Following the early morning slaughter, we headed back to the shop in Kingston to learn how to transform the sides of pork we’d just seen cleaned of entrails and other very identifiably animal parts into the tasty morsels we regularly pick up at the market.
After a delectable (and yes, pork-filled) lunch of sandwiches made with a selection of Fleisher’s deli meats and dry goods, we pulled up chairs and eagerly awaited our next lesson on whole animal butchery.
Our ability to grasp the concepts Hans was instructing us on through the thick but charming German accent served as a constant reminder of the grace, skill, and wisdom of a man who has clearly become a true master of his trade. Seamlessly fulfilling the role of both educator and butcher, Hans put down his scabbard in favor of paper, easel, and pen- the better to write out what he would be showing us on the butcher block later.
He wrote out various forms of meat we are familiar with- pork (of course), chicken, lamb, beef, turkey, duck, rabbit, etc. and explained the various practices associated with the rearing of these animals under modern industrial conditions. He covered what Fleisher’s carries (beef, lamb, pork, chicken, a few seasonal poultry items) and what it does not (rabbit, venison, other game meats). He also informed us of the basic diets and anatomy of these animals: chickens don’t eat grass; there’s only one hanger steak per steer.
After a good hour or two of lecture as well as question and answer sessions, we were ready to move to the large wooden table that had been nearly ignored throughout our engrossing discussion. Hans, a man easily well into his 60s, emerged from a nearby walk-in refrigeration unit with a side of pork -nearly identical to the end product of the morning’s pig to pork transformation- casually thrown over his shoulder.
The next few hours were spent learning the various cuts of meat you can get from a pig- hands-on, step by step instructions on just where to cut, how to trim, remove skin, and debone. When the side of pork was completely disassembled into the pork cuts we conscious carnivores have come to know well, Hans had us rearrange the various parts into the same (now disassembled) half hog we recognized from our earlier lesson.
After a brief foray into lessons on at-home sausage making (make sure the meat is very cold, guide the meat into the casing slowly and carefully the first time around) we were joined by Fleisher’s co-owner Jessica Applestone. She detailed the various processes that make the term “nose to tail” come to life: the soap made with rendered beef tallow sold in the shop, training staff to communicate with customers on rarely-seen or oft-forgotten cuts of meat, and a philosophy on using whole animals that includes writing up recipes for dishes like ‘beef tongue tacos’ and roasted liver treats for pets.
Following the discussion about sustainability at Fleisher’s we helped ourselves to the second pork dish of the day: spicy pork stew with mixed winter vegetables and a cool spring salad. Pints of Brooklyn Brewery beer proved the perfect way to finish out a long, learning-rich day in the world of sustainable, informed meat eating.
This concludes our two-part post. Part 2 brought to you by Meghan McDermott.
For more information on our classes please send an email to anna(at)fleishers.com.