Edible Rhody Spring 2011 : Page 25

Chop Shop By John Schenck Photos by David Dadekian dadekianphoto.com Behind the Butcher Block at Persimmon Provisions How Every Part of a Pig Can Help Make a Meal Do you talk to your butcher? Do you know your butcher’s name? Do you even have a butcher? In my parents’ day, when “homemaker” was an honored job title, being friends with the butcher was almost as important as co-chairing a PTA committee. Where I grew up my mother bought her staples at Gristede’s or the Shopwell but went to the Wright & Irish butcher shop when she wanted something special for dinner. Back then, butchers got their meat untrimmed from their suppli-ers. They would then cut up—or butcher—the meat into parts that could be further reduced into the order a customer requested. The butcher, Mr. Irish himself, might say, “I set aside a beautiful porterhouse for you, Mrs. Schenck.” My mother would consider for a minute and reply, “Well, I was thinking about a rib roast for Sunday lunch. We’ll have eight at the table.” Mr. Irish would go in back and emerge with a piece of beef the size of a Mini Cooper. In a few minutes Mom would walk out with the cen-terpiece of a fine Sunday lunch, usually having picked up a choice tid-bit of gossip or two along with her USDA Prime beef. Today meat often arrives at supermarket loading bays already cut, trimmed and shrink-wrapped. You reach down into the case, grab some-thing, take it home and cook it without knowing much of anything about it, except that it came from a cow or a pig or a lamb. Where that animal lived and what it was fed on is anybody’s guess. EDIBLERHODY.COM spring 2011 25

