|Maya and her pig?|
This fall I had an amazing opportunity to attend a camp on butchery with all women. It may seem strange, as we're a bakery and all, but now that we are serving dinners it has become very important to source our proteins responsibly. The fish is easy here, relatively speaking. But the meat is another story. And once you get that meat, how do you cut it to extract maximum in both flavor and value? Who knew this could even be an issue?! After a year and a half of running the dinner service, I know it is indeed a concern and one I needed to learn more about. So, meat camp it was. Best of all, my daughter Maya elected to join me. She flew in from college and we met in Chicago, a perfect mother-daughter get a way, don't you think?
Which is how we get to the photo of her holding a pigs head...
Enter Grrls Meat Camp: A celebration of women and the tradition of putting food by. Over the 3 days together we learned the importance of caring for our animals while they are alive and especially how to care for them after the slaughter. The best part of this process for me was the intent with which we all worked. Every person there was focused on the tasks at hand, and with dispatching a 250 lb pig, there are many, many tasks. But before we got to the camp and the pig, we met in downtown Chicago at Kari Underly's meat studio 'Range'. Kari was one of the hosts of the weekend, her book, The Art of Beef Cutting is the new bible of meat cutters everywhere. Kari is truly an icon for a new generation of women in the field of butchery.
|Kari and Ruth|
We were also led by the energetic and eloquent Kate Hill, who's Kitchen at Camont in Gascony has lured many to the altar of fine cured meats. Kate is the fairy godmother of the group, having hosted the first meat camp at her cooking school in France.
|Kate and Cathy|
I was excited to meet Cathy Barrow, better known as Mrs. Wheelbarrow who's entertaining and informative blog has helped to inspire a whole revolution in home preservation. She is currently working on her new book, which I expect will become the new bible for preservationists everywhere!
|Maya with Elaine|
The soul of the group was Elaine Tin Nyo an artist from NYC who works with food and people and their ever changing relationship. She truly brought out the avant garde in our weekend!
|Erika Checks out the smoker|
At the camp on Friday, we reconvened with gals like Erika Nakamura of the duo Lindy and Grundy Meats in LA. Their 'face bacon' had Andrew Zimmern swooning...one taste and we were right there with him!
Friday night we carried the pig into the walk-in...we were quite sure this place had never seen anything like this before!
Erika, Andrea Diebler (the talented butcher of City Provisions), Melody Nye (pig whisperer at Melo Farms) and Kate Yelvington, (roaming farmer girl currently working at Cure Organic Farms), all pull out the muscle to get this old girl bedded down for the night.
We toasted to a beautiful sunset and tucked into a wonderfully prepared 'Camont' Cassoulet from Kate.
Then it was early to bed, the next day was a big one!
An 18 month old Duroc lady pig awaited us. Luckily the weather turned cold and crisp, we were able to work outside, the deck almost acting like a stage. A stage for educating, sharing and creating as we all lent our enthusiasm for learning how to make the most of such a precious resource, respecting the life of the pig and the traditions that brought us there in the first place.
Erika led the initial separation process, giving solid info colored with many anecdotes from her work.
Maya jumped right in, I never thought it could be emotional watching my girl saw through a piece of meat.
I became mistress of the grinder. The white fat on top is from the jowls which Kate used to make pate. It was amazing.
Molly Kearns cuts a piece of rind for the cassoulet, our dinner on friday, Thanks to the talented Kate Hill!
A beautiful table greeted us every night!
Melody's delicious chickens were the center piece of dinner Saturday.
Which was good, because the rest of the weekend was truly was all about the pork and the beef!
For breakfast, Erika shared one of her specialties: Face Bacon.
Should be called crack bacon. So Good.
Should be called crack bacon. So Good.
All that lovely ground pork was processed on Sunday. We made 7 different kinds of sausage!
Here is Dani from Butcher and Larder showing she has got this down!
We sampled them all before dinner sunday...delicious fun!
Hurricane Sandy reared her ugly head and took away 4 of our group early, (Maya included, boo!), as they needed to get home before the storm closed down the airports. So sausage day Sunday was particularly intense with fewer hands. We all dove in and had a grand time pairing flavors and sharing the details of this process. I learned so much!
It was an incredible weekend, the best part being the women, and as you can tell from the roster above it was a strong group! We were joined as well by Kathy Skutecky, who acted as our personal pastry chef (Thanks for the treats, Kathy!) and writes her Stresscake posts with humor and heart. The knowledgeable Rachel Narins of the duo Chicks with Knives in Santa Monica, Rachel Miller the creative sous chef at Bondir in Cambridge, Ally Kirkpatrick, Mrs. Wheelbarrows's girl friday and an accomplished cook in her own right. And last but not least, the delightful Lily Baker who signed on last minute and gave her all to the weekend!
We were chronicled by Jennifer Marx, photographer to the meat stars. Nina Barrett did a radio piece for WBEZ in Chicago, which garnered such vitriolic comments, I hesitated to share it here. In the end, I decided it was an interesting study in human nature. It is an important conversation to have: should we eat meat? Vegetarianism isn't for everyone, If we do eat meat, shouldn't it be raised responsibly and prepared well? It is a full on movement who's time has come. To know that these women are leading the way is something we should all be grateful for. I can't wait until Meat Camp 2014 in LA!
Interested in Grrls Meat Camp? Join their Facebook page!
Thanks to everyone at the camp for such a wonderful weekend, The folks at Camp Duncan were great. Gratitude goes out as well to molly's mom who provided much of the bedding for us out of towners and to Kari's partner Ruth for caring so well for the whole group.
And to the bakery folks, I really appreciate the opportunity to get away for things like this. I'd love to bring you all with me...Now THAT would be a 'Meat Up'!