A Remembrance of the Past; Building for the Future." ~ Eve Eckert Koehler

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

Das Schlachtfest
"The Slaughter Festival"

by Hans Kopp
Published at DVHH 25 Jan 2007 by Jody McKim Pharr

Image: The Schlachtfest of Valentin Eich, Palanka.
The whole family turned out for this wonderful picture, a testimony to the Donauschwaben tradition.


          Das Schlachtfest "The Slaughter Festival" a tradition that still lingers among the Donauschwaben today.  The pig was a main source of food and a source for many other products, there was absolutely no waste, everything from the first drops of blood to the last hair on the tail and in between was used.  The list of the products made from the pig and its uses is a long one, starting with the much loved "Schweinebraten" (pork roast), bacon, ham, the famous Donauschwaben "Bratwurst," to the making of soap and brushes.  It provided food not only during the winter months and well into the spring and early summer, especially for our farmers who needed all the protein to do the cultivating and harvesting.

          The picture are from various "Heimat" books showing everything from raising the pigs to the time of its slaughter. The name "Schwein" (pig) is misused by many cultures as something dirty. 

          Of all the many pigs raised by the Donauschwaben, the "Mangalica" and the "Berkshire" bred may have been the most popular. The pigs were raised not only by farmers and individual households but in several towns they were raised for export although not for the European market but for nearby larger cities. Gakowa is a town that comes to mind first, since one on the notorious death camps was established there.  The pigs were fattened with skim milk, bran and corn and usually had the run of the back court.  Between 4 to 6 weeks prior to the slaughter they were almost entirely fattened by corn and kept at rest to produce the best bacon sides and the largest quantities of lard.

          The slaughter was almost always a ceremonial event or a festival;  the "Schlachtfest," from which we can see the importance of pig for the Donauschwaben.  It was certainly a great event for me when my father called for my uncle, Franz Greif, (a butcher by profession) to come to our house and do the slaughtering of our pigs and when my uncle told me that I could help by holding the pig’s tail, I felt extremely important.  As soon as the knife was set and the blood flowing it was caught in a large container the "Lavour," some vinegar and water had to be added and one had to constantly stir the blood so that it would not solidify and could be used as the bases for the "Blutwurst" (blood sausage).

          In sequence the pig was then placed in a large "Trog" (trough), hot water poured over it and the bristles removed with a scraper which were often saved for the brush makers, who turned them later into brushes.  Afterwards the pig was strung up and opened up, the organs removed which were then cooked along with other parts of the pig such as the neck, head and feet to make the so called "Kesselfleisch" and these parts became part of the fillings along with pork skin for the "Schwartenmagen" we refer to as headcheese, for which the bladder became the container.

          Little by little the pig was dissected; bacon sides and ham, as well as, prime cuts of meet such as pork loin were separated and placed in the "Lauge" brine.  The brine was prepared with Salt, garlic peppercorns, bay leaves and elder berries for the bacon and ham, while the pork loins were placed into a brine prepared with salt, sugar, bay leaves, jumper seeds, peppercorn and caraway seed all in the right proportions to the weight of the meat.  After the curing was done the meat headed for the smoke house which usually was a part of the built-in-oven for cold smoking, which usually was preferred over the hot smoking, although it usually took 21 days instead of ten.

          Prime cuts such as butts or shoulders as well as the smaller cuts left were ground up in the "Wolf" the meat grinder. Actually one aimed for mix with a ratio of 85% lean and 15% fat.  The usual secret "Bratwurst" mix was prepared with paprika, pickling salt, white pepper (some used black pepper) hot paprika and garlic to taste, which produced the famous Donauschwaben “Bratwurst.” 

          The "Bratwurst" has a close relation with the Hungarian paprika sausage, which also was loved by the Donauschwaben.  The "Bratwurst" found its way to the smoke house where it often stayed there stored during the winter.  The "Depreziener," the "Salami," the “Leberwurst” and other assorted sausages where usually made by the butchers. 

