The Local Pig, a butcher shop about 2.5 miles from our house, does two classes: whole hog butchering and sausage-making. I've always wanted to go to one of these and J. was sweet enough to enroll us this past weekend.
We showed up at the appointed time to find freshly made Andouille sausage sandwiches and Boulevard beer waiting for us. Nothing like getting all liquored up and playing with sharp knives! I'd say there were about 11 people in the class including us, so it was a nice cozy group.
Then they brought out our victim, which I quickly nicknamed "Wilbur". C'mon...I know you've watched Green Acres. Admit it!
The group gathered around a large butcher block table while the owner of Local Pig and our instructor for the afternoon, Alex Pope, began the class by explaining that they only locally source their pigs from farms where the pigs are raised humanely and spend their time running around on grass rather than cooped up in a feedlot or barn. In fact, they put their sources up on the wall for everyone to see. In front of us, we had the two halves of a lovely Berkshire Duroc raised by J.J. Green in Higginsville, MO, which is about 50 miles due east of KC.
Then, for the next couple of hours, we drank beer and learned how to break down a pig. Surprisingly enough, there are no bandsaws or fancy equipment needed. All you need is a large table, a filet knife and a bone saw. That's it! So it wouldn't be that hard to break down your own 1/2 a pig to save money.
** WARNING: GRATUITOUS MEAT PICTURES AHEAD **
We started with the tenderloin in the middle of the pig by cutting off the leaf fat to expose it, then removing the tenderloin, which is right along the spine.
To break down the pig, you start for the read and move forward. Step 1 was to cut off the flank. Then remove the back leg and separate the ham. Each person did 1 or 2 cuts and then the circle moved around so that the next person could have a turn.
As we moved forward, we exposed the chops. Yum!
As you cut, you have to be careful to not cut into the meat. Many of these cuts required precision, as we followed right around the bone to remove it. In the shot below, we're using the bone saw to cut through the ribs. Watch those fingers!
And here's J. separating the Boston Butt (or shoulder). He was definitely the most fashionable butcher-in-training in the class with that Hawaiian shirt. You go, honey!
Mmmm, tasty pulled pork or pork steaks. Pork steaks are my fav and I had no idea before this class that they came from the Boston Butt. I guess that explains why they are so yummy.
Once we finished the first half-pig, we moved on and did it again on a second half from a different pig. It was interesting to see some of the differences between the two.
And then, finally, we left Local Pig with 10 pounds each of the pork we had just cut up (with some final trimming help from some of the other staff). I hit the piggy jackpot, because we cut the last Boston Butt in half (we did the first one in quarters) and I got one of the halves! We'll be having pulled pork tonight for dinner. :-) And we also halve several pounds of pork belly, so we'll be making bacon later this week.
What's that? Of course I'll have pictures for you!