Last night I went to the Ginger Pig butchery class on pork (courtesy of CJ – thank you!). If you’re a Londoner I’m sure you’re familiar with the burgeoning empire of trendy meatmongers who specialise in cared-for (but notably not ‘organic’ – that ship has sailed) cuts. They raise their own animals in the Yorkshire Moors, giving meticulous attention to their breeds and bloodlines, and over the last few years they have become very successful. In fact, they’re opening their sixth shop in Clapham tomorrow (North London awaits, but meanwhile I’ve got Baldwins).
So, the course. How much can you fit into 3 hours (minus 45 mins for dinner)? A lot if you’re talented butchers like our guides Borut & Perry. We are talked through one side of a gutted pig, which weighed around 20kg. Working down the cuts our butcher goes through the loin, the shoulder, the hock, tenderloin and the rest. We are shown smoked hock (which smells incredible) and back bacon. He makes home-curing sound simple, and I feel I may have to try it. We even get a little demonstration of removing the cheeks from the head, which again looks relatively simple (but what to do with the rest?). So far it has primarily been a observatory lesson though, and I’m wondering when we’ll get our hands dirty. As soon as Perry is done taking the side of pig apart however, we are tasked with putting it back together. A pigsaw, if you will.
Next we are given our own cut to work with and take home. Watching Perry chine & bone a pork loin is akin in precision and speed to seeing a professional solve a rubik’s cube. But will we be as fast or as skilled? The answer, predictably, is no. But under the master butcher’s kindly guidance we all get there. I was quite proud of my attempt at removing the spine without taking off too much meat – although my seasoning may’ve been a little heavy-handed.
After we’ve rolled, tied and bagged our cuts, Borut carves up delicious ‘one I made earlier’ plates full of pork loin and crackling accompanied by potato dauphinoise (cholesterol be damned!). It was truly a beautiful bit of meat – the perfectly softened fat hung onto the fennel seed and tasted wonderful, and the brittle skin was painfully moreish. And when I thought it was all over, there was chocolate-veined bread & butter pudding. I still feel a bit full today.
UPDATE: The pork loin turned out great! Here’s the recipe below:
- 2.3kg pork loin (bone removed, skin on & scored)
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 tbsp fennel seed, toasted & ground
- 2 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp pepper
- 1 large white onion, peeled & quartered OR 4-5 shallots, peeled & halved
- Lay the pork skin side down and rub the meat firstly with the crushed garlic (this helps everything else to stick), and then with the fennel seed, pepper and half the salt.
- Turn the meat over and rub the remaining salt across the scored skin.
- Make a C-shaped crease along the long edge of the pork, folding the meat in itself and keeping the skin on the outside. Tie it into this position with a couple of lengths of string.
- The meat will keep like this for a few hours, or a couple of days if you hold off salting the skin. Some liquid will be drawn out of the meat, but nothing to worry about.
- Pre-heat the oven to 170 Celsius.
- Put the garlic cloves and onion/shallot into a roasting pan with a little oil, and put the meat on top, skin side up, and place in the oven.
- Cook for around 1 hour 45 minutes – more or less, dependent on size of your cut (22 minutes per 500g is a good rule). Or, if you have a meat thermometer, cook until the deepest part of the meat reads 63 celsius. In the last 15 minutes of the roasting, give the skin a tap with a fork to see if it’s crisped up. If it could do with more, ramp up the temperature for the last stretch, leaving your oven door slightly ajar if it is steamy in there (mine was fine kept at 170 C the whole time).
- Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes, and then carve and serve!