Within a few hours Hoosier’s 200 lb carcass needs to be broken down into more manageable sized pieces. Having little formal training as a butcher, most of procedures that I follow are self taught. In culinary school butchering class was breaking down a chicken or two and a few demonstrations on fish butchery. I clearly remember our meat fabrication instructor Mr. Perrillo saying “as long as you are cutting between meat and fat, chefy baby you’re on the right track”. The school did serve some great meats at their highly acclaimed restaurants, however, they hired professional butchers to fabricate for them.
My alma mater
I was fortunate, as a cook at The Bostonian Hotel in the late 80’s and early 90’s I had the opportunity to work with an accomplished butcher, Uriel Pinada. He was very generous with his time. With his guidance and my perseverance I was soon able break down smaller livestock , such as lamb, without screwing them up too badly. Uriel is married to super chef Lydia Shire and still butchering; last I heard he is working at another Bostonian Hotel alum’s restaurant. I appreciate what he taught me, allowing me to gain the confidence I needed to handle much larger animals.
When a pig is delivered it is most often delivered split straight down the middle from nose to tail with a separate bag containing the liver, heart, tongue and kidneys. I will write more about the innards later. One half goes into the walk-in to stay cold, the other gets laid out on our back kitchen’s prep table. I start right in, removing the bigger bits first to make the carcass more manageable, working my way through it until it is all processed. This usually takes several hours. I am not going to get into the gory details, I will explain during subsequent posts were all of the parts we are using come from and how we process them.
One side of the pig, in the process of being butchered.
I think of butchering whole animals as the necessary evil. Though I have become quite proficient at it (see video below of me butchering a lamb), I really don’t like doing it. I feel that if we are going to serve meat we need to do it the right way; support local farms with the least possible amount of environment impact. I have often said “if meat didn’t taste so good, I would be a vegetarian”. At least 3/4th of the meals I eat are vegetarian, most lunches and often dinner. Note that while I am writing this my grill is getting smoking hot so I can cook some rare to medium-rare local beef burgers.
The next post will be about some of the curing that takes place before any of the pig finds it’s way onto our menu.
Below is a video of me butchering a lamb, you can see from my facial expressions that it is not one of my favorite jobs.