On Friday night, I attended a Smoking Goose Meat Class. Smoking Goose is an Indianapolis butcher shop reminiscent of those small town butchers who knew their farmers and could recommend the best cuts to you based on what you were cooking. The Goose puts out delicious sausages, salumi, smoked meats, and whole muscle cuts. It also hosts occasional meat classes, including sausage-making, whole muscle curing, and whole hog butchering (which is what I attended).
Our class was taught by Ted, who focused on traditional seam butchery techniques. Ted broke down a whole hog over the course of several hours and explained each cut to us. He showed us how to be careful around the tenderloins so they remain intact. We learned how to use a cleaver and mallet to split the backbone. He provided tips on how to harvest and use the Coppa muscle from the pig collar area. He left the skin on certain pieces and explained how to melt them down in a cassoulet. At the end of the class, we had a table full of fresh Indiana pork.
One of my favorite parts of the class was the fact that the farmer who raised the pig was sitting in on our session. Kaleb from Pass Family Farms explained the genetics and breeding program they used to grow the most delicious hogs. We were working with a six-month old Red Wattle hog. Much of the meat was an appetizing dark pink often reserved only for beef. There was a healthy layer of back fat, and wonderful marbling throughout the different cuts.
My takeaway from the class (besides a large portion of Indiana pork to bring home with me) is that we are seeing a welcome resurgence of the local butcher. Here, it was the butcher as educator. Our class consisted of engineers, HR specialists, teachers, real estate agents, financial consultants, and one news radio journalist. This class connected us with the farmer and the pig in a way many of my classmates had never experienced before.
I think we will continue to see consumers interested in where their food comes from and how it was handled. The local butcher shop is just one of many ways to close the gap between producers and consumers. I have no doubt agriculture will rise to the challenge.