Last fall, my husband and I accidentally bought two pigs. “This would only happen to you guys,” friends said when we announced our dilemma. “Not true!” we protested. It seemed like a common enough marital quandary — Alex said yes to George, I said yes to Drew. Only instead of party dates or hand-me-down patio chairs, we were talking about two full-size pigs, butchered and ready for a place in our suddenly puny-looking chest freezer.
We often buy whole animals because it’s the most affordable way to eat the kind of meat we believe in: meat from healthy animals, raised by people we know, close to home. We usually split a pig or a cow with friends. Our portion fits neatly into the same chest freezer where we house extra summer berries and crushed tomatoes.
“What are we going to do?” I asked Alex. George is a lifelong farmer and an old friend. Drew is a few years younger than me, a former co-worker just getting started with pastured livestock. I tried to imagine telling one of them we didn’t want the animal he’d spent six months raising for us.
“We’re going to buy a second chest freezer,” my husband said.
A week later, Drew brought over 279 pounds of pork, and George delivered 283. We forked over the equivalent of a mortgage payment for the animals, plus another few hundred dollars for our second freezer. We emptied our checking account and then cooked a stunningly good pound-and-a-half, thick-cut pork chop for dinner. Our predicament swung deliciously between absurd and genius.
Over the next few months, we tried everything we could think of to use up the pigs that had taken over our basement. We started a side-hustle selling ham to friends. We traded spare ribs for beer, made homemade salt pork for Christmas gifts, and rendered giant slabs of fat into tidy jars of lard. We brought pork to every potluck for a year.
Eventually, though, all we had left were cuts we — and everyone we knew — were sick of. “Ham steaks again?” our 7-year-old asked one morning at breakfast. That’s when we decided the only sane thing to do was to use everything left in the freezer to make the one thing we actually still wanted: sausage.