Ooh, ahh controversial. Firstly butchery is not for
the fainthearted; you literally pick up a hacksaw to slice through bones. So if that line has made you a little queasy (and you weren’t already clicking away from the leading image), you may want to go watch cat videos on YouTube. Still here? Good.
On a chilly Winter’s eve I arrived at the Ginger Pig for their butcher course specialising in pork. Between you and me I would have opted for beef, but given this was a gift who am I to be picky?
We were lead in and warmed up with the infamous Ginger Pig sausage roll – those who have swung by the neighbouring Marylebone farmer’s market will have had a hard time keeping clear of these little decadent pockets.
We were given ill-fitting brown butcher coats and a lovely man with what I can only class as ‘Butcher’s humour’ took us through the safety drill. This included a demonstration of the sharpness of his knives, then slicing over his fingers wearing the protective glove. Once we’d uncovered our eyes to find his fingers in tact, we were convinced it was a good idea to use them.
On the block in front of him (that’s what us in the know call the table-like chopping board we were gathered around), lay half a pig cut lengthways, Damien Hirst
-like. At the top of the carcass floated the head, a grim smile grinning back at us. Whatever you do, don’t give it a name.
Our Butcher took us through the different parts of this Tamworth pig, this specific breed explained as the butchery’s namesake; with a tuft of ginger hair on each ear. He explained the importance of only purchasing farm-raised meat in terms of both quality of life for the animals, and in turn the quality of the meat produced.
He expertly separated the pig into well know ‘cuts’ explaining each as he went along. There’s a saying among butchers that when it comes to a pig, “You can use everything apart from the squeal“. I think this is largely due to the loose guidelines of what goes into a sausage, but he talks through each item to prove this is the case.
He shows us carefully how to remove the bones from the loin and then we all get our own hefty piece to try. It’s hard to remember the order but with a few pointers we make light work of the hunks in front of us, leaving minimal meat on the bones we’ve removed. Next up we cover the meat with a generous helping of garlic, salt, pepper and fennel. We score the previously removed fat layer to improve its crackling potential, reposition this on top of the meat for cooking and take butcher’s twine and tie two simple strands to keep the joint together.
After that we get to tuck into ‘something they prepared earlier’ – a hearty serving of pork loin with crackling and creamy dauphinoise potatoes, followed by bread and butter pudding. Quite the salad-dodger’s delight, and explains the need for the loose-fit of the butcher’s coat.
My deboned pork loin weighed in at 3.5kilos and is taking up place in my freezer until I find enough friends to come around and enjoy it.
I thoroughly enjoyed the butchery course and can see why going local and trying less familiar cuts can be rewarding. In many cases this may mean sharpening knives and allowing for longer cook times, but it’s a worthwhile hobby to invest in if you live to eat. And if you can get a spot in before Christmas, what a fine way to impress family and friends on such a special occasion!
A few spots to improve your butcher skills in and around London;
- Ginger Pig Butchery Course – 3 London locations – £155 including 2 course meal and a roasting joint to take home.
- Green Farm Barn – West Sussex – fr £120 for a half day course including sausages and bacon.
- The Hampstead Butcher – Hampstead London, fr £115 including meat worked on and a bottle of wine.
- Meat London – Stoke Newington and Tufnell Park – fr £125 for their ‘meat’ classes