Saturday, May 15, 2010

My friend and butcher Josh Applestone had the opportunity to appear on the Martha Stewart Show. The show's theme was butchery and Josh and Martha cut up a half hog.

It was interesting to see how casual Martha was with this process but understanding her background as a kid hanging around a butcher shop, it was no problem for her. Today we just don't find kids that grow up around the craft of cutting meat. As children grow into adulthood they simply haven't experienced meat cutting or even shopping for meat from a real butcher. Maybe some people, with parents that hunted or who grew up on a farm setting, have witnessed some butchery, but with the demise of the local butcher, meat has become a distant thing of mystery. Many don't wish to know where their meat comes from or how it is processed. They want it quick, simple and easy to cook. But another type of consumer may want to know how their meat was raised and processed. In days gone by there were numerous local butchers that selected meats from large markets or from farms. Some shops were focused on quality while others on price, depending on the clientele. The butcher could answer some questions about where the meat came from, local or not. They were still in touch with the farm to table trail. Today we find the supermarkets purchasing through large volume jobbers who buy from the processors on a huge scale. The butcher in a supermarket will only know the brand name of the product and that may give a regional clue as to where the meat was raised or how but not as specific as the old style market butchers.
Now we find some individuals wanting to know more about butchery. So where can they go? To the local butcher shop? Not too likely. There are some demonstrations of butchery available at culinary schools. The CIA which I am partial to, of course, offers a basic meat class which I teach a few times a year. Josh and Jessica Applestone are offering some classes now through their shop at Fleishers in Kingston NY, there are some locations on the west coast that offer classes now such as Avendano's in SanFrancisco. I attended a class in NJ hosted by the Mangalitsa farm Mosefund in Northern New Jersey. It was taught by an Austrian butcher who showed some alternative cutting techniques. A quick search on the internet revealed a bunch of classes all over the place, often offered by small shops or restaurants. Some focus on curing and sausage making more than butchery and others focus on game fabrication. I have viewed a lot of clips on Youtube, some good, some very poor, be selective.
Often people claim the art of butchery is lost but today I find a lot of new interest and willingness to explore new techniques. So get out there and learn, like Martha!