On our quest for the city's freshest bacon, we visited Jeffrey's School of Butchery
at Jeffrey's Meat Market (Essex Market, 120 Essex Street at Rivington St)
. Although it's a demonstration-only class, we learned a few tips to pass your way. And yes, a (dead) pig was harmed (really, desecrated) in the making of this blog post -- students even get to take home pig pieces for later eating. -- Amy Roberts
Procure a pig.
Though he's a fourth-generation butcher, Jeffrey Ruhalter says, "If it's walking around, I'm in the other room." So find a farm upstate to deliver an already-slaughtered (preferably pre-gutted) 60-lb. porker.
Assemble your tools.
You'll need: a 14-inch steak knife, 6-inch boning knife, a large cleaver, a band saw, and (of course) beer and cigarettes.
Jeffrey leads us all in a Corona toast to "Fred" for giving his life so we may eat: "To life, love, and good f***ing pork dinners!" Then he lets the pig have a cigarette -- he's earned it! -- despite the fact that, oddly, it won't be his last smoke.
Per Jeffrey, every part of the pig is edible. To assemble the particular specialty he calls porchetta (baked pig head), you'll have to disassemble the swine's face flesh from its cranium. (Hint: During decapitation, if you hear a crunch, you're doing it right.) Once you have a flat pig "mask," roll it into a long coil, and bake to an internal temperature of 150 degrees. The skin will congeal, so you can serve it in slices-now that's good eatin'!
Pause often for snacks.
Between cutting demonstrations, Jeffrey offers the class another delicacy: croissants with homemade strawberry cream cheese, prosciutto di parma, Boston Butt with secret seasoning, smoothies, tea and muffins, pickled pig's feet, hamhock with spicy mustard and lamb chops (no reason -- Jeffrey just really likes 'em). Disappointingly, none of that porchetta.
Steps 6, 7, 8 ...:
Remove the front legs (meatiest part: the pork shoulder) and lop off the rump and rear legs (mmm, ham!). Saw apart the torso along the spine and divide carefully -- the bony parts are the ribs and chops (duh), and the soft fleshy underbelly: BACON!
Wanna see for yourself? Visit Jeffrey's Web site to check out the schedule of animal sacrifice. $75 per class; discounts for attending more than one.