Saturday, May 25, 2013

We’re All In Our Places, With Bright Shiny Faces…

Finally got a taste of what Pam goes through.  Last February, as we were putting together plans for the trip, a notice came by email of a special class that would be offered in addition to the regular Ballymaloe Cookery Course.  An entire day’s seminar on how to butcher a pig.

 The Pig is My Friend

Pamela of course was ecstatic.  But instead of signing just her up for the day’s festivities, she wanted me to join her.  Oh Joy….  Now, I’ve done my share of hunting and fishing, gutting and skinning, but facing a whole pig at nine in the morning with sharp knives flying in different directions wielded by God knows who… Ah c’mon.

But like many experienced husbands, (notice I did not say noble, wise or intelligent husbands) I knew a happy wife makes for a happy me.  Besides, in four months the world could come to an end, Ireland could fall into the sea, the pig could make its great escape.  I said O.K., sign me up.

The morning dawned bright and shiny over Ballycotton.  Not too much rain, or wind.  The car didn’t break down.  I didn’t (couldn’t) oversleep.  It was me vs. the pig.

Lo and behold, my first break came when I learned it was demonstration only… no hands on cutting.  Actually, I’ve been practicing my knife sharpening skills and was almost looking forward to the challenge.  Almost.  About forty of us arrived to coffee, tea and cakes to calm our fears and let us get to know one another.

We walked into the modern classroom, mirror over the presenter to show his every move and close circuit television to project the scene on flat screens to the sides.  And there in all it’s glory was… The PIG… or rather just half of it.

First part of the course, with the pig staring right at me, was a short lesson on knife sharpening.  As a consistent failure at this culinary art, I was fascinated, almost hopeful, but mostly wistful that at least some people in the world know how to keep a sharp blade. 

With a meat saw and two 6-8 inch blades (very sharp), our host proceeded over the next three hours ( with a civilized break for tea and biscuits) to expertly follow the joint lines and reduce the hunk of meat to its beautiful constituent parts.  The rule of thumb is ‘nothing is wasted’

The head was boiled to make head cheese, including the ears and snout.  The only items immediately thrown out were the lymph glands… give a bitter taste to the meat and contain far too many bacteria.  Remember you health 101 class and the purpose of the lymph glands???

  The Pig is My Food

After a lunch of wood fired pizza ( a Saturday specialty at Ballymaloe), fresh salad and cream puffs in chocolate sauce with rhubarb compote, we trudged back to the slave shop (classroom) and were treated to an afternoon of making sausages, salamis, stocks, and terrines of potted meat.

I’ve always heard that if I saw what went into a hotdog or sausage I wouldn’t want to eat it.  But watching the process in person with quality ingredients was an impressive experience.  

Was it my idea of JOY on a Saturday.  No… But I was with a beautiful woman, who was having a great time.  We had delicious food, an entertaining host, an international group of charming people and delicious pig to eat at the end of the day.  Not bad for OMOTIC.

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