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The average American eats more than 160 pounds of meat per year. And almost all of that comes from certain desirable parts of the cow, pig and chicken — fillets and steaks from the loin, the flank and the round. A growing “head-to-tail” movement is extolling the virtues of the other parts of the animal, such as the brains, liver and heart. But you may be hard-pressed to find a local source for those less-in-demand organs. We explore the virtues of “offal,” and the economics of modern butchery.
- Pam "The Butcher" Ginsberg Butcher, Wagshal's Market (D.C.)
- Steve Gatward Butcher/ Owner, Let's Meat on the Avenue (Alexandria, VA)
- Marissa Guggiana Co-founder, The Butcher's Guild and author of "Primal Cuts: Cooking with America's Best Butchers"
- Rina Rapuano Freelance food writer
All recipes from “Primal Cuts: Cooking with America’s Best Butchers” by Marissa Guggiana. The tripe and pig ear are from Jamie Bissonnette at Coppa in Boston. The pig head stew is from Rob Levitt at the Butcher & Larder in Chicago.
Tripe A La Collinsville
Tripe is one of my favorite foods, to eat and to cook. This recipe, from Toro, is fresh and light and very approachable — a gateway tripe dish.
2 pounds honeycomb tripe (pork or beef)
3 cups white wine
1 cup salt
1 quart chicken stock
1 teaspoon caraway
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
4 shallots, julienned
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves, garlic sliced
1 Anaheim pepper, julienned
1 poblano pepper, julienned
1 red jalapeno, julienned
1 fennel bulb, finely diced
1 cup applejack whiskey
1 (10-ounce) can peeled plum tomatoes, crushed (alternately, if in season, 4 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes, diced, skin on)
1 piment d’Espelette
1/4 cup fines herbes (blended basil, chervil, tarragon, marjoram, and chives?
Soak tripe in the refrigerator in a pot of water with 1 cup of wine for 3 to 12 hours. Remove tripe, scrub with the blunt side of a large kitchen knife and rinse. In a pot, cover tripe in cold water with rest of wine and salt. Bring to a simmer. Turn off immediately and strain. Return tripe to pot and cover with chicken stock. Make a spice sachet with the caraway, coriander, fennel and mustard seeds, and add to the pot. Add onion, carrots, and celery. Bring to the boil, reduce to low simmer, cover and cook for 5 to 6 hours. Cool tripe and let it sit in its liquid overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, bring the tripe and liquid back to a boil, strain and reserve the braising liquid.
In a tall stockpot, sweat shallots in olive oil over medium-high heat until tender. Add garlic and cook until translucent. Add peppers and fennel and cook under tender. Add the tripe, sachet and whiskey, and cook till reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Strain the tomatoes, add to the pot and reduce to simmer. Cook for 45 minutes, rewetting with braising liquid as needed.
Thin to desired consistency with liquid. Add salt and piment d’Espelette to taste. Serve with herbs and lemon as accompaniments. Cooled and refrigerated, tripe stew will keep for a week.
Serves 4 to 6
Pig Ear Terrine
My sous chef, Josh Buehler, created this silky and tender terrine, which is a favorite at Coppa. The layers of ear make it a very visual and impressive dish. Season with fleur de sel, fried garlic and snipped chives. We serve ours with a Yuzu aioli, though any creamy and sour sauce would pair fine. Garnish with mini red shiso leaves and ground sumac.
24 pig ears
3 quarts chicken or pork stock
3 cups soy sauce
2 cups mirin
1 cup sake
1 cup lemon or meyer lemon simply syrup*
1 stalk lemon grass, chopped
2 pieces crystallized ginger
1 fresno chili, chopped
1 tablespoon coriander seed, toasted
1 tablespoon grains of paradise
1 tablespoon fennel seed
4 cloves garlic
Clean ears of any hair. Place in a pan with the spice sachet. Season lightly with salt.
In a saucepot, bring the stock, soy, mirin, sake and simple syrup to a simmer. Pour the hot liquid over the ears, being sure the liquid covers the ears by 1/2 inch. Meat not covered by liquid will get charred and can’t be used in the terrine. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Cook at 200°F for 36 hours. Check periodically that it does not boil. When the meat falls to pieces but does not shred, it is done.
Cool the ears in the liquid to room temperature, then remove from the liquid. Reduce the liquid in the pot by one third. Line a terrine mold or loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving enough overhang to cover the top when the mold is filled. Layer the ears to 1/2 inch from the top. Pour the reduced liquid and shake the mold to cover the ears. Fold plastic wrap over the top to seal. Press with 2-pound weight in the refrigerator overnight.
Remove the terrine from the pan, change the plastic wrap and store in cool place until ready to serve. Slice with a very sharp knife 1/4 inch thick. The terrine will keep up for up to 10 days in the refrigerator.
Makes 1 mold
* Heat 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add juice of 1 lemon and stir.
Pig Head Stew
Guests often ask us, “What are the delicious little white noodles in this fabulous stew?” They look at us funny when they hear “pig ears.” Everyone should make this at least once.
Pig-Head Meat Ingredients:
1 pig head (preferably with tongue, ears and jowls intact; butchers tend to leave the jowl on the shoulder), all hair removed
1 head garlic, cut in half
1 onion, quartered
10 sprigs thyme
10 springs marjoram
3 tablespoons olive oil or lard
1 onion, medium dice
3 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1 bulb fennel, medium dice
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
Pinch of salt
2 cups crushed canned tomatoes
Reserved pig-head cooking liquid
Polpettini (little pork meatballs) Ingredients:
1 pound pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch chunks
3/4 pound country bread, cut into 1-inch chunks
3 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary leaves
3 cups chickpeas
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch
3 bunches black kale
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Dash olive oil
1/4 cup marjoram leaves
Red chili flakes
Cooking the pig head, sauce and polpettini can all be done up to 2 days prior to serving. Place the head, garlic, onion, thyme and marjoram in a heavy-bottomed pot. You could also use a roasting pan over two burners and cover with foil. Add water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer and cook the head for about 4 hours, or until the meat is just starting to fall off the bone. Carefully remove head from pot.
