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