Not until post-Civil War poverty swept the Lowcountry did pork become a mainstay here. True, there were always a few hogs around, but many of them were allowed to run free, then hunted as game. When pigs were slaughtered, most of the meat was smoked, and the hams were cured as for country hams, with families using recipes representing their Bayonne, Northumbrian, and German backgrounds. These hams were saved for the “big house” on the plantation, as was the finest bacon; smaller smoked cuts may have been rationed to slaves, but few studies of slaves’ diets have been undertaken.
Sausage making was then and is now a typical way of dealing with pork. When we say “sausage” in the Lowcountry, we mean a basic country sausage—usually spicy hot, but a milder version is popular too—that is available from every grocer, both large and small. It comes fresh and smoked, in bulk and in links. Liver pudding, a delicious highly seasoned local forcemeat that puts some hog leftovers to use, is held together with rice and stuffed into the larger casings. It is served warm at breakfast with grits. Souse, a vinegared head cheese, is thinly sliced and served with beer. And blood pudding, a hallmark of the French and Scots who settled along the Cooper River in St. Johns Parish, Berkeley County, was once common fare, though now it is illegal to sell the hog’s blood that flavors this creamy sausage.
Sausage making is easy and fun. If you do not have a meat grinder, buy one. Many electric mixers have grinder attachments available; be sure to get a sausage horn as well. Processing meat in a food processor is not the same as grinding it. Food processors make mush of most meats; they work for fine-textured liver pâtés but cannot give you the proper grind for country terrines and sausage.
© 1992 All rights reserved. Published by UNC Press.