Chop Shop

John Schenck

Photos by David Dadekian<br /> <br /> Behind the Butcher Block at<br /> <br /> Persimmon Provisions<br /> <br /> How Every Part of a Pig Can Help Make a Meal<br /> <br /> Do you talk to your butcher? Do you know your butcher's name? Do you even have a butcher?<br /> <br /> In my parents' day, when "homemaker" was an honored job title, being friends with the butcher was almost as important as co-chairing a PTA committee. Where I grew up my mother bought her staples at Gristede's or the Shopwell but went to the Wright & Irish butcher shop when she wanted something special for dinner.<br /> <br /> Back then, butchers got their meat untrimmed from their suppliers. They would then cut up–or butcher–the meat into parts that could be further reduced into the order a customer requested.<br /> <br /> The butcher, Mr. Irish himself, might say, "I set aside a beautiful porterhouse for you, Mrs. Schenck."<br /> <br /> My mother would consider for a minute and reply, "Well, I was thinking about a rib roast for Sunday lunch. We'll have eight at the table."<br /> <br /> Mr. Irish would go in back and emerge with a piece of beef the size of a Mini Cooper. In a few minutes Mom would walk out with the centerpiece of a fine Sunday lunch, usually having picked up a choice tidbit of gossip or two along with her USDA Prime beef.<br /> <br /> Today meat often arrives at supermarket loading bays already cut, trimmed and shrink-wrapped. You reach down into the case, grab something, take it home and cook it without knowing much of anything about it, except that it came from a cow or a pig or a lamb.<br /> <br /> Where that animal lived and what it was fed on is anybody's guess.<br /> <br /> The pig is absolutely packed with delicacies, most of which even my mother had no idea about.<br /> <br /> There's a new butcher shop in Barrington where the old values, plus a big helping of local sourcing, mean you can buy a pork shoulder or a rib roast and know exactly where it came from.<br /> <br /> Champe Speidel, chef/owner of Persimmon restaurant in Bristol and a trained butcher as well, opened Persimmon Provisions, along with his wife, Lisa, in late 2010. He's working with local farmers to make certain that as much of his inventory as possible is raised right here in Rhode Island.<br /> <br /> Recently I asked Champe if I could sit in while he reduced a 300- pound Berkshire pig to marketable cuts. What I learned is that there is a lot more to pork than tenderloin, and if you talk with the butcher, you can go home with much more than a good dinner.<br /> <br /> When I arrive, the pig, a 1-year-old gilt (unbred female) is being delivered by Pat McNiff of Pat's Pastured (who raises pasture-raised pigs, cows, chickens and sheep in Jamestown and South County). The pig extends a good five feet, from one end of Champe's butcher block in the back of his store to the other. It has been cleaned and all the characteristic black Berkshire hair has been removed but its tail still curls piggishly from one end while ears point out at the other. All in all, it's a lot of potential pork.<br /> <br /> Pat and Champe both provide the seminar as Champe wields scimitar and bandsaw to transform the large animal into appetizing cuts of meat. Right away I can tell that the meat of this pig is much darker, redder than supermarket pork, almost beefy-looking.<br /> <br /> That color translates directly into flavor and succulence. "Not exactly 'the other white meat,'" says Pat with a grin. "That's a Berkshire. I don't keep them in pens, they're out roaming around in the fields and woods and they're eating pumpkins, apples, acorns and grain." He adds with a farmer's pride, "Look at that fat cap."<br /> <br /> Along the pig's back, right under the skin, runs a 1½- to 2-inchthick band of snowy white fat. "That's where so much of the flavor comes from," chimes in Champe. As he works, he cuts away the excess fat. He doesn't discard it but rather sets it aside. It will be used in sausage or he might use it for lardo, an Italian specialty that's cured with herbs like thyme or rosemary. (Americans aren't used to serving curls of fat as hors-d'oeuvres but you'll understand it if you try a dab of lardo on a crisp, little, warm crostino.)<br /> <br /> Champe continues to illustrate as he cuts: "That will make a terrific hanger steak" or "This will make an unbelievable liverwurst" or<br /> <br /> Above: The whole hog.<br /> <br /> Below and opposite: Champe Speidel breaking down the Berkshire pig from Pat's Pastured. Previous page: Pork belly.<br /> <br /> Good Meat<br /> <br /> If you are looking for a good guide to steer you through the cuts and questions about sustainably raised meat, look no further than Deborah Krasner's new book Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2010). She'll help you understand terms like grass fed and pasture raised, show you all the cuts that come from pork, lamb, beef, poultry and game through beautiful photography and help you cook them with 200 tempting recipes too.<br /> <br /> even what's good for scrapple (a Pennsylvania Dutch breakfast treat made from pork trimmings, spices and cornmeal–I'm on a personal crusade to turn Rhode Islanders into converts).<br /> <br /> Off come the feet–or trotters. They're great for stock–but of course the French eat deviled pigs' feet and maybe we should too. Into the cavity goes Champe and he brings out the sirloin tip, "a great little roast." The popular Boston butt is taken from near the shoulder (maybe not where you thought). It's the cut used for pulled-pork barbecue. The neck provides the meat for a Sunday gravy.<br /> <br /> The thing is, I'm finding, the pig is absolutely packed with delicacies, most of which even my mother had no idea about.<br /> <br /> With deft precision Champe sets in to separate the ribs into roasts and chops. The skirt runs along the ribs and makes the best fajitas. He cuts the pork belly, which becomes bacon when it's cured. Further up Champe points out the shoulder picnic, which is just next to the Boston butt.<br /> <br /> As he works his way around the pig, Champe remarks that he almost never finds any kind of unhealthy abnormalities in sustainably raised animals. We all speculate about why this might be, our thoughts ranging from stress-free environments to the all-natural feed, but it is reassuring to learn what a healthy animal this was, as are others like it.<br /> <br /> Champe starts cutting into more familiar territory and I admire the ham and loins, from which come all kinds of roasts–eye round, bottom round, fresh ham and of course all the cured and smoked hams from Italian prosciutto to Southern country ham.<br /> <br /> Where the loin begins Champe points out what are known as "country-style ribs," which he calls "unsung heroes" because they are overshadowed in the public's imagination by the much leaner spare ribs. "These are so much better!" says Champe emphatically, and I make a mental note to braise them for an hour, then put them on the grill and finish with a little sauce as the butcher/chef recommends.<br /> <br /> For an illustrative finish Champe reassembles the whole pig, like he's a putting together a jigsaw puzzle. It is amazing to see how much of that porker is still on the table. "There's very little waste," says Champe. Very little waste indeed, and so many more parts to cook with. eR<br /> <br /> Edible Rhody Publisher John Schenck lives in Providence. His dream is to bring his love of scrapple to the people of Rhode Island.<br /> <br /> Persimmon Provisions 338 County Rd. (Prince's Hill Place shopping plaza), Barrington, RI 401.337.5885 • persimmonprovisions.com<br /> <br /> Pat's Pastured<br /> <br /> patspastured.com<br /> <br /> Find Champe Speidel's recipe for country-style ribs at ediblerhody.com. <br />

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