Accidental Locavore PigThis year, not only was there a pig, but also a lamb…

This is a re-run of my post after the event last year in case anyone wants to attend week 2. We talk about nose-to-tail eating, but how does it really work? Come and see what happens when two chefs take on all the parts of a whole pig.

We’ll be focusing on using all the parts of the pig–smoking ribs and bacon, making a variety of sausages and stuffing the head to make headcheese (one of my favorites from last year!).

There’s still time support Slow Food Hudson Valley and get tickets for the second part on Saturday, March 25 from 10-4.

Saturday, the Accidental Locavore and about a dozen people watched three chefs tackle a pig. It was part of a two-day program Slow Food Hudson Valley put on to promote snout-to-tail eating (which reminds me–what happened to the pig’s tail?) or “butchering, preserving and sausage making a heritage pig.

Accidental Locavore Tom and Half PigWe were in a freezing cold farmstand on Kesike Farms in Red Hook NY, watching Chef Tom work his way through half of a hundred-pound pig. He did it with very few tools, and the ones that he’d chosen were all easily acquired, if not already in your arsenal. For the whole pig all he used were two boning knives, two hand saws and a sharpening steel. One of the hand saws, a Japanese, flexible bladed one, was a recent purchase from Lowes. In case you’re interested in breaking down any sort of animal (bigger than a chicken), remember knife first, then saw.

As he went through the pig he used a technique he referred to as “seam butchering” or finding the seams between the bones or muscles and using them as reference points. Between American and various European methods, there are a lot of ways to butcher a pig—choices you get to make as you cruise along.

Once Chef Tom got through cutting the pig into his basic cuts, he went back section by section, boning almost everything except the baby back ribs. He showed up his way of tying up various hams and roasts. While he was working, there was a lively discussion of the best ways to use each of the parts. Neck bones (which I forgot to ask for) are supposed to make your regular tomato sauce just amazing! Cumin, for some reason, played a major role in almost everything—it was simply the joke of the day.

After Tom was finished with his business, Chef Dan whisked away a lot of pork for stew and got to work, with help from some CIA students, on our lunch, a southwestern pork stew/chile, which was great and might actually have had some cumin in it…

Accidental Locavore John and TomThen Chef John stepped up to demo how to prep the various pork products for bacon, sausages and headcheese (yes, you use the whole head). He made a brine, using some for a loin and injected another piece with brine, explaining when you would inject versus when you would submerge. The liquid injected, should be 10% of the weight of the meat you’re using. The head and feet also went into the brine. We’ll see what happens to them next week.

Accidental Locavore Injecting BrineAfter the brining, John showed us how to do a bacon cure. It’s essentially a dry rub with salt, sugar, and whatever spices you want to add to the mix. You coat the bacon with the cure, cover it (or put it in a Ziploc) and refrigerate. Every other day, you need to flip the meat so it gets cured evenly. Another thing to look forward to next Saturday!

Accidental Locavore John Making SausagesFrom there we went on to making sausages. When you make sausages, it’s really important to cook and taste the meat before you stuff it. I always thought you just made a mini patty and fried it. No, no, no. Chef John said it’s not a good way to see how the finished product will actually taste and the texture is completely different. His way? Make a sausage-sized log, wrap it tightly in Saran Wrap, and poach it until it’s done. Then taste and adjust the seasonings. We ended the day, tasting his sweet Italian sausages and a southwestern green chile sausage. Both were really great and even better? We got to take some home.
Accidental Locavore Testing SausageI can’t wait for next Saturday! Lots of smoking going on next week. And we’ll get to try our bacon, make some tasso, have some ribs, even some headcheese. Sound tempting? There are spots available so come join us–Slow Food Hudson Valley has all the info.



1,2,3,4: 1 Pig, 2 Saturdays, 3 Chefs, 4 Takeaways

by Anne Maxfield on April 4, 2016

Accidental Locavore Saturday 2Two Saturdays cutting up a pig seems like a big commitment, and the Accidental Locavore wants you to know it was a one of the best events I’ve been to in a long time! The first day was mostly about breaking down (butchering) the pig. Tom, the butcher/instructor, first showed us what the various parts were and different ways of cutting them, depending on what sort of finished product you were after. There were a lot of lessons to be learned, and not all of them were about how to cut up a pig.Accidental Locavore Ancho Chile Powder

