Like most of you, I've been getting very picky about where my meat comes from. Hunting and harvesting wild game is relatively straightforward, compared to buying meat from the supermarket these days.
The boys did well on their antelope hunt this fall. This little Pronghorn will provide us with much lean meat, for which we are grateful. Unlike most commercial meat products, we know exactly where this antelope is from.
Are you no longer content with cling-wrapped cuts of meat on foam trays with cryptic labels, such as "contains pork products from Canada and the USA"? Unless you subsist only on game meat, like many in Wyoming and Idaho do, it's time to get to know a butcher.
I recently attended a demonstration of butchery at the Aspens Market here in Jackson. If I had never fully grasped the meaning of "nose-to-tail" meat processing before, this two hour class, in which we watched Josh and Morgan butcher a freshly harvested pig, surely drove the point home.
Josh and Morgan bisect the pig with a handsaw, as fellow classmate Bill looks on.
This pig was raised just outside of Teton County at Robinson Family Farms in Bedford, Wyoming. You may have met the Robinson family at the Jackson Hole Farmers' Market on the Town Square this summer. One of their pigs was the star attraction at a pig roast I attended last summer, where it was barbecued all afternoon in an aluminum box (La Caja China) under a bed of coals, but that's another story.
Maho and Sambo demonstrate how to flip a pig in a Caja China without spilling your mojito. Doesn't summer seems like such a long time ago?
Seeing all the meat that comes from butchering a pig is an eye-opening experience. This pig was raised humanely, put down gently, and almost none of it will go to waste. Only 3 pounds of our over-300 pound pig ended up in the trash; apparently there are some porcine glands that you just don't want to eat.
The butchers at the Aspens Market know their meat. You may remember Josh and Joel
who I introduced you to last May, who trained in Italy with Dario Cecchini, the famous "singing butcher" of Panzano. Now Morgan Brownlow has joined the team, a chef/restauranteur/butcher with an interest in charcuterie. He demonstrated how to cure the pig's jowl to make guanciale, and how to massage the ham in preparation for making prosciutto, a process that takes up to two years.
Morgan massages the ham of the pig, which releases the blood and tenderizes the meat, in preparation for making prosciutto.
The pig's jowl is cured with salt, pepper, sugar and lots of secret spices for a month, then hung for another month to make guanciale.
Whole animal butchery is getting a lot of press in the national news as a fresh fleet of young butchers, male and female, are opening their own neighborhood butcher shops. Earlier this month in the New York Times, "The Lost Art of Buying from a Butcher"
illustrates how the average consumer will have to learn how to order meat, after decades of having the meat presented precut and packaged at the supermarket.
If you want to eat locally-raised, humanely treated, pasture-grazing animals that have never seen a feedlot, there are lots of choices in our community. Besides the whole animal butchery going on at the Aspens Market
, local meats can be found at Jackson Whole Grocer
and Pearl St. Meat and Fish
here in Jackson. If you prefer to shop at the supermarkets, you can find all sorts of local meats. Just ask the butcher on duty; they should know where the meat comes from and how it is processed.
Momofuku ramen noodle soup with shredded pork shoulder, nori, a generous dose of Sriracha, and a slow-poached egg. The perfect meal to combat the mid-November chill.
My foray into pig butchery inspired me to make a big batch of Momofuku Ramen Noodle Soup with Roasted and Shredded Pork Shoulder, like the soup you would definitely order if you were walking through Chinatown in San Francisco, Chicago or New York, and you saw a tiny noodle shop packed with happy diners slurping their noodles and tilting their bowls to catch every last drop of broth. At least that was the soup I had in mind.
It's nice to have lots of hands in the kitchen to make dumplings. Jack and Nick have great technique; only a few of their dumplings exploded.
After the butchery class, I brought home a fresh bundle of ground pork, which meant we had to make some Ginger Pork Potstickers. I recruited some help in the kitchen for this project; dumplings should not be made alone.
Jack uses a dumpling mold to speed up the process while Gunner longingly eyes the fragrant pork.
High quality meats from an artisanal butcher can be expensive, but he or she can also offer you many economical choices. The ground pork for my dumplings was not expensive at all. For my Ramen project, Morgan chose a handful of meaty pork bones that would be the base for the broth (cost: under $5). Josh found me an end piece of Benton's bacon, an integral ingredient for giving the broth its smokey, salty depth (cost: $4.50). Then Joel boned and skinned a generous piece of the picnic shoulder ($5.99/lb.), which I rubbed with equal parts Kosher salt and sugar, let marinate for half the day, then slow roasted for about six hours. Shredding the meat gave me enough to feed my entire neighborhood Ramen Noodle Soup, with leftovers. (I'll have that recipe ready for you soon, very soon, I promise, because I know you will need to make Ramen this month.)
I bought plenty of natural pasture-raised beef from Tucker of Teton Waters Ranch in Idaho at the Farmer's Market this summer. Buying directly from the rancher can certainly save you money, and their beef is some of the best I've ever had.
