Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pig Butchering Workshop - Warning: This post may be too intense for sensitive viewers

I arrived at Carmelo's Restaurant, located in Lewiston, NY just in time to hang up my coat and grab one of the few pork sandwiches left and a cup of Leonard Oakes' Steampunk Cider before Chef Bruce Wieszala owner of COPPA Artisan Cured Meats demonstrated how to break down a whole pig from nose to tail into primals and sub primals.

As he broke down the well slaughtered and very clean small pig, he engaged the group of chefs and food enthusiasts on how to use the different cuts, suggesting cooking and curing techniques. Below are photos showing how ribs, bacon, chops, loin, and more were separated. Some shots are quite intense, one of the group actually fainted when the bone saw was used.

Chef began with the right side, dividing it into three manageably sections. The first major cut was to remove the bone from what would become a ham or cured to create prosciutto.



He then sectioned out loin, tenderloin, chop, ribs, and bacon cuts.

First he made a series of different rib cuts.

Pork Spare Ribs - This inexpensive cut comes from around the belly of the pig. Because belly meat is prized for bacon, spareribs are cut as close to the bone as possible.

St. Louis–Style Ribs - These ribs, used in barbecue, are pork spareribs with a uniform, rectangular shape thanks to the removal of the end portion, or rib tip, and the skirt, a flap of meat attached to the bone side.
Baby Back Pork Ribs - Baby backs are taken from around the loin, the muscle that runs along the pig's back on either side of the spine, for a leaner cut that cooks rapidly.

English-Style Beef Short Ribs - Relatively tough beef short ribs, taken from the bottom of the rib cage, work best braised, as in the Hawaiian Cowboy Beef Stew. The ones known as English style are cut parallel to the bone and separated from one another.

Flanken-Cut Beef Short Ribs - This cut, used in eastern European Jewish soups and stews, comes from the same part of the steer as English-style ribs, but it's cut across the ribs into a thin slab containing several bones.

Country-Style Pork Ribs - These, the meatiest of ribs, come either from the loin, in which case they cook quickly, or, more often, from near the shoulder, which means they're tougher and benefit from low, slow cooking.

The photo to the right shows well trimmed ribs. 

The pork loin runs roughly from the animal’s hip to shoulder. This is where we get the leanest and most tender pork cuts. Since they're lean, these cuts tend to dry out if overcooked.

Pork is safe to eat if it's cooked to an interior temperature of 160 degrees. There are three main parts of the loin: the blade end, which is closest to the shoulder and tends to be fatty; the sirloin end,

which is closest to the rump and tends to be bony; and the center portion in the middle, which is lean, tender, and expensive.

The photo to the right shows a delicate tenderloin. This cut is lean, tender, and boneless. It's delicious roasted, grilled, or broiled as long as you don't overcook it.

The photo to the left shows a slab of bacon.

The head is often broken down to make headcheese, and then the bones, snout, ears and other portions are used to make all sorts of delicacies.

This workshop was amazing, with people asking and answering questions, throwing out suggestions and just getting into the spirit of honoring this animal by creating food from snout to tail.


  1. Good for you for participating in this! Butchering is becoming a lost art, so to speak - so it's great that these types of workshops are being held. I just experienced a bit of squeamishness this morning while peeling and de-taloning some chicken feet to use in my bone broth. But I'd like to think that I'd be able to do this workshop!

    1. I think you would have been fine. The animal had been slaughtered, gutted, and scrubbed clean and so by the time we saw the carcass it had been "sanitized" of it's more scented parts. Slaughter is dirty smelly work, the butchering not so much. Next time I hear of one I'll message you ASAP!