  1. Dehydrating chiles: Our lunch for the first day was a Southwestern Chili made with tender bits of pork in a tomato-based sauce. Ancho chile powder was one of the big ingredients. Dan said they made the chile powder by dehydrating chiles and grinding them in a coffee grinder. Since I was working on the dehydrated sweet potatoes for the dog, it wasn’t too hard to just add a cookie sheet with some anchos. I seeded them and put them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. They were in a 170° degree oven for about 6 hours. I then ran them through my spice grinder (which is just a coffee grinder, drafted for spice duty) and got a great-tasting container of ancho chile powder –so much better than what you get at the store!Accidental Locavore Freezer Inside
  2. My freezer: On the second Saturday, buoyed by the work of the previous week, a couple of the guys were talking about buying and breaking down their own pig. As tempting as this might be, real life gets in the way. First of all, my butcher block isn’t big enough for 50 pounds worth of pig. Even if it was, there is absolutely no way it would fit in the freezer. The worst part about that last statement is that we have a refrigerator-sized freezer. As friends of mine have said, you could eat out of that freezer for 100 years. Probably not, but possibly 100 days. I decided to challenge myself to see how long I could go without buying meat. So far, we’re at the end of week two and the only protein I’ve bought were some sole fillets, because we were eating so much meat. I’ll give you a rundown of what I’ve concocted from the freezer as soon as it looks like we’ve made a dent in it.Accidental Locavore Tom and Half Pig
  3. Planning ahead and possibilities: Like so many things in life, when you’re butchering a pig, you need to have a plan. Surprisingly, there are lots of options and what you do depends on what you want to end up with. Ribs or roasts? Hams and shanks or osso buco of pork? Belly or bacon? If cut number one is halving the animal, cut number two is where the planning starts.Accidental Locavore Tete Pressee
  4. Stepping out of your comfort zone: Besides the fact that the barn where we were was about 20 degrees, which is definitely not in my comfort zone, there were plenty of chances to step out of your food comfort zone. My most daring venture was probably the head cheese (tête pressée) and as it turned out, my favorite of all the things we made with the odd parts.

So those were some of the surprising lessons learned over a pig carcass. Stay tuned for what the contents of my freezer ended up being.





Why Do I Like Butchers?

by Anne Maxfield on November 19, 2012

Accidental Locavore Butcher

Which do you eat more of, fish or meat? Almost every year, one of the Accidental Locavore’s goals is to eat more fish. I like fish, like it a lot, but I don’t cook it nearly as often as I cook meat. Part of that is due to the fact that while I know a lot of butchers and have great relationships with them, the same cannot be said about fishmongers. While there are plenty of good places in Manhattan to buy fish, none of the places I (in)frequent are the sorts where I ever see the same help twice. Upstate, the situation is more difficult as there is only one local store with decent seafood. It may also be an issue with the product–perhaps because they’re working with slippery, iced fish, somehow fishmongers never seem as affable as butchers. Or possibly it’s because for the most part, breaking down a fish just isn’t as complicated as a pig. I learned how to clean fish when I was a kid, so far pigs have eluded me.

And since almost all supermarket meat, is pre-packaged, watching a skilled butcher trim steaks to perfection or even cut up a chicken with a few strokes of a knife is witnessing an almost lost art.

Accidental Locavore Pig DiagramThe other day, I was in a new (to me) butcher, Schatzie’s on the Upper West Side. I had a discount coupon from somewhere, forgotten about it, and needed to use it, pronto. Schatzie, himself, greeted me like a long lost friend and went on to describe everything he had in the store, rating it as he went along. After a lot of perusal, I ended up with a roasted chicken, a steak, some pork sausage and his homemade bread & butter pickles. The chicken even came with sides of potato salad and coleslaw, although I have no idea how good they were, because Frank essentially inhaled them. The chicken, however, was really good, with a good clean chicken flavor. And I would definitely go back, because I know that no matter what crazy thing I was working on, Schatzie would take good care of me (although if it was something off the beaten path, I would call ahead).

Same thing with my other favorite city butcher, Dickson’s. Besides having the best bacon –possibly even better than mine — they make great sausages and the meat is pristine and locally sourced. Maybe if I hang out there more, they’d teach me the secret to their bacon (hint, hint). They also have some lesser-known cuts and will happily tell you the best way to prepare them.

Butchers have taught me a lot. At Quattro’s, near our upstate home, I learned how to judge how rare a steak is by touch. I know that a 14-day aged tri-tip is a wonderful thing–a 21-day old one, a little funky (and if you don’t know about tri-tip, get ye to a butcher!). Big Paul would lament about his lack of success hunting wild turkeys while putting together an Italian combo sandwich one of my friends named the best sandwich ever!

So maybe the next goal shouldn’t be eating more fish, but making friends with a fishmonger. Any suggestions? Or maybe it’s time to be really trendy and learn how to break down that pig…