Strain the liquid and reduce by half. When the head is cool enough to handle, pull off all the edible parts. Besides the obvious cheeks and other exposed meaty bits from the back of the head, there are big chunks of meat under the eye sockets and along the snout. The snout, too, is quite delicious in a lip-smacking, gelatinous way and should be coarsely chopped and added to the mix. The tongue needs to be peeled and then coarsely chopped along with the ears. Left-over skin, fatty bits and the skull can be discarded. Refrigerate.
To make the sauce, place the oil, onion, carrot, fennel and chili flakes in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add a generous pinch of salt and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender but not brown. Add 1/2 cup of the crushed tomatoes and cook until all the liquid has cooked out and the tomato begins to caramelize. Add the remaining tomato and pig-head liquid, and simmer for 20 minutes. Cool, cover and refrigerate.
For the polpettini, preheat oven to 350°F. Make sure the temperature for the meat is 36°F or lower so that it mixes well. Combine meat with all other ingredients and grind through the coarse plate of a meat grinder or a food processor. Mix well. Form mixture into 1-inch meatballs and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 20 minutes, to about 137°F internal temperature. Cool and refrigerate.
The day of: preheat oven to 250°F. Place chickpeas and a pinch of salt in a pot; cover with water to 1 1/2 inches above the beans. Bring to a boil, then transfer to oven, checking once after 45 minutes to make sure they remain covered in liquid. Add boiling water if they are dry. Cook about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's Halloween, it's food Wednesday, and it's time to celebrate the gory glory of brains, hearts, kidneys, and other overlooked parts of the animals we consume every day. Americans eat more than ninety pounds of beef and pork every year, more than just about every other country on the planet. But most of our meals come from a very small part of a very big animal, the rib, the flank, the loin.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd most of it arrives in our shopping cart in a neatly wrapped cellophane package with no hints about the animal it actually came from. Today, many chefs and home cooks are placing a new premium on cooking with the entire animal, tail to nose, even parts of the animal that might make some of us a bit, well, queasy. They're building new relationships with farmers and local meat mongers if, and that's a big if, they can find them.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining us to discuss this is Pam Ginsberg. She's known as The Butcher. So welcome, Pam "The Butcher" Ginsberg. She's the butcher at Wagshal's Market here in D.C. Pam, good to see you.
MS. PAM "THE BUTCHER" GINSBERGThank you, sir. Good to see.
NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Rina Rapuano. She's a food writer whose work has appeared in Washingtonian magazine and Washington City Paper. Rina Rapuano, thank you for joining us.
GINSBERGThanks for having me.
NNAMDIAnd joining us from studios at U.C. Berkeley is Marissa Guggiana, co-founder of The Butcher's Guild and author of "Primal Cuts: Cooking with America's Best Butchers." Marissa Guggiana, thank you for joining us.
MS. MARISSA GUGGIANAGood morning.
NNAMDIAnd if you'd like to join the conversation, you too can call us at 800-433-8850. Do you have a great local butcher? Have you bought meat directly from a farmer? Where do you go for choice cuts? Call us at 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com, send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or go to our website, kojoshow.org, and ask a question or make a Food Wednesday comment there.
NNAMDIRina, I'd like to start with you and with an observation. A sort of Washington paradox, if you will, here in Washington, we have dozens, maybe even hundreds of local farms producing pasture-raised cows, sheep and pigs within a couple of hours' drive. We've got a nationally renowned food scene with top-flight chefs and sophisticated diners. But if I wanted to find a beautiful cut of locally raised meat or maybe experiment with a dish using the heart or the liver or the brain, I would have only a handful of options. Why is that?
MS. RINA RAPUANOIt's very complicated, actually, and it's one the reasons I wanted to write the story for City Paper in the first place because, you know, we find these things in restaurants all the time. And as a home cook, I like to be adventurous, and it has been increasingly difficult or not increasingly, but has been difficult to find interesting cuts and people who know you. And so I set about trying to find out why these things happen emerged to, along with everybody, every other food trend that's been happening. And so it's, you know, maybe Marissa can even talk to us more because it's economic.
NNAMDIWhy is it complicated?
RAPUANOWell, so there were all these rumors when I first started wanting butchers that there were going to be butchers. There's...
NNAMDIThey're coming soon.
RAPUANO...and Cashion was going to open a place on 11th Street. It even had a name -- 19 Butchers. And that's my neighborhood. I was really excited. And then Jonathan Umbel in about 2008 was supposed to open up Mad Butchers. All these things fell through mostly for economic reasons. It's just the reality is that today it's -- you can't have a corner grocer or a corner butcher shop because the rents are so high, it seems. And even the man who runs Union Meat in Eastern Market said to me if we weren't standing together we wouldn't be standing at all.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. Have you experimented with tripe or brain or other less appreciated parts of the animal? Give us a call, share your recipes or dining suggestions, 800-433-8850. Pam, you are something of a legend in these parts, known as we mentioned earlier as Pam "The Butcher." And you're a second-generation butcher. Tell us a little about how you came to be known as Pam "The Butcher" and your thoughts about the butcher scene in this region that you just heard Rina explained is complicated.
GINSBERGWell, my father was a butcher, and the Eastern Market on Capitol Hill, as Rina mentioned, the gentleman who owns Union Meat my brother-in-law's family.
GINSBERGSo I was a, you know, I'm the youngest of four children, and we would all go down the market on the weekends. And I honestly consider it God's gift. I mean, this is -- I'm one of the few human beings you'll ever meet who are doing exactly what they should be doing. And Pam "The Butcher" because this is all I've ever done. It's been my job. It's been my life my whole life.
NNAMDIAnd this is what you've wanted to do from the time you were a child?
