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the beauty of butchering


It’s taken a few days to absorb the incredible two days I spent in the company of Kate Hill and Dominique Chopolard. Kate is, of course, the generous sponsor of Charcutepalooza’s grand prize, a week at her butchery school in Gascony. She and I had spent plenty of time chatting on Skype, kitchen to kitchen, but nothing prepared me to meet this wonderful woman in person. She’s fabulous. Just marvelous. And Dominique? Everyone who met Dom immediately fell in love. He’s a great guy and completely owns the look – that black beret, a world-class mustache and a true, honest to goodness, twinkle in his eye.

Both Kate and Dom are engaged and thoughtful on all matters meaty – watching the collaboration of farmer, butcher and consumer in France for the last twenty five years makes Kate a fantastic ambassador – deftly interpreting, not just translating – the words of Dom as he showed a small group of us how the French tease apart the various cuts of pork.

When Dom and a pig meet up, magic starts to brew. With just a 6″ Victorinox knife he showed us how to remove trotters, tenderloin, coppa, loin roasts; to debone the shoulder; to roll up a ventreche. And in a feat of sheer brilliance, deconstructed the haunch, the cut that cures 18 months in Italy to become proscuitto, and smokes, then cures for a year in Virginia emerging salty country ham. For that day, in Rappahannock County, Virginia, this haunch of pork became several noix de jambon, the Chopolard specialty small hams, salted, cold smoked and hung for just three weeks.

What an education. I was rapt. I was moved. It was somehow emotional, artistic and sensual. Three words I never would have connected with butchery. I am so very grateful to Kate and Dom – they changed me, my brain.

Meeting some Charcutepalooza-ers was just icing on an already amazing cake. Loved meeting you all and I’m just amazed at what you all are curing, salting, smoking and brining.

I had a great time dragging Kate and Dom around Washington, DC, the morning before their workshop in Baltimore. Dom had never visited DC, so the White House (La Maison Blanche), the Capitol, the not-quite-blooming cherry trees, the US Botanical Garden and Union Station were on the tour.

I can’t wait til they come back to the States. Watch Kate’s calendar for future dates because you really want to do this once in your life. Really.

After the one day class, my mind was made up. I’ll be heading to Gascony in the Fall for a week-long course in butchery and charcuterie. I can’t wait.

Here are links to wonderful, evocative posts about the remarkable Cochon & Charcuterie workshops.

She bought a pig

Sam Hiersteiner from Sam’s Good Meats

Kitchen Musings (video!)

Did you attend a workshop and write a blog post about it? Please add your Cochon post using the Linking form below.

Check it out! Look what else I learned to do! Kate showed me how to Doo-Rag my crazy curls and even gave me a cool scarf to get me started! Oh la la the French. They make everything chic.

20 thoughts on “the beauty of butchering”

  1. You know how crazy I was about getting to take this class in Maine at @Podchefs.
    That goes without saying at this point….but 1. I want to go with you to Kates! And 2. I want you to teach me how to put the schmata in my hair like that. Ok?

  2. What an interesting post. Your pictures are amazing. Looks like it was quite an experience. I was surprised that “sensual” was one of the words you used to describe it. I suppose it’s because of the love of the animal and craft. All your photos were wonderful to view but I most enjoyed the very last one best!

  3. Next challenge: the French do-rag.

    What moves me the most is the respect these people have for their craft and the animal they’re about to butcher. It’s beautiful.

  4. Love this. My favorite rock-star grass-fed butcher does week-long classes and I am dying to take one. But the class is $2K or something so it’s not happening too soon for me 🙁
    Ps the do-rag is fab. So are the glasses. And the “self-portrait” with the do-rag and the glasses is super fab:)

  5. Wow, I really felt like I was there. Thanks for sharing this amazing experience with those of us who can’t get to one of these events. Butchery can be unbelievably beautiful and awe-inspiring. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Dominique has his Beret, Rock Star butchers have their Tats, and we, Sisters of the Meat, have the French Doux-Rag. Look for a video coming soon with Grrl’s Meat Camp at Camont details- September 2011.

    What a wonderful trip and such great souvenirs of Our DC area visit with you and fellow charcutepaloozers. Can you imagine what fun le Grand Prix winner will have here?

  7. Cathy,
    thank you very much for your spendid hospitality…….. it’s great pity that no see michelle Obama……………. good luck for charcutepaloozers !!!!!!!!
    I hope to see you in Gascony good kiss dominique

  8. I also have a hobbying interest in butchery/salumi and all things pork related, Anybody know of any butchery class in the Indiana-ish region of the country?

    Being a relocated Brit my dream is to attend the River Cottage course, should I ever return to England for a substantial period.

    http://www.rivercottage.net/shop/product/pig-in-a-day/

    Just started reading the ‘Meat’ book, It is am extremely comprehensive and thorough resource. I highly recommend it.

    http://www.amazon.com/River-Cottage-Meat-Book/dp/1580088430/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1301594060&sr=8-1

  9. Thanks for sharing the pictures. It was a great day for all. I learned so much. This experience has changed the way I look at pork meat. The cuts that I took home will be in my April Charcutepalooza post. I made Tasso and Spicy Pulled Pork in my new Bradley Smoker. I also have one of the small hams that we tied hanging in my drying rig. It will be done when I get home from LA next week.

    1. I made rillettes with pieces of belly and a wonderful grilled tenderloin. I considered filet-sec, but my wine fridge is full for two more weeks and I had no room to cure!

  10. I love your post. It’s so well written. De-constructing a haunch? Now that’s a lesson well learned. I almost felt like I was there but instsead I remain green with envy.

    Having lived in Germany for a year and spent much time in France I know well how different their butchery is from ours in the states. I so wanted to do the classes on the west coast but cannot at this time. Hopefully that will eventually come to pass.

    Terrific photos! Do you love your Cannon?

    1. Thank you Linda. I hope you get a chance to attend someday. Yes, I love love love my Canon. Not that I know how to use it.

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