This weekend Allan and I decided to try a Shovel & Fork class. Shovel & Fork is a brilliant idea – they round up experts in areas like butchering, preserving, gardening, and cheese making, and organize classes for those who want to learn from them. I love that places like this can thrive in Edmonton. Mostly because it means Chad Moss will teach me to make bacon for only $80. But he’ll make me peel the face off of a pig first.
Here’s Chad with a couple of his buddies. I met Chad a couple years back when I was working with him at Transcend. He’s an experienced chef and instructor and often seems to get just giddy with excitement about food. He’s done an impressive job at mastering at-home charcuterie, and teaches his methods for creative DIY curing and smoking through 3 levels of classes with Shovel & Fork. This was level one, as I am a total n00b. I thought it might be easy? I probably should have known better.
I didn’t think to bring a camera, so I apologize for the iPhone photos. In a way, they kind of make it better. Grainy, dark photos of butchering pig heads in a garage? Nice.
The dude on the right here was an unfortunate processing accident – the scalding tank wasn’t working when it needed to go in, so the animal ended up having to be skinned to go through the rest of processing. So we ended up dealing with both an eerily pristine head and our friend Skeletor. Both were perfectly usable for Guanciale, a cured meat made from the pork jowl.
There were more than just these 2 heads, of course. There was enough that everybody got a half of a head to himself. The “half” part actually added an extra dimension of weirdness, but we’ll get back to that.
I opted to be in the group that did the belly bacon and lardo first, because that part was indoors and my toes were cold.
Here’s the pile of delicious pork belly and lardo we had to work with. Gorgeous, right? It should be noted that there are now 2 of each in my fridge, and I am expected not to eat them yet. Patience is not my strong suit. This may be problematic.
I think the most frustrating part of the day for everybody, and especially Allan, was trying to use these little scales to measure out precise amounts of all the ingredients involved. I was disconcertingly proficient with the coke scales. That’s curing salt pictured, by the way. I swear.
This is Chad’s curing chamber (part of it, anyway – there’s a whole lotta meat hanging behind me as I take this photo, too). I could not identify most of these meats…but I’m pretty sure I would eat all of them. Remind me to hole up here in the event of a zombie apocalypse. My meats will be cured in my refrigerator, because my apartment is sadly deficient in spooky little rooms that I can turn into meat-caves. We’ll figure something out eventually though. We must. Incidentally, that’s the kind of stuff that gets taught in the next 2 levels of this course. Excellent.
Anyway, eventually, I had to go back out to the cold garage and face the pig. And after the first group had their way with them, they’d become a whole lot creepier.
I really thought I was going to have a lot of trouble with this, but it stopped being horrific as soon as I started cutting. Well, maybe a few minutes after I started cutting. Anyway, I did man up eventually, so it’s all good. By the end of it, I was actually having a pretty good time.
That is the face of a woman who’s enjoying slicing the glands out of a piggy’s jowls. We ended up with three pieces from our side of the face: jowl (for the truffled guincale), ear, and one more piece that I guess you’d just call…face. We started the wet-cure of the guincale, but Chad insisted to do it justice we needed to leave it with him to dry cure for a couple of months. Gives us an excuse to have a mixer down the road where we get together and eat it, anyway, so it works out perfectly. The other pieces we put into a basic brine and took home with us. I’m still trying to decide what to do with these tasty pig bits:
Suggestions welcome, of course. I’ll keep you posted 🙂
I’m so glad we did this, both for the (substantial) deliciousness factor, and the fact that it pushed me out of my comfort zone and I didn’t freak out. Yes! You guys are going to be sooo jealous when it’s time to eat all this stuff and I’m posting pictures.