Warning: please do not continue to read if you find images of animal carcasses offensive
Last Christmas, I bought my boyfriend a Ginger Pig butchery course as a gift. We have lived very close to the Lauriston Road shop since it opened a few years back and have sampled various cuts/sausages/bacon/Christmas birds during this time. We have never been disappointed and I really think you can taste the difference between their meat and that which you can buy in the supermarket.
We finally got around to setting a date for the course a couple of months ago, and at the same time bought another place for me. We opted for the pork class, but these are also available in lamb, beef and sausage making.
The courses are held at the Marylebone shop on Moxon Street. We went along after work one Tuesday evening a couple of weeks ago and were greeted by butchers Perry and Borut on our arrival. Out of the 16 attendees, I was the only girl and was a little apprehensive at first, but Perry and Borut were super friendly and I soon realised I had nothing to worry about.
While we were waiting for everyone to arrive, we were kitted out in beige overalls and shown to a table where there lay half a pig carcass, complete with head and tail! The head was pinker than I expected, and even wore what looked like a smile.
Once everyone had arrived, Borut gave us a little introduction to the Ginger Pig. We found out the name comes from the colour of their Tamworth pigs, and that this is one of four breeds of pig they farm. They have four farms in total, all in Yorkshire where all their meat comes from. The animals are free range, eat as much or as little as they wish, and are only slaughtered when they reach the correct size rather than a particular age; this is different for every pig according to their appetite and physical activity, and typically takes longer than in intensive farming.
Before we got down to the nitty gritty of the butchery we were treated to a gorgeous Ginger Pig sausage roll to dampen our hunger. Perry then took us through the different cuts of pork and gave us detailed advice on when to use and how to cook them. Some of us had the opportunity to participate in the butchering of the pig and when it came to my turn, I had to saw through the ribs, which it turned out I was pretty useless at. I got there in the end though with Perry’s help and encouragement.
Next Perry showed us how to bone the loin, and to roll and tie it with some ridiculously complicated knots. We were all given our own loin and asked to do the same. It definitely was not as easy as Perry made it look. We rubbed the meat with garlic, salt, pepper and crushed fennel before wrapping it up ready to take home.
While the class was going on, Borut was busy in the kitchen preparing our dinner of roasted pork loin and gratin dauphinois. We ate standing around two communal tables. The meat was rich and tender, and the crackling perfect. We were given some of the Ginger Pig jellies they sell in their shops as accompaniments to the meat. Apple & chilli was my favourite – I’ve posted a recipe below of my attempt at this. To drink we had a Picpoul de Pinet which complimented the pork brilliantly. We were all fit to bursting and claiming we could eat no more when Borut appeared with a freshly baked, chocolate studded bread and butter pudding. How could we say no? It’s just as well we weren’t sitting as we would never have been able to get back up!
With our brains full of piggy information and our bellies of food, we said our farewells to Borut and Perry, loaded ourselves up with our almost 8kg (!) of pork and headed to the bus stop. Once home we had to freeze the pork as my boyfriend was flying out to New York early the next morning for work. As much as I would have loved to, I doubt very much I would have been able to consume a cut all to myself. I have a feeling we are probably be going to be having some big pork-based dinner parties very soon.
Overall the course was enjoyable and informative, and I would absolutely recommend it whether you want to learn new skills or just for fun. I know I definitely want to go again.
Apple & Chilli Jelly
4 medium Bramley Apples
1 litre water
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
Granulated white sugar * (same no. of grams as ml of apple juice)
2 tsp dried chilli flakes (or to taste – I like it hot)
Put the water and lemon zest in a heavy based pan. Wash and roughly chop the apples – no need to peel or core – and add to the pan as you go. The lemon will help to stop the apples from browning. Bring to the boil and then let simmer with the lid on until the apples are breaking up (mine took about an hour).
Line a sieve with a clean tea towel/dish cloth and place over a large bowl. Pour in the contents of the pan. Gather the edges of the towel/cloth and tie with a rubber band. Leave to drain for at least 6 hours or overnight.
The next day, measure how much drained apple juice you have. Add it to a heavy based pan with an equivalent amount of sugar in grams and the lemon juice. Bring to the boil stirring every now and then to help dissolve the sugar. Skim off any scum that appears on the surface. Boil vigorously for 15 or so minutes until you reach setting point. I found it gets quite frothy at this point. You can check if it’s ready by placing a small amount on a plate that has been in the freezer. If there is slight crinkling on the surface when pushed with your finger, it’s done. Stir in the chilli flakes.
Place in sterilised jars and refrigerate until needed. The jelly goes brilliantly with all pork dishes.
* As I unfortunately found out after making my first batch, golden granulated will overpower the apple with a caramel flavour. White is best in this instance.