Break It Down

Got a half a hog in a week ago and thought it would be a good idea to share a little bit about the breakdown. The harvest…ribs, lardo, lomo, pancetta, loin, fatback, coppa, sausage, chorizo, saucisson sec, calabrese, culatello, and fiocco. And maybe some pork rinds.

Cochon 555 Coming to DC

Well fingers crossed. Cured DC has applied to volunteer at COCHON 555 this Spring. What’s Cochon 555 you ask? Well, if you can imagine dozens of butchers jacked up Ossabow pork cracklins’ and bourbon, dancing with various assorted cleavers, and massive amounts of delicious pig being artfully deconstructed before your eyes in a timed trial across several states, basically, the Olympics of butchery, then you kind of have an idea of what Cochon 555 is.

In its 5th year, COCHON 555 is a 10-city culinary competition and tasting tour. Fifty chefs are selected to prepare a ‘snout -to-tail’ menu created from heritage breed pigs. The ten local winners are flown to the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen for the final competition, Grand Cochon. Three other national events–Cochon All-Star, Cochon Heritage Fire and a BBQ competition–also focus on whole animal utilization. At the DC stop, five local chefs will prepare a menu from the entirety of one 200 pound family-raised heritage breed of pig, nose-to-tail. Twenty judges (culinary luminaries) and 400 guests help decide the winning chef by voting on the “best bite of the day”. The winner will be crowned the Prince of Porc and will compete at Grand Cochon event at the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen on Sunday, June 16.

The festival-cum-competition touches down in DC on April 7th, and if the starts are aligned, Cured DC will be there dressed in whites, running hams from table to table, lugging buckets of offal or hell, maybe just sharpening knives–but come hell or highwater, we’ll be there. If you’re interested and maybe don’t want to get wrist deep in pig guts, and prefer your meat dressed in tasting size, you should buy a ticket here, and we’ll see you there!


Mike the Meat Head Chef teaching us how to butcher a pig carcass.

Apprenticing has been a unique process since the beginning of human history yet it is a dying art. From carpentry to sculpture, and in an increasingly fast and technologically savvy world, the old way of doing things is becoming a relic of the past. In large part this is due to the lack of professional ‘masters’. Learning how to butcher has been a casualty of historical processes and concerted efforts that decimated our country’s unions and ended professional guilds. Unions, like all human organizations are not perfect but they did protect jobs, maintained standards, and ensure that the art was begin passed from one generation to the next. Industrializing agricultural processes left us with poor quality meat, ecological degradation, and a world where butchers were replaced with ‘meat cutters’. Don’t think that you can ask for specific cuts of meat from you local supermarket meat department. More often than not they don’t know anything but how to portion out the meat they order.

I have wanted to be a part of the revival of that long lost art and searched for a  teacher to pass on their knowledge of butchering, to improve my culinary skills. Enter Mike Smollon, butcher. Mike is one of those guys that you look at and just smile. He’s warm, kind and just wants to share his knowledge of the craft. I began working in their shop a few months ago but have had to take a break since the birth of my son. I’m eager to get back to learning. Mike and I spoke not long ago and we agreed to join forces. He would teach butchery and I would teach basic charcuterie at his butcher shop in Annapolis – My butcher and more.

Classmate butchering up our first lamb

For those interested in taking some basic classes in butchery Mike is the man. He offers weekly Meat 101 classes that teach the basics of knife sharpening, de-boning chickens – excellent and fast for the grill, and cutting up pig carcasses. You won’t be disappointed as you’ll go home with a bag full of delicious goodies. Once you’ve mastered that you can move on to his butcher seminar which is in the planning stages. There is no other place in the area to get such comprehensive skills at a reasonable price. Check us out when the new butcher seminar and charcuterie classes begin.