GINSBERGOh, absolutely. I broke my first set of beef when I was 7 years old with my daddy. And I've never looked back. No regrets. No nothing. Nothing I've missed.
NNAMDIAnd that's what legends are made of. Marissa, when we talk about butchering and making -- well, no. Before I go to Marissa, Pam, tell us your thoughts about what Rina said about the butcher scene here in Washington.
GINSBERGWell, everything she said is true. Fortunately, at Wagshal's and we have the Butcher Shop, but it started with the deli. And Bill Fuchs, Wagshal's wanted to make the deli a little cut above. He had the opportunity to open up the Butcher Shop, and he built it with his own two hands. So now, all the roast beef that goes to the deli comes from the Butcher Shop. It's all prime dry aged beef.
GINSBERGThen he built The Kitchen, so he could expand even further because the whole idea is that what about the meat the butcher is not selling that day, that week. It can't just put -- go in the trash because of economic reasons.
GINSBERGSo before something gets to that level or that point, we're able to turn it into beef stroganoff.
GINSBERGAnd we have a whole dinner program that goes out of the deli, out of the freezer, prepared meals with beef stroganoff, beef bourguignon. We have lamb curry. We have lamb shanks. We have veil shanks. And this is all top quality product. We're not buying something of a lesser quality to prepare these meals and have them available for anybody and everybody's taste buds. It's just -- it helps the business grow and to continue to exist.
GINSBERGSo, you know, the corner butcher, as I was telling Rina earlier, back in the day, oh, I've got to go over to the butcher and get my steaks, and then I'll stop by and get the -- and get groceries.
GINSBERGYou know? But you have to take, you know, Peter to soccer and Julia to ballet and you know? And you have to work seven or eight hours that day. And there's just not the time anymore, and, yes, the rents are astronomical for these types of spaces.
NNAMDIAnd so we lost a lot of the corner butchers here in Washington in the early 1980s...
NNAMDI...by the early 1980s? By the way, thanks for the beef stroganoff you brought for me. I am, of course, completely bribed. But, Marissa, when we talk about butchering and making use of an entire cow or sheep, we're talking about traditional skills and recipes that are often handed down generation to generation. Have we lost or forgotten those skills as a culture? You helped found an organization called The Butcher Guild. What is the guild's mission?
GUGGIANAThe Butcher's Guild is a national fraternity of artisanal butchers, and like guilds from, you know, the last thousands of years, the goal is to preserve the trade and to create community and not something that was lost in the, you know, great centralization of our food system, which is what you're referring to when you say the butcher shops disappeared in the '80s, and everything went to the grocery store.
NNAMDIHave we lost or forgotten a lot of these skills that we have as a culture?
GUGGIANAYes and no. I mean, they've gone underground. There are certainly far fewer Pams in the world, but there are people who are still doing these things. And, you know, the joy that Pam finds in her work is something that I hear butchers say all the time. It's extraordinary, but almost every butcher I know says I love going to work every day. And so I think that that pleasure that people find in butchering and preserving meat and cooking meat is -- has kept the trade alive. And we're trying to continue some momentum there and get more people involved in the trade.
NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, we're having a Food Wednesday conversation about butchers. You just heard from Marissa Guggiana. She is co-founder of The Butcher's Guild and author of "Primal Cuts: Cooking with America's Best Butchers." Also joining us in studio is Pam "The Butcher" Ginsberg. She's a butcher at Wagshal's Market here in D.C. And Rina Rapuano is a food writer whose work has appeared in Washingtonian magazine and Washington City Paper. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Here is Andy in Gaithersburg, Md. Andy, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ANDYHi. I have what sort of like a complaint that once upon a time, say, 10 years or so, in Gaithersburg, at my local Giant food, I could go in and right on the spot get two hind shanks of veil, which would yield me six-inch-and-a-half steaks, also ossobuco, plus about five pounds of the end knuckle from which I could make a wonderful stock. Why was that possible then, and why is it impossible now?
ANDYI know that everything comes already packed at a grocery store now. They don't buy sides of beef, sides of veil, sides of pork. But is it just impossible now for a grocery store, much less a butcher -- are there any butchers in Gaithersburg? I've looked them up. They're not around.
GUGGIANAWell, there's a couple of reasons why.
ANDYAnybody have an answer?
GUGGIANAYeah. There's a couple of reasons why there's less veil available, and one is that there was, you know, I'm in Northern California, and I know here in the '80s, there was a huge reaction to the veil industry, an outcry about the way the animals were being treated, and a lot of grocery outlets have decided it's just not worth it because a lot of people are offended by veil. And the other reason is that veil is an output of the dairy industry.
GUGGIANAVeil is basically at this point male calves that aren't necessary because they don't make milk. And so, you know, the calves are -- they fluctuate. They're availability fluctuates with the dairy industry, and they're also a lot smaller than they used to be. So you're not going to get a big shank like you would before because most of the veil calves now are just a few days old.
NNAMDIAnd speaking of what's happening in this region, Andy, we'll be talking a little later with Steve Gatward. He's an owner and butcher of Let's Meat on the Avenue in Alexandria. So you'll get a view from a small business owner who's trying to make it as a standalone butcher. But here is Pam Ginsberg with some more reasons why you're probably not seeing that here anymore.
GINSBERGVeil is the most perishable meat of all of the animals, and at Wagshal's, I mean, I'm able to -- I think this past weekend we might have sold 20 or 25 whole veil shanks cut in -- cut for Ossobuco. And I mean, we have the opportunity we buy from a local producer of calf -- of veil and lamb. And so I buy sides at a time for the store. And again, we're able to use each and every part from -- I mean, from the neck to the feet.
GINSBERGAnd we're not in Gaithersburg, but I mean, I have people who travel from Virginia and, you know, outer lying areas to come to Wagshal's because we do have that ability to but like that because, again, we have an outlet to not have any waste. And with veil being that perishable, when you go in the grocery store, it's already been cut for them. And again, it goes to someone having the skill to be a butcher, and the grocery stores, they don't -- they're more comfortable having it done outsourced and brought to them instead.
