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Butchering the Blog: Thanksgiving Edition…Just in Time to Make You Second-Guess the Plans You’ve Made.

25 Nov

But not really. Vin and I realize that our planned Thanksgiving meat post is coming a bit late for the holiday. BUT, there’s some good advice here! And Christmas is just around the corner, so file it away for December if you must. Here’s the Butcher’s take on Thanksgiving…enjoy! -Mary Susan

 

If the rest of you are like me, when you think about holidays, specifically Thanksgiving in this instance, we have an idea of what we imagine the atmosphere and meal to be like.  Personally, I picture my whole family gathered around a beautifully set table. Everyone is dressed up for supper in their finest with pleasant expressions upon their faces.  A blessing is said and a razor sharp carving knife artfully works its way through a perfectly roasted turkey in order to serve up Thanksgiving Day perfection to all those in attendance.

 

In reality, I’ll probably be wearing a dirty t-shirt, hungover because my brother is in town and we can’t control ourselves. People will be grumpy due to the kitchen being too small and bumping into each other for going on 5 hours. The table will be set, but is going to have glasses of V8 at each place because somehow V8 juice is a holiday beverage(?) WTHeck. There will be a razor sharp carving knife but, let’s face it, I’m a butcher not a surgeon.

 

All the details can vary because the things that really matter are in order.  Family being together and healthy is more important than if we’ve pressed our collars and haven’t dribbled gravy down our shirts yet. No matter how much my mother and I might disagree on things in and out of the kitchen, I like to think that we work really well together during the holidays. We’re good at putting a meal on the table that we both are super proud of each year.

 

Planning, preparation and execution are all equally vital to the success of such a grande feast.

 

If any of you have the misfortune of being my friend on Facebook, you are aware of the silly questions that flood the meat department once the holiday season rolls around regarding ordering meats and the like.

 

Woman: I would like to order a 34 lb turkey.

Handsome Butcher: Turkeys don’t get that large ma’am, perhaps                          we can get you two 15-17 lb birds.

Woman: I’ve gotten a 34 lb turkey the last few years!! I can’t                                  believe you don’t have them. Two turkeys just won’t do!

Really Handsome Butcher: I apologize ma’am, but turkeys just don’t                  grow that large. I have a few birds around 22lbs.  Other than that I                      think an emu is the next possibility.

Woman: **stares blankly at really super handsome butcher,                                   probably due to lack of brain matter, and walks away.**

 

So that pretty much sums up each day at the “office” for me and it makes my heart weep. I can’t wait for Wednesday. The day before Thanksgiving is my favorite day at work because tons of people come in to pick up a frozen turkey and inevitably ask if it’ll thaw and be ready by 2 PM the next day. To which, I reply, “No.” Hahahahahaha, yes.  **maniacal laugh**

 

It’s all sad because the food industry has created an environment that makes it so “convenient” to “cook” that people don’t know how to cook anymore. (I hate microwaves, crock pots and meals in a bag.)  But, I digress…

 

 

Behind the scenes: Somewhere in this mass of poultry your perfect turkey awaits…

 

 

So, let’s talk ordering a turkey right quick here. It’s super easy but there are a couple things to remember:

1. Fresh or frozen – Self explanatory, just remember that if you order a fresh turkey and it feels like it’s frozen, it’s not. These bad boys get shipped on trucks that have to be set at around 33 degrees.  They’re going to firm up but will not be frozen solid, so please don’t yell at me across the counter that it is actually frozen. If you do, I’ll make fun of you after you leave.

 

2. Brand – Butterball, Honeysuckle, organic, store brand…  In my experience there isn’t a big difference unless you’re talking organic versus non organic. Butterball claims to inject a “butter solution” in their birds, but whatever it is they’re squirting in the little fellas is a non dairy solution. I’m not sure how I feel about this yet.

Most of the store brand birds are coming from the exact same farms as the Honeysuckle birds. So when you call and I tell you the store brand is $1.49/lb and the Honeysuckle is $1.69/lb and you get the Honeysuckle, the store just made more money.  Score.

Organic birds are a completely different beast.  Raised on a vegetarian diet, no drugs, they don’t taste the same and they don’t cook the same.  If you have had them before and know what to expect then go for it; I think they’re delicious. If you’re just getting on board with the organic party then do some more reading on how to prepare your turkey. They lack the same poultry fats as non-organic birds and it’s super easy to end up with a dried out turkey that will turn you against all things organic in no time.

 

3. Be Flexible – We’re trying our best but sometimes it might not be possible to find a 17.75 lb turkey. Throwing a tantrum in a grocery store isn’t going to help your cause much. Figure out a weight range for the bird you need so when you order you can say “anything between 15 and 19 lbs.”

Be prepared to get a 15 lb bird if it’s a small year like it is this year. (Turkeys are small this year due to the drought two summers ago. Lack of corn production left turkey farmers with expensive feed costs. In turn they couldn’t feed the birds as much and therefore, no 34 lb birds this year… or any year, they don’t get that big, ugh!)

I always tell people to plan .75-1 lb per person when talking whole turkeys.  More than likely you’re going to have way too much other food anyway so to expect each guest to actually eat a whole pound of turkey is almost laughably funny. (A half pound of meat is about the size of a baseball, so plan on all the other goodies you’re going to make, plus each guest getting two turkey baseballs…see it’s funny!)

