Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Sausage making and a butchery day course

A few weeks back, while me and Ruby were spending time with the chickens down on Church Farm, the old man was taking up his Christmas present - a one-day butchery course with Farm 2 Table.

As a meat-eating family I think it's important to understand where our meat comes from and to try and buy it as responsibly as possible.

A bit of a closet foodie, he was really looking forward to this hands-on experience with father and son team Tony and Louis.

The day started with a tour of the farm explaining the importance placed on rearing the animals in a stress-free environment.  As we were staying too, we were allowed to join the group and although we've been round the farm many times it was interesting to hear about the animals from a meat-rearing perspective.

Louis talked about how they'd moved their business from Smithfields market and they now sell produce through the farm shop and growing online business.  He spoke enthusiastically about animal welfare and how their business ethics match the ethos of the farm.

After a bracing walk around the farm, the guys donned their whites and retired to the cold store area, with a variety of pigs and cows hung ready for butchering.


They learnt about how long each animal should be hung - they use 16 days minimum for beef, although pork can basically be butchered straight away.  

On the farm, the poultry are slaughtered on site but larger animals are sent to a nearby abattoir.  The team described the local abattoir and their methods for transporting and minimising distress to the livestock.  The animals are given an overnight stay to allow them to relax fully after their short journey.  

The course was very hands-on from the beginning and the staff spoke passionately about the art of butchery and articulated what a skilled profession it actually is.

On the day, the attendees were very lucky.  Bad weather and snow had put many of the others booked on the course off, so only 2 hardy would-be butchers arrived that Saturday and because of that they got extra special attention.

All the necessary health and safety briefings out of the way, they were given half a pig each and set to work under the guidance of butchers Tony and Will, cutting various joins and preparing meat for bacon and sausages.

"I was stuck by how technically skilled they both were with the knives and the speed in which they sharpened their knives constantly was both hypnotic and terrifying!  Every butcher has their own individual knives, sharpened to their personal preference."


The course teaches an overview of all the various cuts of meat and equips delegates with the knowledge of what to look for when buying meat, and also what cheap tricks some of the big companies use to fob unsuspecting customers off with the inferior quality cuts.

"I was amazed how meticulous and careful they were to avoid waste when boning the meat."

The pigs return to the farm butchery with the kidney attached, evoking childhood memories of pork chops with deep red kidneys - something you don't see anymore.


Both Tony and his assistant talked continuously about their motivation for putting the course on - they wanted people to understand what goes into butchery and that you don't have to buy over-processed supermarket meat.  There are companies who care about the life of the animal and maintain what, in many senses is a dying industry. They're passionate about passing skills on.

There was a discussion about changing fashions in cuts of meat. Time was the pig's head and feet were thrown away because nobody wanted them, but now with high-end restaurants serving trotters and cheeks they've become sought after again. 

There was a break for lunch when the trainee butchers popped into the cafe on the farm and enjoyed a hearty Red Poll beef burger with a new-found respect and reverence for the food they were eating.

After lunch, they observed Tony butchering one of their cows, showing how to cut the various well-known fillets of beef - sirloin, rump, fillet, chateau briand etc (at £700 worth of meat they were hardly going to let the amateurs loose on this!)


Next it was time to start preparing the pork for sausage making.  This is one of the most popular parts of the course, they even put on special hen night sausage making sessions.

Some of the cuts they'd prepared before were fed through a giant mincer before being mixed with rusk and a seasoning of salt and pepper. It's good to know that Church Farm butchers counter sell  only decent sausages with no ropey bits in!  The mixture is kneaded before the fun part commences.


Once the barrel is filled with the mixture, the tricky manoeuvre to attach the sausage skin over the nozzle and using your knee to start the machine you'd better be ready for when the sausage machine starts firing out the meat under high pressure!  It's very Generation Game, you need to keep a pace as though unravelling a garden hose at speed.  In a matter of a minute you've got 12 ft of sausage.  


The super-long sausage is then twisted into sections, and they were taught how to tie them into traditional strings.  