GINSBERGNumber one, they don't have to worry about someone knowing how to cut it or having all of that product in their store. It's just easier to have it processed someplace else and brought to them prepackaged. That is unfortunate. But there are some of us out here. Gaithersburg is not that far away from D.C., so...
NNAMDIThat's right. Marissa, Americans have a sort of disjointed relationship with the animals we consume. We eat a lot of meat, but most of that meat arrives to us in a way as we pointed out earlier, that completely obscures where it came from. Over the last decade or so, a number of prominent chefs and cookbook authors have begun to celebrate a new approach, if you will, to meat that uses more parts of the animal. Can you tell us what is the tail-to-nose movement?
GUGGIANAWell, there's a way that an animal moves through the food system which is very centralized. And that's, you know, and alive animals getting sold to the middle of the country to the huge packing houses where they're slaughtered, butchered, packaged and then shipped out in boxes to grocery stores and restaurants, so that's the normal way. That's, you know, 97 percent of the meat in the country.
GUGGIANAAnd then there's the relationship that Pam is describing where you get meat from a local farm. And if you're buying meat from a local farm, you're probably getting a whole animal because they're not in the meat business. They're not packaging meat in the boxes. So a lot of restaurants in seeking out awesome local meat realize they're gonna have to deal with a whole pig. And in order to make money and to honor this animal that they're gonna have to cook that whole animal.
GUGGIANAAnd so that's what spawned this nose-to-tail movement. And, you know, all of a sudden, chefs are having to figure out a delicious and profitable way to serve a pig's ear or serve tripe or all these other things that you wouldn't normally see at a restaurant.
NNAMDIAnd we're getting a lot of calls about that. But we have to take a short break before we come back and continue this conversation about the tail-to-nose movement or anything you would like to know about butchers in this area. You can call us at 800-433-8850, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our Food Wednesday conversation about butchers. We're talking with Pam "The Butcher" Ginsberg. She's a butcher at Wagshal's Market. Marissa Guggiana is co-founder of The Butcher's Guild and author of "Primal Cuts: Cooking with America's Best Butchers," and Rina Rapuano is a food writer whose work has appeared in Washingtonian magazine and Washington City Paper.
NNAMDIAnd, Rina, in the piece you recently wrote in Washington City Paper, you talked about all the different economic models that are emerging to get locally raised meat into the hands of consumers. How would a home cook who wanted to cook with, oh, tripe or head cheese go about finding that stuff?
RAPUANOWell, you'd really have to do your homework and call around and maybe order in advance. You might have to drive a bit. You could maybe order -- buy direct from farmers out in the hinterlands. The further you drive, the cheaper it will be. You could buy half a cow if you have a freezer and maybe get some of those more interesting or awful cuts, you know, that way. And you can be very specific, I think, with them about what you want and how you wanna cut and how you want it prepared.
RAPUANOOtherwise, you might have to trust in restaurants, you know? The ethnic communities around here have really influenced, I think, the nose-to-tail movement, also recession dining. You know, chefs are using goat and octopus and a lot of things that might be less expensive more creatively. And people are interested. It's a multi-cultural and cosmopolitan city, and people have traveled all over the world, and they're interested in trying these things at home.
NNAMDIDid I mention that Pam also brought me some curried goat meat?
RAPUANOI saw that, and that's exactly what I thought of.
GINSBERGCurried goat has the nose-to-tail story.
RAPUANOSure. Yeah. Yeah.
GINSBERGI mean, we buy it from autumn leaf farm in Virginia, and he brings it to us directly. And, I mean, head to, you know, it's the entire goat. And so like that curried goat there, I mean, the head, the neck, the feet, the Achilles, all of the bones went into a pot to make the stock. I mean, that's pure goat stock, and then we cut up some parts for the chef to make curried goat stew or curried goat -- excuse me. But I have a lot of customers looking for goat. It is the world's most consumed meat, believe it or not.
NNAMDIYeah. We read that on -- we heard that, and we did a show about goat a few years ago.
GINSBERGYeah. But believe it or not, because of the popularity, the price of goat is very, very up there.
RAPUANOI'm not surprised.
GINSBERGIt's as expensive as good farm-raised -- excuse me, grass-fed, farm-raised local lamb. But it is delicious.
NNAMDIHere is John in Washington, D.C. John, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOHNHi. Great show. Pam, this is John. You know me from both Cleveland Park and Wagshal's. I have the twins.
NNAMDIJohn with the twins. Go ahead, John with the twins.
JOHNIt's a thrill to hear you on the radio.
JOHNHere's my question because this has always been a bit of a conundrum for me. You are doing -- you're exceptional in what you do. Do you see, or are you helping other young butchers come up in the trade in the Washington area? It's kind of a simple question, but it's entirely up to you to answer. And I'll take my answer offline.
NNAMDIWell, John, you gave me the opportunity to read a post on our website from Andrew, who says, "I'm interested in improving my chops when it comes to butchering my own meat. Where can I take a class or volunteer part-time or apprentice so that I can learn? I'm not a chef, but I wanna be able to butcher my own cuts." Pam.
GINSBERGWell, actually, each and every week, Wagshal's has people inquiring if they can come and spend the day or work for us part-time for no pay just to get better skills. In the past, what we have been able to do through L'Academie de Cuisine, we have taken some of their students and they have interned with us or hung out in the kitchen with the chef for a few days and they came to the market for a few days.
GINSBERGAnd we are talking about this actively about trying to fit into our schedules at Wagshal's, as well as the insurance area of it to teach some classes. I guess that its ongoing conversation. We are serious about this because unfortunately, we are like the only butchers on this side of town. You got to the eastern market, you've some great guys there who have been doing it as long as I have, if not, longer.
