaughter. It should be said that the state has appointed more precise rules and legal laws so that the animal suffers as least as possible. The safety of meat goes under strict control; the conditions in which the pig slaughter can be performed are defined. Perhaps to some people this custom may seem barbaric, just as they think it is barbaric to load lamb on a spit, but all prejudices disappear if one attends the pig slaughter at least once,and if you are not so unlucky to be given a basin to capture swine blood.

In any case, it is the time of pig slaught.

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