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:
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!|