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October 12, 2007

"Beef Up" Your Culinary Skills at It's Arthur's Fault

There's not much that's more empowering than being able to turn a side of beef into juicy steaks, ribs and roasts. Or maybe I'm just a bit strange.

Butchering know-how is crucial for folks in food service, NECI even has a special "Meat Fabrication Lab" in which budding chefs learn the art of dismemberment, but it's a skill that few home cooks ever learn.

But that can change! Arthur Shelmandine, the bottled sauce guru at It's Arthur's Fault, teaches cooking classes out of his Jericho home. One upcoming class is called, "Meat Cutting and Butchering," and will take place on November 17. Here's part of the course description: "We'll be butchering a sizable piece of locally raised, grass-fed beef. Our efforts will produce cuts to be used in our dinner as well as freezer packaged items." The meat will come from Jericho Settler's Farm.

Attendees get to bring home a few pounds of beef, and can also invite a guest to share in the items they prepare. What's on the menu? It's not set in stone yet, but possibilities include: Keftedes, steak and shallots, and Stroganoff.

I tried to find other meat-cutting classes in the area, but Google was less helpful than usual. Know of any?


Heather Belcher

yes, the art of butchering is almost with many trades it has been passed on from mentor to apprentice...and while it is still very strong in canada and europe (where they have butcher competitions still!), i couldn't find any meat cutting schools in the US other than the classes at the culinary schools. many of the old-school butchers have either retired or moved into other professions in the last two decades as small meat markets closed and supermarkets made meat cutting a matter of production instead of the art that it is. the folks graduating from the canadian meat cutting schools are having a tough time finding mentors and apprenticeship opportunities that use their training...i was able to read plenty about that after a google search a few months ago.

at sweet clover market we feel fabulously lucky to have an old school of very few left in Vermont...we get our pigs delivered whole and we break them down onsite the old fashioned is fascinating to watch. we'll very soon be launching a wide search for one lucky person who would be interested in a 2.5 year apprenticeship so that our butcher can pass along what he knows to the next generation. he's old and tired, so he says in between the great jokes, but he has 40+ years of experience and wants to pass it on to someone who will carry the torch...we've even thought about building a formal school here in the store for folks interested in learning the trade. some farmers in the meat biz here in vermont know that the problem with sustaining the local meat supply isn't so much the number of available slaughterhouses as much as the number of qualified people to work there. the challenges of recruiting to be a meat cutter are perhaps obvious, but we'll have to rebuild this component of the infrastructure (among others) somehow if we want Vermont farmers to succeed.

i hadn't heard about the class at it's arthur's fault (thanks for the tip!), but i am guessing you heard about the dinner at shelburne farms on october 27 that is featuring the entire pig....the trend is certainly growing. in the meantime, if you would like a free personal class about how to break down a pig or lamb, let me know and we'll tell you when the next one is due to arrive. we'll even let you work the hand saw :)


Thanks Heather! I am very interested in taking you up on your offer, and we have a freelancer who would probably love to join me. In case you don't see this comment, I'll plan to call you next week.

I am going to The Whole Pig dinner at Shelburne Farms next weekend and I'm very excited. My first feature article for 7 Days was about eating offal, and it's a topic I want to continue exploring.

It would be amazing if you could start a butchering school. Please keep me posted if plans for that move forward.

Heather Belcher

Hi Suzanne,
Just a heads up that we are having a pig delivered tomorrow (friday the 26th) and a lamb delivered saturday the 27th. If you wanna see it, just call us at 872-8288 and talk to our butcher Cole and see if it has arrived yet or ask him to call you when it does. otherwise, we'll connect about future delivery times. thanks!


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