Have you ever been stood in the butcher shop wishing you were on the other side of the counter? I have.
Even as a small child I was fascinated by where meat came from (we lived next to a lamb farm) and how animals were butchered.
I believe that if you eat meat, you should know where it comes from. I don’t agree with people who can’t bare to look at a fish’s head or the bone in a piece of meat, ‘as it reminds me of the animal.’ It should, and you should be aware that you are taking and eating the life of another animal. So you honour that animal, buy the best you can afford and make sure you eat the whole of it too.
With that in mind, when Rich at the Butcher’s Quarter, based in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, asked me if I’d like to be a guinea pig for their new butchery one-to-one course, I couldn’t say no.
Becoming a butcher (for the morning)
Arriving early(-ish) one morning, to a deserted butcher shop, I was shown the lamb carcass I’d be breaking down and helped bring it up from the massive cold-store, all the while being given the history of the shop. Including being shown the tiled slope that sits under the shop frontage, where carcasses used to be slid down pre-food hygiene days.
Upstairs I needed to get dressed like a proper butcher. This wasn’t just to help me get into the spirit of the session, as Rich pointed out, I’d be using extremely sharp knives in a way I’d never held knives before, whilst exerting a lot of pressure against a carcass. Once I had a chainmail gauntlet and apron on, Rich gave me a thorough safety talk and ran through the difference between kitchen and butchery knives, plus the different tools I’d be using.
Breaking down a lamb
And then it was on to the butchery! After discussing the Butcher’s Quarter’s lamb sourcing (one small farm in Helmshore, complete traceability, amazing husbandry) Rich gave me an anatomy lesson and explained the different parts of the meat.
Then we discussed how the shop butchers in the more European way. Rather than the British way of breaking a carcass into squarer blocks, the Butcher’s Quarter follows the seams of the muscle, giving better quality cuts and meat for the customer.
After splitting the carcass into three main parts – shoulders, loin and legs – I then worked at splitting the shoulders and the legs, helping bone the legs out, rolling and tying the leg (those butcher knots are very tricky I’ll have you know) and then the star part, boning out the loin.
For the very tricky, high-level work, Rich took over, explaining what he was doing and why – it was fascinating. But there were plenty of times where he would show me something quite technical, and then let me have a go, explaining, guiding and praising as I, very slowly, tried to copy what he had done.
I’ve been on quite a few courses and when it’s a technical subject, usually there’s a lot of watching the instructor and not much actual hands-on time. That’s not so with this course.
As it’s one-to-one, rather than group, you get a lot of information and time with the lamb. Rich would show me what he wanted me to do and then guide me as I did it myself. This included how to hold the knife differently and which parts of the knife to use for what – it’s very different to cutting veg in the kitchen. By the end I felt like a proper butcher! (if not a very neatly cutting one).
At the end of the course I watched as meat I had butchered was prepped for the counter (someone has eaten meat I’ve prepped this week!), which was extremely satisfying. But more importantly the loin I had boned out myself was given to me to take home. As part of this course you get to take home a cut of your choice, that you have butchered and prepped yourself. I took a boned and rolled loin joint, as it’s not something I’ve cooked with before and Rich raved about how tender and delicious it was. Look at my Insta in the next week for how I cooked it.
This course is a perfect two hours of hands-on learning. Great for foodies like me who want to see what being a butcher is like. It’s also perfect for those wanting to learn a little more about where their meat comes from and what different cuts come off an animal (and the best way to use them). And for £125 and a big prime cut to take home, it’s quite a bargain.
If you want to book your course, or buy one as a last minute Christmas present, drop the guys a DM on their Instagram until they get a link on their website.
Please note, The Butcher’s Quarter offered this course to me so I could be their guinea pig. However, Rich is such a good teacher that I really did have a lovely time. As this blog is my blog, I only write about what I want to and the things I believe are genuinely good. Which this butcher course is, so good book yourself on and buy one for all your friends too.