Tag Archives: butchering

Nice Rack!

Head out of the gutter readers, it ain’t my rack you’ll be reading about today! This one’s about LAMB!

Nice Rack!

Due to an unfortunately poor response and cancellation of the workshop “Meet your Meat” scheduled to take place on May 31st with Dan DeMatteis and Alex Johnston of Provenance Regional Cuisine, Dan and I decided to play anyway and break down the tiny 31lb lamb that had been custom slaughtered for the event. So sad that we couldn’t do it with a group, but fun none the less!

It all started with Mark Trealout, of the Kawartha Ecological Growers, delivering the fully dressed animal, guts swinging in the wind from chest cavity, eyeballs popping out of the skinned head, and tongue twisted and turned around sticking out through the jaw bone akin to faces a six year old makes when he is angry about going to school that day. It was a Dorsett/Suffolk cross produced by Leroy Zehr slaughtered last Tuesday

It's the Happy Lamb Show! (Insert jazz hands here)

Having a farmer pull up in a big truck on a residential street, and then pulling out a naked lamb, was certainly good entertainment for the neighbours. Mark took hold of the four skinny ankles and laid it to rest, like it was no big deal, on my kitchen table. The neighbours will have lots to talk about regarding the creepy girl who lives underground in the house next door.

Fridge contraption to keep the door closed from the kicking beast inside.

Crisper drawers removed from the fridge, and everything else shifted about to make space, I stuffed little lamby into a clear garbage bag and squeezed him in. This is the contraption I skillfully created to keep the door closed (serious lack of duct tape in my apartment).

We prepared the harvest table for dissection and wrapped it in parchment paper, got out multiple dishes to collect all of the good bits, and sharpened our knives. Armed with cleavers and saws we went to it, Chateau des Charmes non-oaked Chardonnay at the ready. Dan is an excellent teacher and patient beyond patient as I fumbled my way along muscles, tendons, and fascia.

Bodacious Belly Bits

He let me do the fancy parts like the tenderloins and meat from around the neck explaining to me how to create a beautiful roast all tied up with string like a pretty little package. We laughed a lot, and enjoyed Jenny Whitely singing to us from the radio. There were certainly a few cuts that we didn’t get quite right. Namely figuring out how to separate the chops from the vertebrae, without having to saw the whole back bone in half. And forgetting to leave that portion of shoulder meat attached to the rack instead of cutting it off with the shoulder leaving a gash in the skin around the ribs.

My hardcore new tattoo - Ontario Approved.

It was pretty simple once we figured out that we could just cleave our way down each side of the backbone and the rack would stay together. Unfortunately there were little shards of bone everywhere around the kitchen due to our having to learn that the hard way.

Note to all aspiring butchers: saws made to cut through wood for home building projects are NOT, I repeat, NOT, designed to cut through lamb bones.

Dan's Diligent Dissection

Dan snapped the rib cages, to show how manly he was, and to break up the chops from the short ribs and belly meat, cut off chunks of shoulder meat for stewing, and removed the shank leaving a big hunk of roast ready rump. Boy did he prove his manliness to me!


After a few hours of hacking our way through little lamby, it was time for din dins. I don’t generally eat meat, although that seems to be quickly changing, but I couldn’t wait to taste the earthy flavour of lamb at the tail end of this beautiful spring. We whipped together a simple arugula and radish salad, some spongy buckwheat crepes,

The delicious end result - lamb chops and Dan's ever-capable hands.

and sweet potato mash, seasoned the lamb rack with rosemary from the garden, and harvested mint for a simple syrupy sauce. Together with two little kidneys, Dan offered up perfectly grilled chops from the BBQ that melted in our mouths.It was indescribable, but I’ll do my best. The most delicate and crispy skin enveloped a thin but substantial layer of flavourful fat, which housed tender, juicy morsels of meat falling off of the bones and through our lickable fingers. There was just enough pink sea salt to balance out the satisfying sweetness, as well as gamey and musty qualities for which lamb is so highly sought after. The juices ran down our chins as we sucked every last ounce of perfect meat from the ribs. Swimming in freshly made mint sauce, the meal was a perfect treat for all of our hard work breaking down little lamby. My landlord came out to join us on the patio out back, cheekily introducing herself to Dan by hollering “Nice rack!”.We lingered for a while al fresco in what was arguably a lamb coma or newly coined term “loma”, then faced the clean up that awaited us in the kitchen.


