If you think spending two hours watching a pig butchery demonstration at Revival Market makes for a weird date night, we probably couldn't be friends. Earlier this week my husband and I shared a romantic evening -- with about 20 other hog butchery/charcuterie fans--while getting up-close and personal with a couple of hogs, and the Revival Market guys: Chef de cuisine Adam Dorris and owners Morgan Weber and Ryan Pera.
Revival Market started its Hot Butchery Demonstration Series back in June, and it was such a success that they brought it back in August. When the e-mail about this hit my inbox a couple of weeks ago, I was sending emails to make reservations within minutes.
The class costs $100 per head, and includes a butchery demonstration, a BYOB dinner, charcuterie to take home, and the opportunity to ask every question you've ever had about butchering and charcuterie.
When the demo began, our group was invited into the kitchen at Revival Market, where Adam Dorris--with plenty of assists by Weber and Pera--led us through the process of butchering a hog. It was fascinating to see, not just the "hows" but to listen to the "whys" of the process. Hogs raised on Morgan Weber's farm are sent to a USDA facility for processing (anything that shows up in the Revival kitchen has to have the USDA stamp on it) but the butchering is done on-site at Revival Market. The "seam butchering" technique demonstrated by Dorris is a European approach that requires less cutting, and where the knife cuts are dictated by the way an animal is "laid out" in terms of muscle, fat, and cartilage. (You can read a blog about Seam Butchery on the Revival Meats website.)
Using a series of knives--a scimitar, butcher knife, Japanese-style butcher knife (straighter, and more flexible)--as well as a hand saw and a rib-puller, Dorris methodically broke down each section of hog while he, Perra, and Weber explained which cut produced which products, and why their pigs taste so yummy (it's partly diet--they eat barley, alfalfa and wheat rather than corn and soy).
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We watched Dorris effortlessly separate the meat, using his hands to find seams and pound fat away from flesh; it was like watching someone read a pig in Braille--I swear he could have done it in the dark. There were two pigs on display: a 320-pound Mangalitsa/Red Wattle hybrid, and a 195 pound Berkshire. For the purposes of the demo, the Mangalitsa was the star, but the head of the Berkshire was on proud display the whole time. (The Berkshire's cousin was on our Muffaletta sandwich in the form of porchetta di testa-- a marinated pig's face rolled, ears and tongue tucked in with various herbs and spices, and then braised, sliced, and consumed.) The whole time I watched the demo, all I could think of was my late Italian grandmother--who sat around after dinner, sucking the marrow out of bones while we ate dessert--and how proud she would be that I ate a rolled up pig's face literally with relish, in the form of house-made giardiniera.
After a short dinner break, we went back into the kitchen to find a selection of house charcuterie on display; a brief lecture on curing methods followed, along with a Q-and-A session from the group on methods, health department and USDA safety, and best-selling items at the market. (Bacon and coppa, FYI.) But by that time, my husband and I were as high on life as you could get. This is my kind of dinner theater.
Author's Note: As two people who each spent well over a decade in the restaurant industry, Josh and I were in absolute awe at the amount of work that goes on in a kitchen the size of Revival's--these guys know what they are doing. Getting a peek at the behind-the-scenes magic is worth the $100 price tag. "This is a special event," Josh added when we got home. "I can't believe I got to see that. I'm never going to get to sleep tonight."