GINSBERGAnd it makes my heart skip a beat that people want to, you know, gain these skills that I've had, you know, all my life and are interested in what I do every day that gives me so much pleasure. I think Marissa can tell you, you know, in her travels across the country that, you know, this is a dying art. And, you know, those of us who still do it, it's about the passion and the feel of what -- of the end result, I think. So I'm very excited to announce that we are seriously working on this project to have some meat cutting classes.
NNAMDIJohn, thank you very much for your call. Both you and the twins can probably take those classes. Marissa, go ahead, please.
GUGGIANAI have a few suggestions as well. Yeah, Belmont Butchery in Richmond, Va., I know takes interns. And then thebutchersguild.org, we also have a job/intern placement program. And if you fill out a small form there, we mail that out to our members. So it's nationwide, but several people have found placement through that. So...
NNAMDIJoining us now by phone is Steve Gatward. He is a butcher and owner of Let's Meat on the Avenue in Alexandria, Va. Steve Gatward, thank you for joining us.
MR. STEVE GATWARDNo problem. My pleasure, Kojo.
NNAMDISteve, any tips for our last caller about where he might learn to improve his chops?
GATWARDWell, I know there's a -- I know there's one of the universities in Philadelphia that has weekend courses, and that's the only thing I could add to that conversation. They have weekend courses on how to cut up a pig, mainly pork because it's a lot easier to cut than doing a whole beef.
NNAMDIWhere did you learn your skill, your trade, Steve?
GATWARDOh, in England. In England a long, long time ago. Well, no, I'm not that old but...
NNAMDIWell, over the years, I've hosted a lot of shows on wine, and one of the recurring themes that has been driven home time after time is that the best way to find a great bottle of wine is to ask questions of the person who is selling it to you. I'd imagine the same is true of cooking with meat. The person who is selling it to you should be able to give you great tips. Is that correct, Steve?
GATWARDYes, that's very correct. People -- I mean, I'm actually flabbergasted by the amount of people who don't know how to cook sausage, you know?
GINSBERGI know the feeling.
GATWARDYeah. And people come and ask me how to cook steaks every single day, how to cook a steak. And it's a very easy process. It's so simple. One of the simplest things there is is to cook a steak. And then other people ask on different recipes, on different curries or whatever else that, you know, that I have, you know?
NNAMDIWell, how does one go about starting that conversation, Pam, without sounding like, well, they're clueless. How does someone...
GINSBERGWell, actually, I don't have a problem with anybody asking me because they're choosing to come to Wagshal's and spend their money with us. And as I tell my employees all the time, I'd rather you ask me a thousand questions than apologize to me one time. And they're in there to get knowledge that comes to me just by nature. And sharing my knowledge with them is part of the customer service area, which also has a lot to do with why there's not so many corner stores anymore and blah, blah, blah.
GINSBERGBut yeah, I mean, from cooking a piece of salmon, you know, I've been making salmon the same way for 20 years, Pam. Do you have any suggestions? Of course, I do, you know? And I think it's just, you know, like I call an accountant for tax advice. They come to their butcher, and I bet you can tell me how to make my steak better. You know...
NNAMDIWell, let's talk about how we do that by the merits of, oh, different cuts of meat and different organs. Washington is still recovering from a major winter storm. The weather is cold and damp. Steve, what are you or your customers cooking these days?
GATWARDWell, in this kind of weather I like to cook, you know, kind of some hearty meat, like a good pork curry or something like that, you know?
NNAMDIHow about you, Pam?
GINSBERGOh, we sold out of oxtails over the weekend. It's a good thing to make, and you can have it when the power goes out. You can store it in a cooler and just put a pot on your charcoal grill and reheat it. You know, we sold a lot of oxtails. I sold pork hocks, which is a nice dish with sauerkraut. all the sausages, you know, just Octoberfest finishing up. Pork shoulders are very popular. We also have whole brisket, first-cut brisket, something low and slow.
GINSBERGAnd, you know, it sticks to your ribs, but it also -- it has the smell of love in the house, you know, something that's been cooking awhile. Chicken soup always, you know, Jewish penicillin, always a good thing to have. But our customers, they come in for, you know, sweet breads we have. I mean, every day, something else. We sell a lot of exotics as well.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Don, Marissa, who says, "The nose-to-tail movement have been alive and well in the African-American community for ages. From pig's feet to chitterlings, what is now considered gourmet was created out of necessity by our ancestors." And we've been getting a lot of calls from people who say, look, in different cultures, there's still a nose-to-tail tradition. Marissa?
GUGGIANAOh, absolutely. I mean, this is traditional food. And, you know, (word?) which is gaining in popularity, or charcuterie is just peasant meat storage. You know, it's -- we killed all of our pigs this week, and obviously, we can't eat them all, and we need the meat to last through the winter, so we're gonna make ham.
GUGGIANAIt's not fancy and eating pig's feet is not fancy. It's just a re-awakening of food. And everything moves in cycles. And right now we're in a food cycle of appreciating regional, specific, traditional foods. And I think that's beautiful. You know, every -- nothing's new.
NNAMDIAnd you have written a little bit, Rina, it's my understanding, about halal butchers. Talk about that.
RAPUANOI have, yeah. They have a lot of specific rules and rituals, and they can be very appealing to someone who cares about the animals' welfare because they believe, I think, that not having stress in the animal when it's slaughtered is -- makes for not only tastier meat, but it helps you sleep at night. You know, not everybody wants to think of what happens in American slaughterhouses. And a lot of people don't wanna be a party it anymore.
RAPUANOSo there are several halal butcher shops in the suburbs, and that might be a route for the Gaithersburg caller who was looking for a butcher. There are several in Rockville.
NNAMDIOn now to Bill in Burke, Va. Bill, your turn.
BILLWhy, good afternoon, Kojo. Good to talk to you again.
NNAMDINice hearing you, Bill.
BILLQuestion, which is, I guess, may be broad, but when I grew up, there was the so-called meat district in New York. There was one in Chicago and other major cities, and they use to hang meat. And some of it got to the point where they scraped off what was not very appetizing, and you had absolutely marvelous meat. How do you get hung meat these days?