If you want to save a bundle on local natural meats, buy directly from the farmer and have an independent butcher process it as you like. Derek Ellis at Ellis Custom Meats
in Driggs, Idaho processes wild game and locally harvested animals. He sources organic grass fed lambs from Lava Lake Lamb, which you can buy by the half or the whole. After consulting with Derek, he transformed my half lamb into 30 pounds of stew meat for curries, shanks, ribs, loins and chops, a butterflied and boned leg, and his own recipe of amazingly lemony and aromatic lamb sausage. I also requested plain ground lamb, which I'll use in stir fries, empanadas, moussakas and burgers.
You may remember meeting Derek last year on my blog, "A Foodie Day in Teton Valley".
Derek also processed the pig I went in on with friends last summer. A 4-H pig raised by a kid I've known since preschool, "Christopher's Pig" as we call it around here, was lovingly cared for all summer, then auctioned off at the county fair. With Derek's guidance, I ordered ground pork, breakfast sausage, hot Italian sausage, a smoked ham, smoked hocks, a picnic and a butt, the tenderloin, and lots of smokey thick-cut bacon. He even smoked the ear for my dogs, and cured the cheek for my very own hunk of guanciale, which is my secret ingredient in soups, risottos and pasta. We are loving every ounce of Christopher's Pig.
A dumpling press can save a bit of time when making a large batch of dumplings, but it is not essential. I found this press at Belle Cosa in Jackson, Wyoming. I adore Belle Cosa.
For a printable version of the recipe, click on the file below it.
Ginger Pork Potstickers
It is essential to have a good source of freshly ground pork to make these potstickers. Ask your butcher to grind the meat for you, but not too coarsely.
This recipe comes from Rick and Lanie's Excellent Kitchen Adventures, a book that Rick Bayless wrote with his teenage daughter.
Makes about 40 dumplings.
Ginger Pork Potstickers are pan-fried for crispness, then steamed in the same pan to cook through.
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 green onions, cut into 1/4 pieces
- 1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, grated
- 1 pound lean ground pork (or use turkey or chicken)
- 1/3 small head Napa cabbage, thinly sliced, about 3 cups
- 1 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- About 40 round dumpling wrappers (gyoza wrappers or dumpling skins)
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided, for frying
- Potsticker Dipping Sauce: 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil, 1 Tablespoon vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
These dumplings are stuffed with lots of crunchy Napa cabbage, but any green cabbage will do them justice.
- Place the minced garlic, chopped green onions, and grated ginger into a medium bowl and mix well.
- Add the sliced cabbage, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pork.
- Set out a large baking sheet or tray for your dumplings. Set out a small bowl of water for dipping your fingers into. Cover the dumpling wrappers with a wet towel, and keep them covered while you work so that they don't dry out.
- To make a dumpling, place a wrapper in the palm of your hand (or onto a dumpling press). Use your other hand to dip a finger into the water, and moisten the outside rim of the wrapper evenly. Place one tablespoon of filling neatly in the center. Fold the dumpling so that the edges meet in a semicircle. Now fold and pleat to seal.
- Place the dumpling on its side on the tray, and shape slightly so that it is lying flat. Cover with a moist towel and continue until all the dumplings are done.
- Set a large (10 inch) skillet that has a lid over medium heat. Once hot, drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil into the pan. When shimmering, carefully lay the dumplings into the oil, making sure they are not packed tightly. Fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes each side.
- Now carefully add about 1/2 cup water to the skillet and cover. Shake the pan to be sure the dumplings aren't sticking. Cook for 6 minutes with the lid closed, and then 2 more with the lid off until all the water has evaporated from the pan. Remove, and keep warm.
- Wipe out the skillet, heat and add another tablespoon of oil, and cook the next batch.
- Mix the Dipping Sauce ingredients in a small bowl, and serve with the hot dumplings.
This dumpling has too much filling; it won't seal properly and will burst when you try to cook it. Make sure there is no filling touching the sealed edges.
To freeze dumplings for another day, place them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, making sure they are not touching, and freeze. Once solid, place them in plastic baggies. To cook, drop them into boiling water, and remove when they float to the top. Drain until very dry, and then sauté in hot oil as above.
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: full service butcher market and charcuterieEllis Custom Meats
: Derek is an independent butcher, specializing in sourcing local animals, processing wild game, and creating artisanal meats and sausagesLava Lake Lamb
: natural, grass-fed lamb from Idaho; buy direct from their website, or through Ellis Custom Meats. Visit their website for lamb recipes galore.Teton Waters Ranch
: natural, pasture-raised beef from Idaho; can be purchased directly from the ranchers through their website, at their cafe in Driggs, or at Jackson Whole Grocer in Jackson, WY.
Cold and snowy, blustery and blowing: a good night to make a big batch of potstickers!