Hands on Pork Butchery Day at Empire Farm, Somerset
Ifirst read about this popular course in a Guardian article a few years back, where it was feted as one of the best in the UK. As well as teaching butchery skills with a highly experienced teacher, the day itself is an opportunity for good food lovers to take home beautiful cuts of meat (half a pig’s worth) that they themselves have learnt to carve.
The course is run by David Coldman, a seasoned and enthusiastic butcher with more than 35 years’ experience, and I hear, a real knack for explaining things in an engaging down-to-earth way. David’s passion for animal welfare and organically reared food also makes him the perfect tutor for Empire Farm, a Soil Associationcertified farm on the Blackmore Vale in Somerset.
Empire Farm runs a range of courses throughout the year, and this tends to be their most popular. As the title suggests, it’s a very hands on day. With only four participant places open at one time (plus four cheaper observer spots), numbers are kept deliberately small to ensure everyone gets enough guidance from David to properly hone their skills. This is the real deal in butchery, and the school has an excellent reputation as a result. Monthly dates are available, year round, but places tend to fill up well in advance so you’ll have to be quick if you fancy booking a spot.
The course is designed for beginners. These could be existing smallholders who may be looking to diversify into farm gate or farm shop sales, or just anyone with an interest in learning the skill of butchery. Some attendees simply take pleasure in learning where the different cuts of pork actually come from, and in taking home the hand cut side of pork to fill their freezer.
Starting at 9.30am, with tea, coffee and introductions, the action-packed day also includes lunch, a comprehensive handout and notes to take home. Participants are encouraged to bring cool bags and ice blocks where possible and to first ensure they have enough space at home for the various roasting joints, racks, chops, sausages and so forth, with which they will be laden when they leave.
David covers everything you could need to know when it comes to processing half a pig, from the basic anatomy through to the finished products and joints. There is also a sausage-making session thrown in at the end, and bacon making if time permits. He says: “The course offers exceptional value as you get to pack up and take home all the meat you have butchered and your batch of sausages, easily worth £150 if you had to buy it all in a supermarket. It is not merely a demonstration day, but a real opportunity to be involved in every part of the process. As some of our attendees have said, the day puts us back in touch with real meat, not just a packet on a shelf!”
Teacher David Coldman
Lots to learn!
Learning about cuts