          While the men worked filling the intestines with the "Wurstspritze" (sausage extruder), the women cooked the fat rich parts of the skin to create lard for the entire year.  The lard then was placed in the "Stenner" a wooden "barrel" open on the top from which the lard was taken all year long. One of my favorite things to do when my grandmother was baking bread was "Flammkuchen."  She allowed me to have a piece of dough so I can make this pita-type bread by flattening it and then placing it in the oven until it was crisp and crunchy.  After removing it from the oven I spread lard on it and on top of that a little salt and a heap of Paprika, while it was still hot.  What a delight it was for us children to eat this “Flammkuchen” and have had the satisfaction besides, to have made something for ourselves to eat.

          The by-product of rendering the bacon ​were the "Grammeln" or "Griewe" (cracklings).   The cracklings were often used to make "Griewepogatschl" or "Grammelpogatschl" (crackling biscuits)  The cracklings were also used as a base for making soap.  Then there was the popular "Sulz" (meat aspic), one of my favorites, prepared with  left-over pieces of meat, such as pig's feet, from the "Kesselfleisch,"  The meat was covered with the broth and set out in the cold to solidify. When it was ready, we poured some vinegar over it and ate it with a big piece of fresh bread.  No Schlachtfest, or slaughtering feast, was without the ever-popular "Gulaschsuppe". It was the ultimate satisfying reward for everybody’s hard work at the end of the day.

          For the farmer in the field during his long days, bacon with paprika, sometimes hot and tomatoes were the main meal to take to the field for his lunch. Also eaten with canned pickled peppers and cucumbers accompanied by a "Plutzer" (Stone Jug) of water (which he usually buried in the ground when arriving on the field to keep it cool) was his only source of protein during his hard working day. The working foot wears of the farmer he wore to work the "Patschker" was soled with the durable leather made from pig skin.

          The tradition of the “Bratwurst” making is still alive among the Donauschwaben in North America and other parts of the world. Of course there is no longer slaughtering of a whole pig, but local Donauschwaben Club members purchase choice pork butts and during winter months make sausage for themselves or to sell to their club members as fund raiser, but never for profit. These events have acquired their own ritual today as a "Schlachtfest." After the work is done everybody sits together to enjoy a “Gulaschsuppe” and a freshly made piece of pan fried "Bratwurst." In the Cleveland area the sausage is made by the "Altheimatliche Kegelverein" bowlers, a wonderful group of people fostering true traditions from our "Heimat."  The other tradition left is the "Spahnferkel" the piglet on the spick, which is often made on organizational picnics or at one of their many of their festivals.


A “Zuchtsau” with her piglets, strictly raised for breeding.

A pig farm in Altker, most likely raised for the nearby city markets.

A pig farm in Altker, most likely raised for he nearby city markets.

The Bershire pig, one of several breads raised by the Donauschwaben.

The "Mangalica" pig one of the other breads raised for the market as well as own use like here in Ernsthausen and in Gakowa.

In Gakowa

The "Wolf" meet grinder of our ancestors brought from home.

The "Wurstspritz" of our ancestors
 also brought with them from home.

The Josef Horvath family of Palanka is ready for their own small
 "Schachtfest" shown here is also the typical "Trog"

Family in Altker proudly shows their two pigs the slaughtered  providing them food for the winter months.

Josef Berner in Palanka and family
prepare the meat to make sausage.

Making sausage in Apatin
with a newer type extruding machine shown here.

Katharina Blanz prepares meat to make lard.

The "Plutzer" is a water jug for taking water to the fields.


A tradition still alive in the USA and Canada

Here are the ingredients shown for the "Bratwurst"

The meat is seasoned and ready for the meat grinder.

Today the meat grinders are motorized.

The sausage meat from the extruder fills the intestines rather  quickly and the first time we recognize the "Bratwurst."

The extruded sausages are now cut to a specific length, weighted and either sold fresh and end up in the frying pan or they are taken to the smokehouse.

The sausages are dried for an hour or more
prior to be taken to the smoke house.

The meat mixer refines the meat and mixes the ingredients thoroughly prior to filling the intestines.

Today's extruding press make sausage making simple.

Heritage » Collections » Kopp » Traditions » Observances & Festivals » Das Schlachtfest "The Slaughter Festival"

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