Home Butchering Class Goes From Pig To Parts Pork lovers may be pining for their porcine fix as the economy puts the squeeze on everyone's wallets. But for the hard-core foodie, a DIY attitude can help bring home more bacon. A butcher in New York is teaching students how to trim some fat from their budgets.
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Home Butchering Class Goes From Pig To Parts

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Home Butchering Class Goes From Pig To Parts

Home Butchering Class Goes From Pig To Parts

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From trash to treasure now, or at least a treasure for some carnivores. See, if you're a true gourmand you have to do more than just appreciate a good meal. You have to dissect it.

NPR's Robert Smith discovered that at a class in Brooklyn where folks learned to butcher their own pig. And fear not foodies, World Health officials reiterate it today that there's no evidence that exposure to properly cooked pork has anything to do with swine flu.

Here's Robert.

ROBERT SMITH: Tom Mylan(ph) is pulling out the two most important tools for butchering: his knife and his music.

Mr. TOM MYLAN (Owner, Marlow & Daughters): Mostly Lynyrd Skynyrd, but basically (unintelligible). I mean you need to get fired up. It's physical work.

SMITH: And on this night, Mylan is going to need all the help he can get. He isn't at his usual butcher shop, Marlow & Daughters. Instead, he's here at the back of a small neighborhood supply store called Brooklyn Kitchen. The owner is Taylor Irkennin(ph) and she's trying to clear off some space on the counter.

Ms. TAYLOR ERKKINEN (Owner, Brooklyn Kitchen): We're waiting eagerly for the arrival of about a hundred pounds of pig to half a pig.

SMITH: Well, people might expect this in a rural shop but you're here in the middle of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, very dense. People who live around here have kitchens about the size of a small shoebox.

How would someone actually do this in their own apartment though?

Ms. ERKKINEN: Maybe it would take a lot of plastic wrap.

SMITH: Before you start to picture blood all over the wall, then a horrible pig screams...

Ms. ERKKINEN: This is not a slaughtering class. Slaughtering should be best handled by professionals.

SMITH: Sounds like you've had to explain this before.

Ms. ERKKINEN: Several times.

SMITH: Do not try this at home is what you're saying. Or at least, don't try the killing part.

Ms. ERKKINEN: Don't try the killing part, and we probably will not be offering a slaughtering class in the future.

Mr. MYLAN: Hi, everybody.

Unidentiefid Man #1: How are you?

Unidentified Woman: Hi.

Mr. MYLAN: Great. How's everybody doing?

Unidentified Man #2: Good.

Mr. MYLAN: Awesome.

SMITH: Everyone in the store moves back to let Mylan through, because slung over his shoulder is this giant plastic covered carcass with the hooves sticking out. That's $350 worth of pig right there.

Mr. MYLAN: All right. Thanks for that.

SMITH: The 10 students are leaning in to look the pig right in the eye, but only one eye, of course, because the poor thing's been split right in half.

Mr. MYLAN: We're just going to saw through the ribcage.

SMITH: Yeah, it's not for the squeamish. But the foodies in the class, like Matthew Crosby, are already licking their lips.

Mr. MATTHEW Crosby(ph): People see meat as something you find wrapped in plastic in the aisle of a foodmarket, but they've completely lost touch with where that meat comes from.

SMITH: Well, there is a reason why we have professionals do this because it's messy, and it can be dangerous if you do it wrong and leave it out. There's huge knives involved. Why not leave it to the professional?

Mr. CROSBY: Well, you know, it's funny if you toss it. I'm not 100 percent sure I will actually ever put these skills into practice, but it still seems like something worth knowing.

SMITH: Kind of anatomy class.

Mr. CROSBY: Kind of an anatomy class. It's actually like that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MYLAN: From here down to here, we have the pig (unintelligible) end. From here up to here, we have what's called either Boston butt, top butt or sometimes just butt. It's not on the butt end, so who knows how that happened.

SMITH: Over the next two hours, Mylan moves from snout to tail carving out the well-known cut.

Mr. MYLAN: You can hear the ribs are under there.

SMITH: And the stuff you will not find on any menu.

Mr. MYLAN: This was the diaphragm. This is essentially kind of its abs, maybe.

SMITH: Then he tosses in a little culinary trick for preparing each one, like how to turn a haunch into a ham.

Mr. MYLAN: You want to just like give it about 35 firm flat on each side to kind of get...

SMITH: I notice, by the way, you're sweating this is not easy work.

Mr. MYLAN: I mean its tough physical work. I'm mostly sweating because it's nerve wracking to be distracted by talking and also cut at the same time, and hopefully not cut yourself.

SMITH: So I see two young women who have been taking copious notes.

Introduce yourself to me.

Ms. KIRSTEN MOBERG(ph): Kirsten Moberg.

Ms. JULIA MOBERG(ph): Julia Moberg.

SMITH: And you're actually going to do this. You're going to cut up a pig?

Ms. MOBERG: We love to.

SMITH: Now, what's your apartment look like? Do you have a big enough kitchen to do this?

Ms. MOBERG: No. Our kitchen is the living room, and it's also the dining room, and it's also the office. But it's also going to be a butchery soon.

SMITH: So at the end of the class, all of the students have taken away all the parts of the pig and the thing that's left for me here is...

Mr. MYLAN: The tail.

SMITH: The tail. What should I do with this thing?

Mr. MYLAN: I recommend scoring the skin very slightly with a knife, and then roasting it in the oven about 350 until it gets golden brown and crispy. And then just start gnawing away on it.

SMITH: I could eat it like a lollipop?

Mr. MYLAN: Exactly.

SMITH: Excellent. Well, thank you very much.

Mr. MYLAN: Thanks for coming.

SMITH: Robert Smith, NPR News at the Brooklyn Kitchen in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

(Soundbite of music)

LYDEN: Robert has got his pigtail lollipop. But on our website you can find another recipe for hardcore pork lovers, a how-to-guide to head cheese, starts with a shave. Dig in at npr.org.

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