Mirth with meat at The Ginger Pig’s beef butchery course

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I’ve mentioned before[/link2post] that The Ginger Pig is the best beef butcher in Town. Last night we got to meet the meat in a more intimate manner as we attended one of their beef butchery courses. It was a veritable festival of the very highest quality beef, most instructive too.

The evening started off with a introduction to the Ginger Pig. They told us about how they raise their free-range longhorn cattle. Not organically, it seems, but they claim there are problems with organic certification. The pictures of their longhorn cattle looked almost as delicious as the large bits of dismembered cow hanging up behind us.

We had an over-view of the different cuts of meat on a cow, and we were told which cuts were best cooked which way. The charismatic French butcher who lead us through this was fundamentally against gratuitously using the most expensive cuts: if you want mince get a cut suitable for mincing rather than a steak cut. A useful gem of information he passed on to us was the if you want the best rump steak, get them cut from the thin end of the rump: this end is closer to the sirloin so will be more tender.

They were very keen to point out the advantages of the dry-ageing process their meat goes through. The butcher was candid enough to say it puts the price up, but results in superior grade beef. He did point out that ageing beyond a certain point (depending on the size and type of the cut) was pointless: needlessly wasteful without improving quality. This first part of the evening seemed an incredible sales pitch for The Ginger Pig, and we got the feeling he was not exaggerating the quality of their meat and butchery skills.

Then it came to hack up cow. Another equally charismatic butcher went through the cuts again but this time pointing them out on the large piece of cow saddle he had us feeling up and generally hauling around. It was clear this was supposed to be a really interactive experience, if you have the compulsion to always keep your hands clean this part of the evening would revolt you.

We got through three saddles of beef, chopping the carcasses into different servings under the expert guidance of the butcher. Most of us showed a somewhat embarrassing degree of ineptitude when it came to even the comparatively easy task of using a saw. The meat looked amazing, and as we cut it us he kept re-enforcing which bit was which and how it should best be cut. It was an educational experience.

Before we were allowed to wash our hands we got given two ribs of beef each to prepare for roasting. Once again, our skills at perhaps the easiest part, tying knots in the string to hold the beef in shape, showed us to be impractical city types. All fascinating stuff, and another sales pitch for The Ginger Pig’s skilled butchers. It certainly made you think that you should be going to a decent butcher and getting him to prepare your meat.

There was a terribly pleasing end to the evening. Whilst we’d been mauling beef the first butcher had disappeared off to the kitchen and roasted a massive hunk of beef. We stood around the butcher’s block and gorged ourselves on this powerfully flavoursome, tender, delicious, wonderful meat of utter brilliance. It was freaking triple-A, man.

We left with our two ribs of beef that we had prepared questionably well, full, happy and armed with the knowledge that a good butcher is a treasured resource. We have always known that butchers are great people, but learning more about their skills and knowledge made us respect them even more. Tomorrow night we’ll roast our beef and we thoroughly expect to raise a little toast to The Ginger Pig and its butchers as we nosh.

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More information is on The Ginger Pig’s website.

  • Jeremy

    Sounds like a world of fun. I might try to squeeze in such a class when next in London. Very jealous of you.

    The problems/shortcomings of organic raising, be it of grapes or animals are often pointed out. Nonetheless, it is still one of the best certifications out there and you have to decide, as a leader in your field, whether you want to lend your name and credibility to the movement or not. Personally, I would like to see them join the promotion of organic production and would think even more highly of them.

  • David Strange

    It certainly was a total collection of larks and japes. I would recommend such courses to anyone with a deep interest in food.

    As the French butcher was dismissing organic farming the thought that kept running through my mind was ‘I think you protest too much’. I am sure there are organic farmers who take the shortcuts and use the dodgy methods he mentioned, but a top establishment can do things properly. And tell people they do things properly.

    Still, a top experience. You had to admire the easy charm of the two butchers running the course.

  • Jeremy

    I will make sure to use the expression “as charming as a butcher” more often in future!