"Each butcher seems to have his own personal preferred technique for doing this, and watching them was mesmerising their hands working at 100 mph."



Finally, they returned to the butcher's counter in the shop laden with goods - armfuls of sausages, chops, pork belly, fillet of pork.  In the shop a customer had just asked for some burgers so they had the added bonus of learning how to make beef patties for too.


"I was struck by the high level of skill involved.  More importantly, I was left with a profound sense of a team of people with a genuine passion about what they're doing and a desire to bring great-tasting, happy meat to the public, and to help people understand that farming can be done in a sustainable and ethical way."



He came away after a long day with loads of packets of sausages and other meat to fill our freezer back home. As we were all staying the night on the farm in one of their lodges, we rustled up a hearty dinner on the camp stove of homemade sausages, fresh bread from the farm shop baked on site and fried eggs which myself and Ruby had collected.  Talk about eating locally!


Thanks to Tony and the team for a great day.  You can find out more about the courses on the Farm 2 Table website  or Facebook page.

The courses take place at Church Farm, Ardeley near Stevenage, Herts on various dates and run from approximately 10:30 - 4:30.

29 comments:

  1. I think it would be an intersting experience! My husband would love this. Angela x
    http://angelahamilton2014.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. Mine was totally blown away by it, I think it was an inspired gift from me :)

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  2. That looks fabulous. I would really love to do one of these days and I've often talked about it with my husband. He on the other hand has ideas about buying a half a pig for the freezer.

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    1. Wow that's some big freezer you have there Erica!

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  3. It is so important for people to know where their food comes form. This course sounds fascinating. I wish we had a butcher near us rather than having to rely on pre-packed supermarket meat.

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    1. Absolutely! And if you're going to eat it you can't be squirmish about it.

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  4. Goodness, what a really interesting idea for a present. Would never have thought of that at all, but really think that this could be a great one for all those meat loving men out there, and ladies too! Cheers for sharing.

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    1. You're welcome Helen. I think lots of people book it as a gift, it's a really unusual present.

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  5. My husband would love this. As a farmers daughter in law I am well aware where our food come and are not squeamish at all

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    1. Oh I wonder if there's anything similar near you?

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  6. Ooh, that's quite close to us and it sounds really interesting. I think OH would definitely enjoy it!

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    1. Oh I didn't realise you were nearby?

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  7. Oh wow that really would be an experience.

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    1. He's still raving about it Emma!

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  8. I used to keep pigs and because of where we lived was never able to make sausages with the meat - making my own sausages has always appealed to me as I would know what was in them. It looks a fascinating course and something I would LOVE to do.

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    1. I love the idea of knowing EXACTLY what goes into your food and where (right down to which field) it's come from.

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  9. Ohh that last meal sounds fabulous and my hubby would really enjoy this course too, looks fabulous. Mich x

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    1. It seems to be a definite man thing doesn't it?!

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  10. This is so cool !!! Lovely Bloke would like this as a present. I think it would be good fun for him and his friends to all do together as well - great way to make memories. And it's not far from us, so I think it might be Father's Day gift worthy. Thank you for writing about this is so much detail as well - I really feel like we were there with Old Man !!!!

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    1. Oh yes, not too far from you and a GREAT Father's Day present Liz. x

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  11. This was absolutely fascinating, im quite jealous as it is something I have always wanted to watch and natually I love meat x

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  12. oh what a great day to have , i love sausages i esecially think they will taste so much better if youve made them yourself x

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    1. We're having some for dinner tonight actually! Delicious.

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  13. What a great idea and yes we should all know where our food comes from

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  14. Oh this is right up my street, what fun you will have had.

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  15. My Oh would love to go on something like this. Obviously not my bag but I do think we need to understand how the food we buy gets from farm to plate so we can make better more informed choices

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  16. My husband used to manage a meat counter and had to do a course similar to this - he found it fascinating

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  17. What an interesting experience! I think it's really important for kids to understand where meat comes from xx

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