Whole Hog butchering was not ever, even in my wildest dreams, on my radar as a new hobby I might possibly embrace. However, after attending a class on Pork Butchery by Zeph Shepard from Proletariat – Handcrafted Meats in Portland OR – my food bucket list has a new entry to pass along to all those hankering for a memorable food experience – pork butchery!
A delightful collaboration between a daring west coast butcher and an east coast New England farm, the class that I attended educated a few daring individuals on how one goes about butchering a pig, while nibbling on some tasty porcine goodies. I envisioned a class that would have attendees wearing aprons in order to protect us from blood and guts. Not so, instead, as we entered the room, a smooth as a baby’s bottom, decapitated, entrails removed, pig lay outstretched on a table waiting for the precise butchering of its’ primals.
Led by Portland OR based master butcher Zeph, and hosted by Concord MA Saltbox Farm‘s accomplished chefs Aran and Ralph, this hands on lesson in pork butchering protocol was amazing. Boston butt, pork loin and tenderloin, loin chops, chine on rib chops, St. Louis ribs, baby back ribs, picnic shoulder, ham hock, pork belly and trotters, we sliced and sawed our way through the freshly, slaughtered hog from PT Farm in New Hampshire.
Encouraging hands-on instruction, Zeph educated us on all aspects of pig anatomy 101, as well as safety when separating the outer skin from the muscle (he basically told us not to attempt this one step until fully licensed).
This master butcher was engaging, fully knowledgable about his craft and physically fit. After all, breaking down an animal is not an easy task! As the friendly banter continued throughout the evening amongst the guest butcher and resident chefs, participants absorbed extra tidbits of information to take home.
Primal cuts and second cuts, head cheese, types of knives to use, how to sharpen knives, how to cut through the pig – down and then pull-up on the knife, as well as the blades of a saw: every pearl of wisdom dropped had newly converted butchery students dying to learn more.
The extra bonus of attending this class at Saltbox Farm was of course, the pork delicacies served throughout our instruction: unique slices of fatback on a stick, glazed with a tad of maple syrup and soy, with a crispy, sweet flavor, and light and perfectly prepared boudin blanc, infused with nutmeg, served alongside beer toast and cornichons, had us praising the chefs for their generous and savory additions to this class.