Pig Butchery Lesson

Red Wattle side of pork

I had the opportunity a couple of weekends ago to teach Anna and her friend Randy how to breakdown and cut a whole hog.  It was a pastured Red Wattle, a heritage breed, from Wendy and Jim Parker’s Heritage Farms Northwest outside of Dallas, Oregon.  The meat was a beautiful rosy color and the plentiful fat (in “butcher speak” known as bark) was super firm and white.  They’re going to get a lot of melt in your mouth porky goodness from that animal.

Knife sharpening with steel

I started the lesson off with a little knife sharpening and then brought out the old school hack saw to break it all down.  Anna and Randy like to do low and slow barbequing and smoking of their meats so we went for the whole cuts; picnic, shoulder, loin, ribs etc.  This will give them the flexibility of throwing the whole hunk on the grill or cutting it down into portion sizes later.

I always enjoy sharing what I know and it was a pleasure to spend time with Anna and Randy.

Cutting side of pig


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Hollywood came calling!

Well pretty darn close!  I got an email from a casting coordinator from Powderhouse, a television production company that has done shows for the Discovery channel, Animal Planet, Science etc. They invited me to audition for a new TV series they are putting together.  The show is called “Best in the Business” and is a competitive showcase and profile of American workers.  One of the segments they are doing will be about butchers.

They asked for an audition video of me and my butchery skills.  No problem…or at least I thought so!  Who knew how hard it would be to talk and cut meat on camera and not look like a total idiot doing it.  Well, 2 out of 3 is just gonna have to do!

Let me know what you think….and remember kindness is a virtue.

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Spring Chinook Salmon; just one reason why I love the pacific northwest.

Spring has sprung and the salmon are running!  The spring salmon run brings thousands of salmon up out of the pacific ocean and into the rivers that are practically in my backyard.  My son-in-law, Matt, is an avid fisherman and I am an avid enjoy-er of all he catches.  We have a nice arrangement; he brings them in, I cut them up and the whole family shares the most delicious fish the pacific northwest has to offer.

About a week ago I told Matt, “the next time you get a good sized fish give it to me”.  He gave me an “excuse me?” look and an “Uh, what?”  The rest of the family laughed and I realized that didn’t come out exactly as I had planned.  That’s when I explained that I wanted my next video cutting lesson to be how to cut, fillet and skin a whole fish.  We agreed that I could use his next catch for my video and he’d get back perfectly cut, portioned and vacuum sealed salmon fillets.

Ask and ye shall receive!  Only a few days later the fishing gods delivered Matt a gorgeous catch and now you get to see me work my magic on this 15 pound spring Chinook salmon.  The video below shows you how to cut, fillet and skin a whole fish like a pro.  I hope you find the techniques helpful.

I’m also sharing one of my most favorite ways of preparing salmon, and it’s only fitting that it’s a recipe I learned from Matt.

Grilled Salmon with Wasabi Lime Butter

1 pound salmon

1/4 cup softened butter

1 tblsp wasabi paste  (less or more to taste)

1 lime



Mix softened butter with wasabi paste and set aside.  Salt and pepper salmon to taste.  Grill (or pan sear) salmon until it’s just barely firm to the touch.  Spread butter & wasabi mixture evenly onto the fish.  Remove fish from the heat.  Squeeze lime juice over the top and serve.

VIDEO: Cutting, Filleting and Skinning Whole Fish


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Seared Venison Loin with French Onion Sauce

Just a quick post to share a delicious and super easy venison recipe with you.  Wish I could take the credit but Mrs. Black Belt Butcher was the chef de cuisine on this one.  Oh, and since we’re passing out credit,  I need to thank my son-in-law for the sweet and tender venison he harvested last fall.  My contribution to this meal was of course the butchering of the deer.  Hope you try it – send me a comment and let me know if you make it and how it turns out for you.

Seared Venison Loin with French Onion Sauce

1 venison loin

1 large onion sliced thin

2 tblsp butter

3 tblsp oil

2 cups beef broth

¼ red wine

1 tblsp soy sauce

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Coat the venison loin with 1 tblsp of oil and then rub with the pepper, salt and cayenne, set aside.  Melt the butter and 1 tblsp of oil in a skillet on medium heat being sure not to brown the butter.  Add the onion slices to the skillet and cook gently over medium low heat until they are caramelized and golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Turn the heat up to medium high and add the broth, red wine and soy sauce.  Let the sauce simmer vigorously until the liquid reduces by half, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Pour the sauce into a bowl and set aside.  Rinse the skillet and then return to the stove.  Add the remaining 1 tblsp of oil to the skillet and heat it on high heat until the pan is smoking hot.  Place the meat in the pan and sear for 2 minutes, turn and sear on the other side for another 1 to 2 minutes. The meat is best cooked only to medium rare or medium. Anymore and it will be dry.  Remove meat from the pan and let rest for 5 minutes.   Slice and serve with the sauce.

