Craft butchery is a skill and an art. You won’t find the handiwork of a real craft butcher in a big name multinational supermarket – the butchery for these shops is usually done in a central processing house, with cuts delivered already portioned and pre-packaged in plastic trays covered with cling fillm. Some of Ireland’s independent supermarkets, particularly the notable family owned stores, may have a fully trained butcher on hand. But the obvious place to find a real butcher is in a real butcher’s shop! These men have trained for years – many from being young boys following in family footsteps for generations. They know every skill essential to their art. And yes. It is an art. The adept use of the knife, knowledge of cuts, expert butchery of a carcass so every little bit has a use and nothing is wasted. Hanging meat on the bone in the traditional way. Making the most of trimmings and offcuts for handmade sausages, meatloaves and the like. A butcher’s shop is a hive of industry! All these practices ensure the consumer gets great meat every time, prepared with expertise and dedication. The butcher’s shop should be a place of reverence. An altar any food lover should stop and worship at now and again. You may learn something that will help you in your own kitchen. And at the very least you will get quality local meats prepared properly. Some butchers even have their own farms and abbatoirs, keeping traceablitiy fully within the business, like Good Food Ireland butchers Michael McGrath of Lismore, MIchael O’Neill of Clonakilty, and Sean Kelly of Newport. Others like Martin Divilly of Galway, Jack McCarthy of Kanturk, and The Market Butcher, Dublin are known for their own speciality cured bacon and other meats, and for sourcing more unusual meats and game. Good Food Ireland butchers, as you would expect, are experts in their field, and well worth picking the brains of, for advice and tips on anything meat related.
Have you ever taken time to watch a butcher at work? It’s quite something, to see the various techniques used in meat preparation. Some of them are skills that would die out if these men were not still in business. One of the hardest things to master is the Butcher’s Knot. This writer well remembres trying to learn it from an experienced butcher back in apprentice chef’s training days. It’s still one of those elusive skills that when you don’t use it, you lose it! It just so happens that in recent research on this very topic, this little video poppped up – Youtube is useful for some things! Scott Rea is an English butcher with a number of instructional butchery videos on Youtube, including this one on How to tie a Butcher’s Knot, which is absolutely brilliant. A step by step guide to getting the hang of one of the most used practices in butchery. This skill is just one of the reasons we love real butchers very much!