Friday, 26 August 2011

'bright lights & big cleavers'

When I started doing butchery, I'd sharpen my knife and I'd receive the bit of meat I had to trim, and I'd clumsily hack away at it util it vaguely still resembled meat. The butcher said it looked at best like road kill. I wasn't upset or actually surprised. I knew it looked appalling and it would indeed be minced to make burgers. But the next time I got it I merely lacerated it to look like a manged pile of meat. So the only way was up.

These days I am far more sophisticated and can trim to a fairly high standard. Essentially it's because I stopped wielding my knife like an axe murderer. But instead, I took a very gentle approach, only using the very tip of my knife, teasing and persuading the meat to prise itself from the bone, seaming and tempting.
Being a butcher takes a lot of patience and gentleness. The soft yet firm touch is a lot easier when chopping prepping meat. It is of course always better to leave the bones with no meat on what so ever: 'meat is money'.

An old butcher always said 'Keep the meat on the meat.' And I have tried to do that ever since.


Thursday, 18 August 2011

'and pigs will fly' a response..

So I was in the pub and a local pointed me to this article in the Guardian (I'm an Independent reader) .

Now reading this piece by Fiona Beckett I felt heartened but also a little bit sad.
Okay, so at the end of a long day at the block, most butchers are chomping at the bit at quarter to 5, not just eager but desperate to go home or get a quick pint in.
This attitude needs to change, in our industry we must make more of a conscious effort to have the best possible product with the outstanding service. Since you will not get this in a supermarket, it is just impossible - as you remain anonymous and so do they.
The butcher needs to be more friendly, approachable and offer a decent product, but politeness is half of the battle.

So what can you do? Well, you mustn't be intimidated - for good meat (from traceability to flavour) you must engage in conversation and talk to your butcher - trust me they want to help you, and they want you to return.

Convenience is the age old argument for not going out of your way to the shop. Fine. But most butchers strive to get a nice looking shop with the best in terms of equipment. What's the key to success I hear you ask? Parking. It doesn't matter how good your shop is, if they can't get parked you can't get custom. Every butcher dreams of getting a spot with parking available. This is so that it is more accessible for people to travel, thus selling lots of food.

What I do like about this article is that it is another great advert about the importance of knowing where your food is coming from. From farm to fork. This is important, other wise you genuinely have no idea what you are eating - the label on the back doesn't say which gasses have been injected to keep the meat looking pink and I don't know how the big stores manage to get every chicken looking the same, down to the exact same weight. Spooky.

This industry needs oomph. It needs enthusiasm. It needs a love of food. At a reasonable cost.
Life's far too short to eat bad meat, and it won't necessarily break the bank, I can assure you.
The way that supermarkets are going meat is becoming more expensive every day.
The price of bacon is going up anyway, pigs do fly.


Thursday, 11 August 2011

'the never ending bovine..'

Belted Galloway - what a beast!

Over the last
few days we have spent a large chunk of time sorting out this giant carcass.
From 'thick rib' to 'choice'. Mince trim to steaks.
How much beef have we cut up, chopped, seamed, boned out? How much meat have
we vacuum-packed and 'trayed' up.
It is astonishing how much food you get off these animals.
I frequently get asked how much one of these magnificent creatures costs?
Well the answer is: mind your own business! Let us worry about that. But a 3rd-hand Ford Ka would probably cover it..

The main thing is just how glorious it is to bestow such a craft. Watching as two butchers battle with it, knees straining, bringing it from fridge to cold block, hand sawing straight through the body, then splitting and separating it into smaller cuts. Fantastic.

What a privilege. Rib of beef anyone?


Wednesday, 3 August 2011

'cold hands warm heart..'

Often when i'm working a customer will recoil when I give them their change. At first I figured it was because I look shifty and they thought it was short, but lately they have been more vocal saying things like, 'eee pet ya hands are carld like'.

Butchery is indeed a cold profession. Very cold. Less than 5°C if you're a fridge and below -18°C if you're a freezer. When holding the meat for us butchers you must be careful and it can be pretty painful since the beef, chicken, lamb or pork (and often ourselves) is chilled to the very core. Meat must be cold. It affects everything. Including the taste. You should always endeavour to keep your meat cold. Now I'm not going to get ranty (which usually means I am) but you must always defrost meat in a fridge, it is far safer and less likely to seep blood, which is rank to deal with in your lovely kitchen. Happy meat is freezing meat. The colder you keep it the better it will taste. Or else it will start to part-cook and no one wants that now!

However as far as we butchers go, it's all about the thermals and thoughts of warm sunshine...