One thing’s for sure: I’ve been to a few pig slaughters in my life but have never seen a priest holding the pigsticker to kill the porker he and his family raised. It turns out, this isn’t the first time he’s done it, as it’s part of their yearly ritual. For the past 25 years, animal keeping has gone along with priesthood for Mihály Zsolt Jakab.
Our fellow photographer, István Vajk Szigeti, has been in Újszékely/Secuieni to witness the yearly ritual of the Unitarian pastor, Mihály Zsolt Jakab. At 9 a.m., the church bell invites believers to morning worship. After feeding the animals at dawn, Mihály Zsolt Jakab steps up to the pulpit, and the small community listens to the Advent prayer in holy silence.
Following the morning service, the pastor takes off his clerical gear, dons his work clothes, and goes to the sty to pick one of the three pigs. Jakab and his assistants pick a 350-pound one, and the great pig slaughter is off.
“We only consume the animals we raise and the plants we grow, preferably fresh.
It is impossible to eat a pig of this size in a day, but I’ve learned the traditional techniques of preservation, and I process the pig in the traditional way so my family can have meat for a year,” the priest says. “We slaughter only as many animals as we need. We don’t think about it with remorse; this is what our ancestors and their ancestors did. If we want to live and work, we need to eat!” he adds.
After bleeding, scorching, and plucking, the pastor opens up the pig with professionalism, helped by his assistants. First, they take off the legs, then the animal is turned over onto its belly so that they can take off the bacon, the flitch, and loins. The work ends with sausages made from chitterlings, such as homemade liver sausage and black pudding. The main ingredients are liver and rice, or blood and rice, along with spices, salt and pepper to give each a distinct taste.
If you want to taste some fresh goodies, you may want to pay a visit to priest Mihály Zsolt Jakab or ask a Transylvanian friend to send you one. Beware: These sausages are made out of organic and fresh ingredients and have no E numbers, so don’t bother looking for an ingredients label. Ask your friend about it instead!
Title image: The slaughtered pig is processed in the courtyard of the Unitarian pastor. Photo: István Vajk Szigeti/TransylvaniaNOW