GINSBERGWell, actually, Kojo there has a plate of beef stroganoff in front of him that are chef-made, and that came off an 88-day, prime, dry-aged hip, which is the sirloin portion. At Wagshal's, were able to hang all of our beef for up to, like I said, 80 days, a hundred days. We have a 33 percent humidity-controlled cooling system. And that's the beauty.
GINSBERGI mean, guys come into the butcher shop or they'll send me an email saying, hey, you got any furry steaks today 'cause actually all that's doing is aging the beef and it's pulling all the moisture out. And we trim off those ends and you get this most spectacular -- I mean, I have goose bumps just thinking about it, I mean -- 'cause there's no moisture left. So the meat tastes like it should. It's rich. It's marbled. It's just so juicy. But there's no water content left so it's very, very rarely tough.
NNAMDISteve Gatward, what do you have hanging right now?
GATWARDI've got some beef hanging over in Franklin County right now, and that's dry-aging. And most of my dry-aged beef is usually anywhere between four to five weeks dry-aging. I find up to that point it probably pulls out enough of the moisture or pretty much most of the moisture, and you leave it a little longer than that. And it gets -- then there's more waste, basically, so then you have to charge more for it because, I mean, that's one of the reasons why -- when you said earlier, why isn't there butcher shops in Washington, D.C.
NNAMDII was about to ask, how did you end up in Alexandria? Did you originally consider opening up in the District?
GATWARDOh, absolutely, I did. Absolutely. And I looked around for several months, and I couldn't find anything that would even give me any kind of a profit. I would basically be working for the landlord, you know, giving him a bunch of money, and I wouldn't be able to make any money at all.
GATWARDI mean, the rents in Washington, D.C. are absolutely horrendous. And that's why the only people who can afford it are chain stores and maybe jewelry shops and clothes stores that, you know, have markups of 150, 200 percent. But you can't do that in a butcher shop or a local food market. I mean, they just make things so expensive.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Bill. You too can call us at 800-433-8850. Do you have a great local butcher, or have you bought meat directly from a farmer? Where do you go for choice cuts? 800-433-8850. If the lines are busy, you can go to our website, kojoshow.org, to tell us if you've experimented with tripe, brains or other less appreciated parts of the animals. You can also give us a dining recipe of your own -- a recipe of your own or a dining suggestion of your own.
NNAMDIYou can send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or email to email@example.com. Marissa, the tail-to-nose movement that we're talking about now really began with a bunch of chefs who started cooking with whole animals and it's gradually filtered down to consumers over the last few years. Can you talk a little bit about how food trends tend to filter down in American food culture? What's the life cycle of a trend?
GUGGIANAIt starts in restaurants, and restaurants are sort of what runways are to fashion. You might see something that you think you would never cook at home, but five years from now, you'd be cooking some version of that. So they start in restaurants. And then they go to more casual dining and, you know, food writers start writing about them.
GUGGIANAAnd then they end up in the magazines like Saveur, the more mainstream food magazines, and then eventually something that is related to what will be at the grocery store. But that's sort of the last part of the arc there.
NNAMDIWe got an -- Go ahead, go ahead.
GUGGIANAAnd I think we're in the beginning of the arc still, so we might not be seeing tripe at the grocery store any more like your grandparents did.
NNAMDIWell, allow me to go back to the phones. Here now is Janet in Northwest Washington. Janet, your turn.
JANETYes. Pam, this is Janet, and I was just driving in my car and heard your voice, and so I thought I would call in. I have to say that, you know, I was -- I never knew the difference between what a local butcher and someone of Pam's caliber can provide in terms of education. To me, meat was meat, and whether I bought it from the local grocery store, it made no difference. But over the course of the last year, I've become a loyal fan of Wagshal's Market.
JANETI've learned a lot, and I now know the difference between what a good butcher provides and what I can pick up at my local grocery store. And so I wanna thank you, Pam, for that. I think all of us in the neighborhood really appreciate what you've taught us over the course of maybe the last year since I've been -- become a regular customer. And I have to say that, you know, I've learned how to cook it.
JANETAnd every barbecue that we had this summer, people were just over the moon because Pam told us exactly how to prepare it, and it came out perfect every time. So not only is the quality of meat great, but the advice that I get from Pam -- and I'm sure the other customers or the other butchers around the city -- is really valuable. So I would only encourage people to really get out there and try it because it's made a world of difference in terms of the quality of food that I put out in front of my guests at my table. So thank you, Pam.
NNAMDI...thank you for your call. And if it takes Pam's voice on the air to get you to call, maybe we'll have to have Pam on the show every day afternoon so we can hear from you more often, Janet. But this email we got from Mary, Steve. Mary says, "I wish I could find someplace where I can buy kidneys. I have an urge to make steak and kidney pie. Also, any idea where I can buy suet to put in my mincemeat and Christmas pudding?" Mary is from Columbia, Md., but she was born in Ireland. First you, Steve, and then Pam.
GATWARDWell, I can get your kidneys and suet anytime you want. I mean, my beef comes in from Fauquier County. I don't normally take the suet or the kidneys because, you know, there's not much call for it. But if somebody calls me and asks for it, I can order it, and I'll just get -- bring the suet in with the kidneys inside.
NNAMDISteve is the owner of Let's Meat on the Avenue in Alexandria, Va., Mary. Here's Pam.
GINSBERGWell, sorry, Steve, but at Wagshal's, we have lamb kidneys, veal kidneys every day of the week.
GATWARDWell, I have those, too.
GINSBERGYeah. Well, and I carry the beef kidney. It comes in on Wednesdays in the slaughterhouse. I get eight and 10 at a time, but I have a lady who buys them all for her cat. The suet is just -- you know, yesterday, we went ahead and we ground our 50 pounds. We put it little packages, and we put it in the freezer.