This little piggy went to… dinner.

I don’t generally find myself in the company of great chefs, nor do I find myself in the company of freshly slaughtered animals, but I got the chance this weekend to hang out with Dan DeMatteis and a 6 week old Berkshire/Hampshire cross from Cameron Reeds delivered to the city by Mark Trealout of Kawartha Ecological Growers. As I have decided 2010 is the year of “NEW”, any opportunity to learn is a priority. This particular learning curve was way out of my comfort zone, though. When I was about 6, my family holidayed at a bed and breakfast to discover what life is like on a working farm. We rode on tractors, cuddled with lambs, bailed hay, and went on field trips to visit the neighbours. After checking out a major chicken operation supplying the likes of KFC and Swiss Chalet, I had the fear in me of humanity and of animal husbandry due to a sealed garbage bag at the door that was still clucking. Next stop was the alcoholic pig farmer just down the road, where my heart became hardened seeing a tiny little piglet discarded on a pile of shit in the corner of the barn. The sow had just had a litter of the most perfect little pink piglets some of which sported black spots. There was one runt in the litter that I noticed couldn’t wrestle her way to a teet and was much smaller than the rest of her brothers and sisters. I just couldn’t let her end up like the other guy thrown haphazardly onto the pile, and desperately pleaded with my mom and the farmer that we were staying with to take her back with us. I’m not sure why they agreed, but after administering a healthy dose of iron filings force fed on a stick by the sketchy pig farmer, we coddled her in a blanket and I held her close all the way back to the farm. We named her Celeste, and made her a nice cozy spot in the basement by the dryer where she could be kept warm under a heat lamp. We fed her by bottle and made sure not to leave her side for the rest of our time there. Henry and Lorraine graciously agreed to keep her at their farm and raise her there as we did our research and realized we could not take her back to the Annex. I was devastated to leave her there, but knew that Celeste would be well taken care of. We visited her a couple of times, and my father was always blown away by the fact that she seemed to recognize our voices, even after weeks of not seeing her. One day, I was told that Celeste was no longer… that she had been sold, and was most likely bacon. Again, devastation. I didn’t understand, and I certainly didn’t know that her fate had always been that of the abattoir. So, from that point onwards, I didn’t knowingly eat pork. Until one day in May 2009 when the induction of the Tamworth breed into the Slow Food Arc of Taste inspired me to celebrate pigs, and give it a try. The obvious next step was to actually face my fear of animal carcass and get my own hands dirty in honour of my sweet Celeste. And so, I share with you my experience here.

Saturday afternoon at Queen and Spadina, bustling through the crowded streets, all dressed up to attend a wedding later in the day, to get to Dan’s place in time to watch it all go down.

Dan and Le Cochon

Zara and Le Cochon

The pig came gutless and clean as a whistle. Very little blood and gore, which was a good thing at this stage as I would have probably hurled otherwise. One step at a time. Dan masterfully cut away the flesh from the bone and showed me how to efficiently and carefully butcher the meat so that nothing was wasted. He is preparing¬† every part of the pig in a number of different ways for a reunion dinner party. We poked around, figured things out as we went along, and triumphantly ended up with cuts of meat that even the most discerning consumer would gladly purchase in the finest of butcher shops! I was grossed out and thrilled all at the same time, making sure not to get too carried away by all of the excitement. Unfortunately I ran out of time and had to leave before the whole pig was portioned, but got a good sense of how it works and can’t wait to be there for the next big project! Check out a graphic VIDEO of the event! Thanks Dan!!!

Off with your wings!

Today I started working for Provenance Regional Cuisine. Alex Johnston has created a business delivering prepared meals, pantry staples and fresh food products to homes across Toronto. Every ingredient has been carefully chosen and lovingly prepared as weekly menus or a la carte as directly as possible from farm to front door. Subscribers receive several meals each week on Thursday evenings to enjoy for the week to come. This week, the kitchen was churning out meat pies, cheesy meatballs, pork and beans, sustainable fennel and fish soup, and corned beef hash. While I was there Fenwood chickens were delivered to the kitchen and butchered by guest chef, Dan DeMatteis, who took me under his wing to show me how to properly butcher a chicken. I have hacked my way through bones and flesh many times before, but this was an art. I think I did pretty well too!

Butchering Fenwood Naturally Raised Chicken at Provenance