Winter in the Czech Lands: The Time of Pig-Killings

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Winter in the Czech Lands: The Time of Pig-Killings

The butchering of a pig was traditionally a major event for every family, and indeed the entire village. Each family member had his or her own role and very specific tasks in transforming a slaughtered hog into edibles. Over time, the traditional family pig-killing has declined in Czech villages, yet honestly made pork specialities such as liver or blood sausage, head-cheese or skin cracklings are still widely enjoyed. 

December Could Have Become “Pigcember” 

The long tradition of winter pig-killings is attested by the following tale of how the event could have become anchored for all time in the calendar. The great 18th-century linguist Josef Jungmann, in his search for original Czech equivalents for all words, planned to derive the word for the month of the most frequent pig-killings from the Czech word for pig (prase). In the end, Jungmann’s “prasinec” was softened to today’s “prosinec”.

The Order and the Menu for the Pig-Killing 

From time immemorial up to the present day, the pig-killing has always taken place under the guidance of a qualified butcher. This age-old celebration of nature’s bounty was connected with song and music, and formed a cultural event in the village calendar. The entire sequence of portioning the carcass and the creation of the specific delicacies for the killing-day had – and still has – its firm rules. 
Along with the process of transforming pig into pork, the pig-killing also has its traditional menu to accompany the course of the day. Usually, the adults chase away the cold at the start with a glass of slivovice or other strong spirits. For lunch, the neck-meat is at the centre, whether in soup with groats, or as goulash or simply boiled with fresh horseradish. In the evening, a thick soup using the blood is served. As a reward for their aid, those assisting in the process could enjoy fresh liver or blood sausage.
Traditional pig-killing feasts can be found in many “Czech Specials” restaurants across the country. One particularly noteworthy menu – soup, head-cheese, liver and blood sausage, liver stuffing, roasted pork shank or “pig-killing goulash” – can be enjoyed at the “Zájezdní hostinec” restaurant at the Kostelec Brewery.

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