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HC-butchers-art - 10/4/97


An article for headcooks on developing a good relationship with a local butcher shop.


NOTE: See also the files: headcooks-msg, p-menus-msg, food-sources-msg, kitchen-clean-msg, feasts-fish-msg, feast-decor-msg, feast-ideas-msg, meat-carving-bib.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Wed, 23 Jul 1997 11:31:49 -0400

From: Philip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>

Subject: SC - Long -- Re Bone Marrow, Butchers, etc.


The Noble Lord Stefan Li Rous wrote:

> << does anyone have any suggestion on getting bone marrow? Or even suet? >>


and the Noble Lord Ras responded:

> Bone marrow is usually not available by itself. However, any good supermarket

> usually has marrow bones for sale from the marrow can be extracted. Also a

> quick glance through your yellow pages will probably show several butcher

> and/or meat shops.


<additional extremely useful material snipped for space and to avoid



and Adamantius (that's me) writes:


I'd been planning to actually compose something coherent on the subject

of finding a good butcher who actually seems to care about whether your

meal is a success. However, this seems like as good a time as any to

jump in with a bit of pontific--ahem--information.


Let's say you are Lord Joe, or Lady Jane, Feastcook. You will, at some

point, probably be buying meat for your local group's famous annual

"Bruise by Day, Cruise by Night" event.


Where do you go? There's always the supermarket, where you can either go

the day before the event, and pick up, say, 60 individually wrapped

chickens and 15 pork loin halves in the little plastic trays, or you can

order these things in advance, which will probably mean there is less

packaging to wade through and dispose of, you will be reasonably sure

that the market will have what you need when you need it, and there may

well be a bulk discount (especially if you ask about it).


So, there you are with 15 half pork loins or 7 1/2 whole ones. Ever try

to carve one of those puppies? The rib bones are attached quite well to

the bones that once did duty as the spinal column. They haven't been

chined. So say goodbye to separating the loins into chops, unless you

are skilled enough to bone them out without slicing off your thumb or

wasting half the meat, or plan to spend half your day hacking away with

a cleaver, and the previous clause about thumbs and waste still apply.


In the mean time, you still have those 300 marzipan roses to make...


You could ask the supermarket butcher to chine them. He may or may not

want to do that; he's a busy man. He has plenty of customers, and he

probably doesn't know you from Adam. If you can persuade him to do that,

or to cut up the chickens, or whatever he can do to make your life

easier, then well and good, and more power to you. You might consider

offering to waive the bulk discount (if any) in return for this service.

The chances are quite good that he'll say something like, "Look, do you

want this meat or not? I've got 600 pounds of hamburger to grind."

Ultimately not very helpful.


Now, suppose we try something similar with a butcher shop. Butcher shops

that cater to various European ethnic groups are especially helpful,

because they are more likely to carry the kind of weird stuff that many

SCAdian feasts thrive on. They probably won't look askance when you ask

them for suckling pig, or suet, or marrow bones.


The first things you'll notice are that the quality of the meat (and the

overall level of service), are higher, as are the prices. Probably

significantly so, in most cases. Try shopping there once a week or so.

Be friendly. Not usually a problem for SCAdians. You don't have to break

your budget too seriously to pick up a couple of pounds of stew meat or

a chicken every so often. Your goal is face recognition. Do this for a

while, maybe a couple of months. Try to learn some names of employees,



Then you strike. Start with something simple. Get those 60 chickens from

the butcher. Show up at a time when they're not busy (find out in

advance when that would be). Explain to them that you'd prefer to do

business with people, not a corporation, and that you prefer to support

local small businesses. Explain that you are cooking for a non-profit

function for your club that researches and teaches history. Kind of like

a church supper. Tell them you'd like to get 60 chickens from them, if

your budget can handle it, and would prefer to get all your meat from

them, if you can afford to. So, would they also throw in a couple of top

rounds? (Remember we're keeping it simple.) Ask for a ballpark estimate

of the price. The chances are good that you will be given a discount for

quantity purchase. The butcher will be getting in that meat above and

beyond his usual stock. He probably won't be relying on the profits from

that sale (especially since you're a poor teacher and all ;  )  ) to go

to Bermuda with. As long as he sells whatever he gets in, in addition to

his usual stock, it's almost as if you are getting it directly from his

supplier. Anyway, if you get the meat at a discount, this should bring

his prices down to something vaguely comparable to the price at the

supermarket. Even if it works out to a bit more than the supermarket,

you can console yourself with the knowledge that the product will be

better and you will be building a working relationshiop with the butcher

that will ultimately be to your extreme advantage.


Soon you'll get to the point where he'll ask you if you want things

boned, or the chickens cut up, or whatever.


As this relationship improves, you'll probably find that the butcher is

willing to do a lot more for you. Today, chining the pork loins.

Tomorrow, the world, as the saying goes. Seriously, though, the more he

does for you, the more time you'll have for other stuff (such as 300

marzipan roses). My butcher, as I think I've mentioned, will not only

throw marrow bones and/or suet or pork fat, or caul fat for wrapping, in

with an order (usually for free), but he will custom cut the meat almost

any way I ask him to. Even better is the fact that I can bring him a

measured amount of spices, salt, wine, etc., and ask him to mix those

with 20 pounds of pork butt, 5 pounds of pork belly, and 25 pounds of

venison, grind them, and stuff them into sausage casings. He does this

for the cost of the meat, and he might have a glass of the wine if

there's any extra. I think that's fair.




Phil & Susan Troy

troy at asan.com



Date: Wed, 23 Jul 1997 11:53:35 -0400 (EDT)

From: Mark Schuldenfrei <schuldy at abel.MATH.HARVARD.EDU>

Subject: Re: SC - Long -- Re Bone Marrow, Butchers, etc.


  Adamantius writes:

  I'd been planning to actually compose something coherent on the subject

  of finding a good butcher who actually seems to care about whether your

  meal is a success. However, this seems like as good a time as any to

  jump in with a bit of pontific--ahem--information.


He's right, again.  This is getting tiresome.....


I've used similar techniques.  We have a local convenience store near my

home. Once upon a time, I managed to get my hands on several 20 pound blocks

of cheese.  All it needed was slicing.  I asked the guys at the store what

they would charge to slice the cheese for my non-profit educational group.

"Nothing, just give us a couple of hours, so we can continue to service our



Their competition has closed down.... I wonder why? Partly because all my

purchaing is done at the store owned by "the nice guys".


BTW, for those that aren't up on butchery like Adamantius:


1. chine \'chi-n\ n [ME, fr. MF eschine, of Gmc origin; akin to OHG scina

   shinbone, nee]dle - more at SHIN 1: BACKBONE, SPINE; also : a cut of meat

   or fish including the backbone or part of it and the surrounding flesh 2:



2. chine vt : to cut through the backbone of (as in butchering)




<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org