 

This is way longer than it needs to be and if you’ve made it this far it because my wife has doctored this post to the point that it’s tolerable. Happy Thanksgiving,

Cut fast,

V
  Vincent Delagrange is a journeyman meat cutter and     certified cheese monger for a major grocery store          chain. He is a lover of all things manly, especially raw   meat, the great outdoors, John Muir, shaving with a       straight razor, and living room dance parties. He              enjoys drinking beer (only the good ones), shooting      guns, and has a giant crush on the magnificently              beautiful woman who wrote this bio. He thinks she’s      really cute and should probably take her on a date          soon. She hears the new Hunger Games movie is pretty good…

News Revealed…and a New Segment!

29 Jun

We’re back from Chicago! More on that later, but for now I wanted to reveal the good news I alluded to a while back…

 

Now that all of the official people have been alerted, I am free to announce that my husband, The Butcher, has taken a position at a new up-and-coming grocery chain set to open in August. This is a big deal because this store is going to be the absolute bomb, very similar to a Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s/Central Market. He’ll be working a meat case that includes very diverse items from bison and grass-fed beef to snake and camel.

 

Y’all. He’ll be selling people camel meat. In Ohio. Get excited.

 

This is very exciting for us because, not only is it exciting to be involved with new trends in the food scene, but it is a HUGE honor to be offered a position. They’ve selected only the top butchers in the entire region.

 

Did I mention that my husband has only been in the butchering program since August? Oh, and he’s only been out of the apprenticeship since May?? Oh, and that he’s brilliant beyond brilliant??? And that he’s my husband????

 

I’m just a little bit proud. No big deal.

 

I think what’s more exciting about this is that he’ll be employed by a company that is ideologically very much in line with how we feel about food. We’re passionate about food education and about knowing where our food comes from. We feel strongly that people need to remember that meat actually comes from animals, a sacrifice we’re very grateful for. We’re also passionate about cuts of meat, what part of the animal they come from, how that translates to tenderness or toughness and how that translates to cooking methods.

 

Ultimately, we feel that, as a society, we take things for granted. That to so many people meat is just meat, food is just food, days are just days. As a couple, we’re trying to instill in our children (and ourselves) that even the most commonplace things have intrinsic beauty and value. Enjoyment of these commonplace things can be significantly increased when we take the time to learn about them, appreciate them, and to use them properly.

 

It’s about meat and so much more.

 

And that is why I’m excited to announce a new segment on Oh Bless Your Heart. Once a month, I’ll be featuring a guest post by my husband primarily about getting the most out of your local butcher shop, but a smattering of other food related things as well. Because he’s not extremely confident in his writing abilities, he’s decided to call it “Butchering the Blog,” but I’m pretty sure you’ll find his writing ain’t too shabby. Anyway, here goes for our first installment! Leave the man some love and tell us what you think!

 

 

 

Top rounds being cut into London Broils…just a typical day at work for the hubz.

 

The world of meat cutting is a rather peculiar place.  The more I interact with both the employees and the public the more I realize there is a huge gap between the two.  This divide between butcher and meat purchaser has, like any relationship, caused a serious misunderstanding on both sides. Butchers are a grumpy lot, I know this first hand.  Many of them have worked in the industry since they were teenagers. Just for reference, the lightest box of meat we see on a pallet is no less than 50 lbs. and these 70 year old dudes regularly unload two full pallets a day, which consist of 15-20 boxes per pallet. They’ve spent decades in a job that has cast off by the public as nothing more than a glorified ground meat salesman.  While they may be grumpy, they love the job with a passion I have never witnessed in any of my other endeavors, and there have been many.

 

While they may be surly old men, some of them are masters of their trade.  While I was an apprentice I had the great fortune of working with a man named Bob who had cut meat for 45 years and the cuts he produced were true works of art.

 

Beef Florentine Pinwheels

 

Meat cutting isn’t as easy as it looks. People assume that anyone can do it, but the difference between a masterfully cut piece of meat and a poor quality one is like comparing Monet to Ed Hardy. It’s like if you went to the kitchen, grabbed some bologna and white bread and then cut your sandwich in half with a power saw. I’m pretty sure you’d end up with a mangled mess. Maybe somebody could do that easily, but not without practice. Just to be sure, maybe you should try it.

 

But don’t really do that, it would be a waste of bologna.

 

What I’m getting at is that there are a few people at YOUR local grocery stores who still view meat cutting as the art form and trade that it really is.  Do yourself a favor and seek these people out. They can be tough to sort out and intimidating at times, but if you really pay attention to the details of the work being produced you will be able to spot even fat trimming on steaks, cuts of meat displayed in a visually stimulating fashion and a passion for the trade. You just have to build up the courage to speak with them. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Unfortunately, this is a “while supplies last” kind of deal.  Every day we see more and more prepackaged meats flooding the shelves. These things are evil and must be destroyed.  I mean we don’t even cut fresh lamb or veal anymore! It’s a thing of shame.  Anyway, get to know your butcher. The good one. The one who doesn’t hand you something pre-cut off the main line or out of the service case when you need something really special. Find the guy who goes in the cooler and gets you the best piece of meat he can because it actually means something to him as well.  These artists may not exist forever so enjoy their work while you can.

 

A partial view of his dedication.
Photo courtesy of limelightphotography.com. Tattoo by Doug Kulbis at Voodoo Monkey, Cleveland, OH.

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