Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Austrian Butchery Techniques

My grandparents on my father's side were immigrants from Austria and growing up I experienced a lot of Austrian dialect and customs. Part of that was the foods my father's family would create for our large celebrations and picnics. My grandfather was a stone mason and was trained in the classic European tradition of apprentice / master. Besides his skilled craft he and my grandmother were also a part time farmers, as were many people in the days before the World War II. My grandparents always had a huge garden, some chickens, grapes etc. Farming was part of their existence. My grandfather also had a smokehouse in the back yard. He could fit about twenty slabs of bacon in it if he wanted. He would cure his own sausages and bacon and let them hang out in the smoker for weeks, weather permitting.

My father decided butchery was his craft and he opened a store in the mid-nineteen fifties. His customers were from many backgrounds but mostly German/Americans. It was a classic butcher shop with whole primal cuts being carried in the front door and sawdust on the floor. The store was filled with specialty sausages, smoked products, cheeses, specialty imports. It was a family business and we all took a lot of pride in it. My father was an innovator of sorts. His was the first market to sell Brie cheese in our area in the mid 60s. He started making pate' and smoked goose liverwurst. Some of our products were created for our German customers but my father would sometimes give it a little twist. His Austrian roots would show through. Austria and Germany, though they share a common language and many cultural similarities, will differ on some foods including meats. The Austrians are more influenced by their other neighbors such as Hungary to the east and Italian Tyrol to the south. These differences result in cuts of meat that are somewhat unique to their area.

Over the winter I had the fortunate experience to be invited to a seminar presented by Magalitsa hog producers, Woolypigs and Mosefund Farm. The hosts of the event Micheal Clampffer, Heath Putnam and Tom Canaday invited the president of the Mangalitsa Pig Breeders Union, Christoph Wiesner to do a demonstration on Austrian style pork cutting. Mangalitsa is a deliciously fatted specialty breed that is now available in the US thanks to Heath and Woolypigs. ( I have other articles on this as well, look under pork) This was a two day seminar of which I could only attend the second day so I missed the slaughter and sausage making section but I got to observe the cutting of the carcass. It was interesting to see the differences to the American style and even the German style of c utting. The Austrians will cut without cutting through the middle of muscles like we do here. Heath has been kind enough to share Christoph's cutting diagrams with us so I've linked them. It was great talking with Christoph. He reminded me of some of the foods my Grandfather would make and how his dialect and terms used to describe pork were somehow familiar. This you tube has Christoph describing some of his bacon styles. Someday I hope to visit Christoph in Austria and have a few slices of homemade Mangalitsa Speck. Wunderbar!