Life's too short to eat bad food - Me

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic - Arthur C. Clarke

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Nomeclature IV

What a kid I got, I told him about the birds and the bees and he told me about the butcher and my wife. - Rodney Dangerfield

As people begin to get used to buying locally, they will be in for a surprise when it comes to meats.  We don't have the butchers.  I am not talking about the few remaining independent butchers that will still stick their elbows on the counter and give you advice on how to cook that hunk of meat you just bought.  I am talking about the kind of USDA approved places that will slaughter the beast and fabricate the carcass in to recognizable parts.

The problem is they have forgotten how to be butchers, seemingly limited by only getting to deal with venison. I have split a delicious pig with a friend for the last couple years.  But I don't want sausage.  I don't even want ground pork.  I want bones in my chops.  I want to specify the cuts.  I got hocks which I will be smoking next week, and some neck bones I used to make a rich gelatinous stock.  I want my skin, my trotters, my head.  I bought a half a pig and I want half a pig. (And I can't help thinking that the butcher is reselling the parts I don't get.) I have considered asking for the whole half, but I have neither the room to store it nor break it down. 

I blame the producers a tiny bit for not anticipating the educated consumer.  I blame consumers for being gullible enough to embrace the skinless - boneless mindset.  I blame the butchers for not being flexible, but now for mislabeling. I have written about this several times before, but identify the part accurately! 

The pork comes frozen and carefully wrapped in butcher paper, labeled with a sharpie. Yes, you can roast any part of a pig, even a whole pig, but certain cuts are better suited to different methods of roasting.  When I thaw a a package labeled "Pork Roast" I anticipate a cut that can be cooked at high heat.  When I peel back the butcher paper and see the unmistakable "7" bone of a shoulder aka butt it pisses me off.  It's one of my favorites - my go to for sausage and pulled pork.  It wasn't what I was planning on in the time frame I had.  It came out tasty but tough.

It's the tasty part that kills me.  Absent the butcher issue, this is food worth paying a bit more for.  That same week, I cured a ham from that piggy in a brine with Grade B Maple Syrup, cold smoked it then roasted it.  I glazed it with some of my jalapeƱo jelly thinned with  some white wine.  It was delicious.  My wife, who is not a ham fan, called it the best she'd ever had.

Of course, the dilemma now was what to do with leftover ham and roast pork.  Easy call.  Cuban Sandwiches.  Ham and pork, thinly sliced, Swiss (I actually prefer Jarlsberg), and a dash of mayo (sometimes a tad of mustard). I don't own, nor do I want, a pannini press.  A cast iron pan with another on top works fine.

Now if someone could just definitively state: dill pickle, sweet pickle or no pickle . . . .


Jon in Albany said...

The butcher that slaughters and actually butchers our cows also works in a supermarket. He says the problem is that there are almost no "butchers" left. What we get now are "Cutters." Cutters and open a cryovac package of meat, cut it up, and put it on display. They can't break down an animal. Kind of sad.

I'd love to follow this guy around for a month. Damn job gets in the way of everything...

jo said...

AMEN! That was my biggest complaint about both my meat CSA as well as buying the 1/2 pig from a farm in Maine last year. It's going to take 4 or 5 years for the abattoirs to catch up to the audience. We need old school journeymen style training from Europe to come here and get them up to speed.

Scotty said...

Jo, the last person to say abattoir to me was John Cleese (or my kids imitating him). You are both right in part, but I think there is more. What butchers there are, are out in the boonies here. There is no real central market here, and while some go to regional markets it is difficult to create demand.

So on top of what Jon and you have said, you have lack of supply and educated consumers.

Warner (aka ntsc) said...

A number of butchers are now starting to offer courses, a bit dear for my pocket at the moment, but something to save for. is one and another has been mentioned here.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
- Arthur C. Clarke

Life's too short to eat bad food -