Then came a time when we found farming and thus an easier path to consuming our favourite cuts. But as the general public got further away from their own hunter gathering roots, so our knowledge and our interest in the intricacies of butchery became restricted to the few who were skilled in handling meat.
Until now. Whether it was something in the water or perhaps even something in the food, the last decade or so has seen a gradual change in the public’s perception of food. Yes, of course, fast food chains still have a dominant position in the market. But thanks in large part to the celebrity chefs of this world, we as a nation have started to connect once more with the finer cuts in life.
And then there’s the cooking. Never has it been cooler for people to know their 160⁰C slow cooker from their 220⁰C fast roast. Just look at the shelves in your local bookshop and you will undoubtedly find shelf after shelf dedicated to Jamie and Gordon, Nigella and Michel.
At Dicksons we couldn’t be more delighted that consumers are once again wanting to know what is going into their food. That care and attention has been taken in the cooking process, and that ingredients have been carefully sourced to ensure the highest standards of flavour and hygiene.
That said, it’s a tricky business. Take pork. Overcooked, it’s dry as bone. Undercooked is unsuitable for eating. And what about all the parts to an animal? There’s so many it can leave your head spinning, right?
Not to worry. Here are some top tips on getting gourmet:
It’s here you get your chops and sirloin. They’re affordable enough, but what can you do with them? Well a simple dish could be pork chops and cider apples. This makes a great autumnal meal later in the day, and is easy to make.
Season the chop with salt and pepper, then pan-fry till golden brown. Remove from the pan. Add a chopped onion with sliced apples and cook, again till brown. Put the chops back in, pour some cider over, and move to the oven (preheated to around 200c/400f/Gas 6). Around 30 minutes should do it. Voila!
This is one of the cheapest cuts from the pig, but the quality is just fine. Try Chinese spare ribs by whizzing up your own marinade – or experiment with just about any kind of pork friendly version.
Preheat oven to 180c/325f/Gas 5 and cook for 40 minutes. Done. Great with stir fry or rice, easy to make, and fun to eat.
Jowl doesn’t sound great. You’ll be hard pushed to find pork cheeks in your recipe books. For this reason they’re usually avoided. Don’t be so rash(er)!
This fatty cut is juicier and more succulent than bacon, and can be used in salads or pastas. In Italy it is cured to make Guanciale. Ask your butcher and he’ll help you out. It’s especially tasty when smoked. Add to your salad or carbonara pasta and you’ll be glad you persevered.
This is basically the shoulder. You might wish to try the blade steak. This is especially flavoursome because it is so rich in marbling, and will often be found with bone attached. It’s best braised, which requires little attention, and yields tender results for tougher cuts. Simply brown in a pan, and simmer in a pot until cooked.
Once you learn to braise, you’ll get a whole lot more from cheaper cuts that may otherwise be too tough to enjoy.
There’s plenty more to pork, but that should get you started. A few ‘classic cuts’, and the odd idea on those tricky bits you don’t know what to do with. Happy cooking!