GINSBERGSuet is the fat around the kidney. It's very different from just fat on the animal itself and very popular for making, as the lady with the email, steak and kidney pie, also Yorkshire pudding. But these are things -- because we buy whole animals several days a week, we have these things available, and enough people know that. So we are able to have it fresh every day.
NNAMDISo you have several options, Mary. We've got to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our Food Wednesday conversation on butchers in general and local butchers in particular. The phone lines are busy. So if you have a question or comment, you can send us email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a tweet @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It's Food Wednesday. We're talking butchers with Marissa Guggiana. She is co-founder of The Butcher's Guild and author of "Primal Cuts: Cooking with America's Best Butchers." Steve Gatward is a butcher and owner of Let's Meat on the Avenue, which is in Alexandria, Va. He joins us by phone. Pam "The Butcher" Ginsberg joins us in studio. She's a butcher at Wagshal's Market.
NNAMDIAnd Rina Rapuano is a food writer whose work has appeared in Washingtonian Magazine and Washington City Paper. And, Rina, during the break, we were talking about the difficulty of finding butchers in our neighborhoods here in Washington. Steve explained that the rent is the reason why he had to go to Alexandria, and you were talking about some of the difficulty you have finding butchers here even though you've been writing about this.
RAPUANOThat's right, yeah. I'm right in the middle between Eastern Market and Wagshal's, but it's really about a 20- to 40-minute ride, you know, in either direction. So my frustration was that I really have to rely on the grocery stores. I have two little ones at home, so -- and I cook a lot for work. So I just -- I really don't have the time to drive out, although Pam did just mention that they deliver. So I might be taking advantage of that in the future.
NNAMDIOh, that option.
RAPUANOThat's pretty amazing.
GINSBERGJust a little business plug.
RAPUANOYeah, but it is frustrating. That's where I started out my story. It was, you know, where's my butcher shop? Where -- promises were made. Promises were broken.
NNAMDIAnd a question still waiting to be answered.
NNAMDIMarissa, this new celebration of cooking with a whole animal is almost always couched in terms of delicious food. And, of course, people can go to our website, kojoshow.org, where we have some recipes that you have provided, correct, Marissa?
GUGGIANAThat's right. I've got a few -- I've got pig head stew and some other ones that might seem grizzly if you haven't tried this stuff. But I guarantee you, if you actually make the recipes, you'll be a believer.
NNAMDIWell, we also talk about it in terms of environmental responsibility, but you say, at a restaurant level, it really boils down to economics. Can you please explain?
GUGGIANAWell, I mean, most things boil down to economics when you're running a business, and a lot of people start a restaurant or a butcher shop, you know, with their values at the forefront. But you have to make money if you're gonna stay open. And so buying a whole pig, for example, which is the most common animal that people buy whole because it's so versatile, is actually, when you figure it out, is much more profitable.
GUGGIANAYou can make charcuterie from part of it. You can make all your money back from the specials of, you know, like making loin chops as the special of the night, and then make stew and everything else on top of that as gravy. So it's intimidating process for a lot of chefs because they're used to calling a food distributor and saying, I want, you know, a case of 109s. You get -- you know, they order meat by the number, and then you get the exact same portion size for every single plate.
GUGGIANAAnd you don't have to do the math or get too creative. You know what your cost is going in and going out. You have to take a little leap of faith and get creative when you buy a whole animal. But most shops find...
NNAMDIWell, you spoke with leading butchers about what you can do with ingredients like tripe or even a whole pig's head. We've, I mentioned, got some recipes on our website that you provided. Walk us through how you would cook an ingredient like tripe, or, even better, you got a recipe for tripe a la Collinsville on our website. Tell us about that.
GUGGIANAWell, that's a town near the chef's, I think, where he grew up, and that's from a chef in Boston and the restaurant called Coppa, which is famous for serving sort of outlandish whole animal recipes. When it comes to things like tripe, and, you know, pig ears comes to mind, like you got to cook the heck out of that stuff because it's got a little of the barnyard funk on it when you get it. I mean, pig ears you can cook for 12 hours and then, you know, process them from there.
GUGGIANABut other things like kidneys or heart, you can sear really quickly, and you don't even have to cook them all the way through, and they're fantastic. This is definitely a case of Ask The Butcher. And, you know, Pam and Steve have both said they are open to it. Everybody butcher is -- that's worth the salt. It's -- the mark of a good butcher I think is, of course, they can cut meat, but they do know what to do with it? Can they talk to you? Are they gracious about it? I mean, those are the truly great butchers that, you know, answer (unintelligible)
NNAMDIMy mom certainly knew what to do with tripe. Steve, can you tell us a little bit about what offal is exactly?
GATWARDAwful is just the -- is the term just referred to the, you know, the liver, the heart, the lungs if you like in some countries, the kidneys, and it's just the -- I mean, and that's kind of this -- all the stuff you put in haggis basically.
NNAMDIWhy do people have an adverse attitude to awful here in the states as opposed to other cultures in Europe, for instance?
GATWARDI just think they've never really been have been exposed to eating any kinds of awful, and liver is the most common. But in Europe, it's a very common dish. I mean, we have it all the. We have great recipe of liver, bacon and onions and some nice brown gravy. It's a beautiful dish if you cook it right. And that calves' liver and also lambs has a really nice liver, and it's not strong.
GATWARDAnd I think what people -- what Americans have become -- uses when they get liver, they have always had beef liver, which is a very strong flavor. And then they've really had something like the calf and the sheep and the lamb's liver. But I don't know. I mean, every European there is here -- and I have lots of Europeans coming in my store and asking for liver and heart and kidneys. In fact, I got somebody picking up today, and they want the heart and the liver ground into ground beef because they realized the health benefits of it.
NNAMDIAnd, Pam, we got this email from Alonzo. He says, "My mom is internationally known. This is a biased comment, of course," he says. "In Peru, friends still talk about her cau-cau. And now here in the states, when my friends come to visit, I always made them try it, and I will tell them what it is afterwards as a Peruvian dish made with cow's stomach." Are you familiar with that at all, Pam?
