The School of Artisan Food is located on the Welbeck Estate in North Nottinghamshire and offer short courses in Baking & Patisserie, Butchery & Charcuterie, Cheesemaking and more.
I have been to the estate many times to visit their excellent award winning farm shop (read about that here) and love shopping there. So I was delighted when I was invited recently to take a course by the School.
Last week I came to check out their ‘Pig in a Day’ course which was a pretty hands on Butchery course where as the same suggests you basically break down a whole pig during a day.
We started off with a bit of a meet and greet with the other participants on the course over a coffee before heading over to the butchery to meet our two instructors Rich Summers and Chris Moorby who were both to be very knowledgeable, patient, entertaining and a right good laugh. They both made the course really engaging and fun.
The morning started off with a bit of a slideshow all about pigs and best practices in the industry but that was just a short introduction and we were soon getting our hands dirty.
Breaking down the Pig
The instructors split us up into small groups and we got to break down half a pig into all the main bits that we get our classic cuts of meat from.
I was in a group of two so we really did get hands on and it was a lot of sawing, chopping, and cutting as we learnt about the primary cuts and secondary joints.
As we worked our way through the pig, Rich was explaining to us what each part could be used for, how it could be cooked and the different ways that we could butcher the animal to get the best yield. It was really fascinating and I was really gaining a much greater respect for the meat that you would typically see at the butchers and how it was prepared.
After we had broken down the pig we took different cuts and started to prepare some of your classic pork products like chops, joints, and sausages.
I was pretty proud of these two chunks of meat, we worked really hard for about an hour to get to this stage and had ended up with some thing that I would have expected to see on a butchers counter.
Initially I wasn’t really sure where we were going to go from here, I wondered if were going to be making ribs like you get on a BBQ? That was what it was looking like and I was thinking that was what we might end up with.
Today though we were going to be cutting out some chops, which became clearer as Rich guided us through some more.
“Just saw through this bone here”
“Take a slice through that line you just created”
5 minutes later I was like “Oh that is a Pork Chop, just like the ones in the shop” 🙂
I think that we were all pretty chuffed with the way that these came out. They actually looked like the ones that you get at my local butchers and they were all pretty evenly cut too. Well there might have been a couple of slightly scraggy ones that I cut out, but I hid those underneath the best ones just to make my photo look even better 🙂
They were really thick cut and man I was wishing we could just cook them right there and then they looked so good!
Pork Joint anyone?
In the afternoon we spent a while preparing the pieces of meat that would end up being someones Sunday lunch. That was a another interesting lesson as we didn’t remove much at all from the joint, just a bit of the fat and a few bits that didn’t look that pretty and were a bit ragged.. By now we were getting much more adept with the knife skills and the fear of chopping off a spare hand had long passed.
Rolling and Tying a Pork Joint
Once we had trimmed that large chunk of meat down to something that was approaching respectable enough to be put on the counter at your local butchers, we each took our pieces and rolled them up and tied them.
Weirdly the bit that I found the hardest to achieve was tying up the roll of pork to make the joint ready for the oven. I was all fingers and thumbs trying to tie the slipknots. I reckon that this ragged effort might not win any prizes but I am sure it was going to be well tasty.
There is a whole other half a day course that you can take at the school on how to make sausages. We were lucky enough to be getting to learn those skills as well on this Pig in a Day course as we got to spend an hour making our own sausages.
There was nothing unsavoury or anything scraped off the floor going into these bangers. All we were using was the left over bits of meat that we had not used for chops or that joint and the fat that we had cut out of the carcass.
Chris showed us how to set up and then we were soon up to full speed and rotating around taking it in turns to ‘turn the wheel’, ‘fill the casings’ and ‘making the sausage into links’
The hardest part I found was tying the ends of each link, I was all fingers and thumbs again. I suppose it was like tying the end of a balloon and I am no good at that either.
I had tried to make sausages before at home but they looked nothing like these beautiful plump and glistening links we made here. These actually look like ones that I would want to pay top dollar for!
I was really surprised at just how many sausage links we managed to make as a group in just about 30-40 minutes. We got to take home what we had made and my share of the spoils was 24 sausages most of which have since been distributed between my belly, the freezer, and family.
Lunch at the Artisan School
Lunch was also provided as part of the course and it was a pretty terrific lunch too. It was buffet style but that basically just means that you put a bit of everything on your plate. There were some excellent freshly baked quiches that everyone was loving and some beautiful pink slices of roast beef with home made horseradish sauce. It was an added little bonus.
Pig in a Day
The prospectus online for the ‘Pig in a Day’ Course had described the day as:
“This one-day course will give you the opportunity to explore every part of a pig, from nose to tail. As well as learning practical knife skills and butchery techniques, you’ll gain fascinating insight from our expert butchers into the journey of a pig from farm to table.”
It was quite hard work but really interesting to learn just how much meat we actually got from the pig. I was surprised how much we could use, apparently about 70% of the animal which is a really high yield in comparison to a cow or a sheep which is about 50%
If you really want a better understanding of where your meat comes from and / or want to learn some practical butchery skills then I would certainly recommend this course.
Having taken this course I would be keen to try any of the other courses at the School. It was a very welcoming place and I had the feeling that they really wanted to provide you with value for money and a real learning experience and just a great fun filled time.
The Take Home
You didn’t just get to learn skills and have a nice lunch, you also get to take home some of the produce that you created. I ended up with about 8 chops, slices of belly pork, a big piece of fillet and as I said 24 sausages. Time to ‘Pig Out’ 🙂
The School of Artisan Food is located on the Welbeck Estate at this address:
The School of Artisan Food
Lower Motor Yard
Footnote: Sausages at Home
I have already served up a few of these sausages and they cook very well. Nice and meaty and well seasoned with just salt and pepper. I was very happy with these and will try and make some at home now that I have a better understanding of how to do it 🙂