After a morning on the farm witnessing the slaughter of a pig with master butcher and former Culinary Institute of America instructor Hans Sebald, I returned to Fleisher’s Grass Fed and Organic Meats shop in Kingston, NY for an afternoon of butchering instruction.
Using butcher paper and a Sharpie as his Power Point Presentation, Hans worked to connect what we had seen earlier in the day at the farm with what would end up in a butcher shop, and for most of us our refrigerators. He reviewed the anatomy of a pig and spoke of the difference between industrial and sustainable processing methods.
Hans wrapped up his introductory lesson with a reminder that there is “no life without death.” He then went into Fleisher’s walk-in to retrieve a side of pork that had been hanging for about a week (thus allowing the muscle fibers to soften, making them easier to cut and the meat tenderer).
The next few hours, Hans spent taking apart the side of pork and arranging them into cuts you would identify with in a butcher shop. He showed several ways to break down parts of the pork and how to remove skim, trim, and debone.
Pig Anatomy: Pork Primals: Ham, Picnic, Loin, Butt.
There are a variety of ways one can cut pork.
*Note, many butchers refer to the butt (upper part of the shoulder) and the picnic (lower shoulder/front leg) as the Boston butt. This section of pork is most commonly used for authentic Southern barbecue, as it is a tougher, fattier cut that tenderizes nicely after slow cooking.
There is a section in The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat by Joshua and Jessica Applestone and Alexandra Zissu on the primals, subprimals (cheek, jowl, belly, spare ribs…) with ways to cook each section including whether to sear, smoke, roast or grind.
Pork fat – can be rendered as lard…check out this fun article on cooking with lard from Food & Wine
By the end of the day I felt a closer connection to my food and that I had learned a significant amount about a pig’s anatomy, industrial vs. sustainable meat practices, and a wealth of general butchering knowledge.
Butcher Training at Fleisher’s:
For an overview of their Butchery 101 class and (notably competitive) Butcher Training Program visit here. Classes take place in Kingston, New York at Fleisher’s production and retail facility in the Hudson River Valley.
The Butchery 101 event is for everyone regardless of culinary knowledge or experience. Fleisher’s welcomes professional chefs and butchers as well as anyone interested in finding out where their food comes from.
The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat by Joshua and Jessica Applestone and Alexandra Zissu
Basic Butchering of Livestock & Game by John J. Mettler Jr.
Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat by Deborah Krasner
Culinary Institute of America’s Kitchen Pro Series: Guide to Meat Identification, Fabrication and Utilization – Hans recommends purchasing this whether a professional or home cook. It’s $79, so yes a little pricier than most books on your kitchen shelf, but in the long run, could be well worth it considering the extent of meat and poultry identification information.
Primal Cuts: Cooking with America’s Best Butchers by Marissa Guggiana
The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – Fleisher’s recommends
The Holiday Inn in Kingston (845) 338.0400 offers a discount to Fleisher’s students.
For more information on Kingston, check out this article in The New York Times.
Making the trip from Maine, take an extra day to enjoy the Hudson River Valley.
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow. See where Washington Irving’s unfortunate Ichabod Crane sought refuge from the Headless Horseman. The 17th century stone church is well preserved.
Photo of Picture Gallery provided by Lyndhurst Estate
Lyndhurst, a National Trust Historic Site overlooking the Hudson River in Tarrytown. Lyndhurst is one of America’s finest Gothic Revival mansions; designed in 1838 by Alexander Jackson Davis, who has been described as the greatest exponent of the Gothic Revival style in America. *The mansion’s (exterior) design is a close resemblance to that of Highclere Castle (the television program “Downton Abbey” uses for exterior shots).
Photo of Stone Barns Fields by Annabel Braithwaite for Belathee Photography
Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills operates an 80-acre four-season farm and is working on broader initiatives to create a healthy and sustainable food system. Through its Growing Farmers Initiative, children’s education programs and diverse public awareness programs, Stone Barns aims to improve the way America eats and farms. Stone Barns is open to the public year-round, Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM.
Check out the Stone Barns Virtual Grange!! —a comprehensive online site where beginning, sustainability-minded farmers can find technical tutorials, learn about innovations in sustainable farming and connect with mentors and peers. It is by farmers and for farmers: while maintained by Stone Barns Center, with resources from its own farmers and apprentices, in time much of the site’s content will be contributed by the broader community of farmers.
If time allows:
Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park
Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site – a beautiful example of Gilded Age style
Upcoming Opportunities to Learn Butchering in Maine:
Claddagh Farms & The Kitchen Garden Company have two spaces left in their French Farmstead Butchery & Charcuterie Workshop on April 27th and 28th in Montville. This intensive, two-day master class includes 15 hours of demonstration tutoring and hands on experience. Instructors are American charcuterie teacher Kate Hill and French farmer/butcher Dominique Chapolard. French-style seam butchery for charcuterie and making charcuterie products (noix de jambon, jambonneaux, ventrèche roulée, fricandeaux, paté de campagne, paté en croute, paté de tête, saucisse de Toulouse, saucisson, saucisse seche, paupiettes, rillettes, and gratton) are underscored by a comprehensive Seed-to-Sausage farming presentation based on the Chapolard’s modern approach to working their traditional family farm in Southwest France. Workshop fee is $875 per person and includes a generous share of fresh pork and charcuterie products produced over the weekend, lunches, written materials and a few fun French products. For more information and to register go here.
Giant’s Belly Farm is offering a Hog Butcher and Dry Curing workshop to be held at the Southern Maine Community College, on April 27th and 28th. Class will run from 10am-5pm each day. Registration is $350 per person and includes a cut of meat that you will cure in the class and take home to dry. Registration is limited to 16 people, and is first-come, first-served. Contact Nate ‘Iggy’ Brimmer at 207.415.4458 for more information.
Registration for the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association Nose to Tail Processing Workshop will open up in June. For information on last year’s event, visit here.