NNAMDII see. I knew you...
NNAMDII knew you would be.
NNAMDIAnd the email raises, of course, the question of how other cultures consume animals. And I thought we had a caller, but I bet we have -- now, we have an email from Reggie, who as -- says, "As a Haitian-American, I'm so happy that eating an animal from head-to-tail is finally catching on in the states. Growing up when I visit the homeland, I was part of the entire process that we eat every part of the goat, chicken, cow, et cetera, from the brains, the marrow, the blood.
NNAMDI"It taught me respect for the animal and not to waste a single morsel. I'm in Pittsburgh now, and we have some great restaurants that have other parts of animals. I get my meat from --" I guess, awful parts of animals. "I get my meat from a local farmer. Maybe I'll see if I can find a local butcher as well." Well, good luck to you in Pittsburgh. Here is Carol is Burke, Va. Carol, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NNAMDIGo right ahead, Carol.
CAROLHi. I love to eat beef heart, beef tongue, but unfortunately, it's so hard to find and get. I buy my meat from Whole Foods only because of, you know, this -- all the stuff they put into animals today, but they don't carry that stuff. And I wonder why they don't do that because there is so many people today that would eat that stuff. And you have no idea how delicious beef heart is when you preparing it with lots of condiments like hot sauce and then you grill it. It's just delicious.
NNAMDII don't know if in Rina's pursuit of the story for city paper or any of her other articles, you raised that questions with question with chains like Whole Foods, say, very giant.
RAPUANONot really. I think Pam could probably speak more to what happens at Whole Foods...
RAPUANO...and behind the scenes and some other larger operations.
GINSBERGYeah. I mean...
NNAMDIHere is Pam.
GINSBERG...at Whole Foods, you can't even buy a whole lobster or a whole goose at Christmas. So they have their reasons for not selling particular products. And tongue and heart would go to the fact that they claimed they can't source it. And this would get me into a conversation that I better have on radio and the public to hear 'cause I, you know, I might need a lawyer later.
GINSBERGBut, yeah, it's just like going into Whole Foods now and you ask them for ground lamb. They'd tell you, oh, that's on Thursday, because it's coming to them already processed. They're paying gentlemen and ladies to work on the meat counter. Not very many people have butcher skills at Whole Foods. Some of them do, some stores do, others don't. But, again, Whole Foods is not buying whole animals each store.
GINSBERGI mean, I can get tongue and all of these things, you know, every week 'cause we buy our beef direct from the kosher slaughter facility, and I occasionally get like hearts that are uncut for biology classes and research projects but...
NNAMDIWell, Marissa, where does all that other stuff go and the foods that end up in major supermarkets? Where do they send all of the parts that you can find in Steve or Pam's store normally that you can't find in the major chains? Where do they go?
GUGGIANAA lot of the slaughter houses and big processing plants, they don't make very much money on the initial process. They sell in bulk all the things, all the offal or the head. They gathered those things and they send them off, like, I know one of the major lamb processing plants in California sells all their lamb heads to Japan. And I don't know what's going on over there with lamb heads but...
GUGGIANA...that's how they make their money. They don't actually make money killing the animals. And so if you are having your animals slaughtered there and you want that -- you want your kidneys, you want your head...
GINSBERGYou get it.
GUGGIANA...you have to pay extra for it. You have to pay a lot extra.
NNAMDISteve, care to comment?
NNAMDICare to comment on that at all?
GATWARDNot really. I mean, I'm pretty much in the same line, you know, as Pam said, that Whole Foods is -- you can't even buy a whole lobster.
GINSBERGWell, you know, it's Halloween, and I'll tell you a story.
GINSBERGFor years and years, people would come for Halloween and ask if we could get eyes. And 10, 12 years ago, I'd call the guy in Baltimore and he'd send me sets of eyes, no charge. Three years ago, four years ago, $6 a set. All of the eyes go to Johns Hopkins for research.
NNAMDIMm-hmm. And they pay for them?
GINSBERGAnd they pay for them. I had a company here locally who wanted the trachea to do research. And when I called my hog farmer, he was like, I don't have a problem doing that, but I need something in writing saying it's not for human consumption because pigs carry emphysema by nature to a certain things, but there is a couple answers for you about things. I mean, Hopkins is taking all the eyes they can for research. Hey, that's a greater good down the road.
NNAMDICarol, thank you very much for your call. I should mention that Carlos, who couldn't get on the air, had all kinds of recommendations: for Treuth butchers in Ellicott City, Snider's in Silver Springs, Stachowski in Georgetown. We thank you all for making those recommendations. And we have time for one call. Jacob in Washington, D.C., you got about 30 seconds. Jacob.
NNAMDIGo ahead, Jacob. You got about 20 seconds.
JACOBHi. So, I mean, I was just going back to what a guests had spoken about earlier dealing with the fact that people are willing to pay huge markups for clothing and what not, but they're not willing to pay really any sort of markup for good meats or butchered-cut meat as opposed to going to your local grocery store and paying basically pennies on the dollar for what could be anything in a shrink-wrap.
NNAMDIAnd thank you very much. I think that's an appropriate final comment. Pam "The Butcher" Ginsberg, thank you so much for joining us.
GINSBERGThank you for having me.
NNAMDIPam Ginsberg is a butcher at Wagshal's Market. Rina Rapuano, thank you for joining us.
RAPUANOA pleasure to be here.
NNAMDIRina is a food writer whose work has appeared in Washingtonian magazine and Washington City Paper. Marissa Guggiana, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIMarissa is co-founder The Butcher's Guild and author of "Primal Cuts: Cooking with America's Best Butchers." And, Steve Gatward, thank you for joining us.
GATWARDYou're welcome, Kojo. It's good to be on the show.
NNAMDISteve is a butcher and owner of Let's Meat on the Avenue in Alexandria, Va. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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