The Best "Experience" Gift I've Ever Given

Monday, December 15, 2014

If you're like me, tis the season for wracking your brain for what to get for people for  Christmas. Stephen is particularly hard to shop for, as first off, boys are harder to shop for than girls! Also, this will be our fifth Christmas together, and neither of us really like things all too much; we much prefer experience gifts. ( I'm even more minimalistic after recently reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up & Everything That Remains)

Last year I got him an experience gift that I fear I'll never be able to top: a butchering class!

My friend, Elizabeth, had done this with her boyfriend and highly recommended it, and I was fresh out of gift ideas, so I figured I'd give it a go! The Underground Food Collective is this awesome organization in Madison that has a butcher shop, does catering, and also runs Stephen's favorite Madison restaurant, Forequarter. (Try as I may, I can't come up with a favorite Madison restaurant, but Forequarter is definitely in the top five.)

They offer the occasional class, and I signed us up for the Whole Hog Break Down. I'm so glad I did!

No, we did not have to kill the pig. The class started with our instructor, Johnny, showing us in about 20 minutes what we would spend the next 2 or so hours doing: butchering half of a pig.

It was so fascinating to learn where the different cuts of meat come from. This is likely common knowledge for some of you, but I had no clue where  bacon, pork chops, or even ham came from. I mean, I knew they came from "pig" because I have a 5 year-old knowledge of where food comes from, but other than that I was clueless!

The pigs we used came from Roller Coaster Farm in Wisconsin. Our instructor told us an interesting (but disturbing) fact: the Roller Coaster Farm pigs we were butchering had been alive for ~12 months, and with most pork we eat, the pigs were only alive for 3 months! During that time, they're essentially just force fed for slaughter. Isn't that sad? I am a carnivore, but since moving to Wisconsin I've thought a lot more about where my food comes from than ever before. The restaurant scene is very farm-to-table here and I love that about it.

Butchering is WAY harder than one might think -- it's very manual. It involved a using a saw to cut through bones. I pumped iron for years (as an ex-collegiate athlete) and still had trouble with it.

To make pork chops, Stephen used a hammer and chisel thing to pound through the bone:

By this point, I was just snacking on the sausage, snacks, and beer they had for us. Oh yeah, they had snacks and beer! If you do any event in Wisconsin that doesn't have beer, you're doing it wrong ;) But seriously, nearly all the 5k's I run here even end in a complimentary beer. It almost makes running them worth it. Almost.

At the end of the class, we each got to take home 8lbs of meat!!! We wrapped it and weighed it. We took home a sirloin roast, a tenderloin roast, some pork belly, some ribs, and a bunch of pork chops. DELICIOUS. We bought a cheap cast iron pan from Target so we could season and seer the chops on the stove and then stick them in the oven (and by we I mean Stephen). It's the best pork I've ever had.
blurry pic, but the only one of both of us!
The class was $169 a person, and so worth it (especially considering the ~16 lbs of delicious meat we took home!) They also offer a Sausage Class for $99 a person - I have friends who went to that and really enjoyed it as well!   I highly recommend getting this gift; it's an enjoyable and educational way to spend an unforgettable afternoon.

No comments

Post a Comment