(ps – you could substitute pork loin for the venison, leeks for the onion and white wine instead of red and that would be delicious too!)

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Oscar winning performance!

Ok maybe it’s not an Oscar winning performance but a guy’s got to start somewhere.  Thank goodness my cutting skills are better than my acting skills.  Check out my first meat cutting video.  I promise I’ll get better at it!

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Decadence, gluttony and celebrating the pig farmer

Spent last weekend in Seattle attending the Cochon 555.  It was a fantastic weekend, sunny and cold, perfect weather for a porkapalooza!  The Cochon 555 brings together 5 award winning local chefs, each cook one of 5 locally raised heritage pigs, and 5 local wineries offer up their wines to accompany all of the dishes.  Yes it’s decadence and gluttony, but with a message and a cause.

The event celebrates local farmers who have embraced small sustainable farming and have helped to save breeds of pigs that were in danger of going extinct.  Farmers whose pigs live in pastures, forage, wallow, make babies the old fashioned way, and on their final day are dispatched humanely.

Big Ag created the “other white meat” using genetic engineering and massive ad campaigns in an attempt to convince the American public that cheaper was better than taste, texture and the humane treatment of the animal.  Big Ag, big corporate dollars and modern science create millions of enormous white pork monsters, pen them, inseminate them, and raise them in football field size facilities that look and smell like cesspools.  Not what I want on my table and I’m happy to say not what a lot of other people want either.

Me & a big farmer in the background

It was a lavish event with all you can eat bacon on every table!  We also slurped up sustainably raised oysters, caviar,  cheeses, wines, breads….and all of that before eating what the chefs had cooked!

Best part of the evening for me was watching the head-to-head competition of 2 local butchers in a speed cutting match.  They were given a side of pork, a cut-list and 40 minutes to carve, trim and tie up the prettiest pork possible.  They had entirely different techniques and approaches to the cuts which was interesting for me to see, and apparently for a lot of others too.  These guys were the rock stars of the night!  I seriously thought people were gonna start asking for their autographs!  Awesome to see butchers getting some long overdue respect.

Meat cutting demo with Tracy Smaciarz of Heritage Meats

Mrs. Black Belt Butcher was kind enough to stand in line at all of the chef stations and then bring me back the plates of porky goodness so that I didn’t have to miss any of the cutting action.  Turns out that there must have been 555 people at the Cochon and the lines were soooooo long that we weren’t even able to make it thru some of the stations before they ran out of food.

Logistically the event had some flaws. Three of the chefs seriously did not think thru how to plate and feed a crowd of that size and it was frustrating for the guests.  There was a lack of tables so people ended up having to balance wine glasses and plates while trying to eat.  Again frustrating.  If you were lucky enough to snag the corner of a table you first needed to push away a 6 deep pile of dirty plates and glasses.  Don’t know what the staff of the Westin Seattle were paid to do, but it certainly wasn’t clearing tables.  Nuff said.

The chef we voted for didn’t win, Holly Smith, but she put out the best bite of the night if you ask me (which they didn’t by the way).  It was pork ice cream with a bacon toffee brittle.  Really, it was the best tasting dish of the night!  Sweet, rich, porky, salty and crunchy.  Delicious.

All in all an enjoyable event made all the better by the cause it supports.  However the pork hangover was a bitch.

And the winner is...Ethan Stowell

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Passion into Profit

You’re a chef with a passion for seasonal local fare, you know your farmers, and your customers trust you to choose sustainably raised and pastured animals.  You are  proud of your whole animal culinary skills and your clean food ethic, however

… turning whole animal passion into profit can be challenging…

Whole animal product is a costly ingredient.  All it takes is the slip of a knife or someone’s careless cutting for your profits to end up in the scrap bin worth nothing more than the price of a burger!

I am a master butcher and culinary educator who can teach you and your staff how to get the most value from your whole animals.  I practice the old world art of whole carcass butchery.  I have a passion for this work, and I’m not bragging when I say my skills are unequaled.  My mission is to share and teach the art and craft of butchery.

…no wasted effort, no wasted product…

Time is money and it’s a precious commodity that can’t be wasted in your kitchen.  I can teach you and your staff the best and most efficient cutting techniques and will share my tips and tricks for getting the most out of your whole animal.

The “Black Belt Butcher” teaches:

  • Whole animal breakdown
  • Maximizing primal cut varieties
  • Meat cutting skill development
  • Sausage making tips & techniques
  • Mastering the Knife
  • Meat menu consultations
  • Butchery Demonstrations

Get a free “Mastering the Knife” lesson when a 1 hour class is scheduled.

Only $75 per hour – up to 3 individuals

Each additional person is $45 per hour

Call or email me today to schedule your lesson.

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