The Vegetarian Butcher Makes Sausage

Every other Tuesday throughout the summer, Matt helps with the processing of a batch of chickens at a friend's farm. They call him The Vegetarian Butcher.

Matt has been a vegetarian for all of his adult life, and involved in the food business in one way or another for even longer. So while he has no taste for poultry, he helps with chicken dispatch because he has a deep, reaching interest in food and farming. And also, he just likes hanging out with Farmer Pete.

These days, Matt's vegetarianism is broken by exactly one pig a year. Said pig grows up where the chickens do - on a mountaintop farm with 360-degree views of blue horizon, steep cloud banks, and pasture that is thick and deep like water.

Our friends Pete and Eliza own Clodhopper Farm. Each year they host a gathering of friends called Sausagefest, which begins with an ending (pig's). Pig becomes pork, while men wield spices and knives and beers.

Todd and Pete grinding fat

This year I saw the pig hanging in the back room, and it was oddly lovely. Clean and pink and ripply. Granted it had no head or guts or skin, which I expect makes the experience of seeing it strung from the ceiling sort of G-rated.

In the weeks leading up to Sausagefest, if I notice a faraway look in Matt's eye and ask what's on his mind, he answers, "chorizo." There are recipes going on - adding, subtracting, curing, aging. Little pinches of smoked paprika going in and slugs of red wine coming out. Minced garlic is whirling around in his skull like a snow flurry.

Bacon in waiting

In two days, a pig was divvied up into Mexican chorizo, sweet and hot Italian sausage, breakfast sausage, salami, Spanish chorizo, bacon, ribs, and pate.

The bulk of Matt's share is in our freezer, except for the salami and dry chorizo, which are hanging in the coldest corner of the house, atop the bedroom wardrobe. Sometimes the dog sits in her bed at the foot of the wardrobe, gazing up with longing.

Spanish chorizo and salami curing

You can read about last year's Sausagefest at Pete's blog.
You can find a couple of the recipes Matt used here: Spanish chorizo and pate


Eliza @ Appalachian Feet said...

Having very very recently broken my long time vegetarianism (with the stipulation that meat I eat must come from farms I know well) this was an especially interesting post. The tone of your post is exactly what I think carnivores should be. Respectful, appreciative, sustainable. Thanks for making meat look good.

Sandra K. said...

I really loved this. Thanks for sharing!

Rodrica said...

What an apt and poetic description of Clodhopper Farm.

Stacy said...

Seeing people work together like this is really gorgeous - very "Little House on the Prairie," in the best possible sense. And I'm slavering a bit over the recipes...

Ellen Zachos said...

Sausagefest sounds very cool. I'm going to seek out Clodhopper this spring.

Immortal Mountain said...

I think if I were to eat pork, it would definitely be a taste of that sausage hanging from your dresser... I must say, I never thought I would say that!

Kimberly Long Cockroft said...

I often say I'd could be a vegetarian but for pork. We have a good Mennonite friend who raised pigs and then sells the most delicious, thick-cut bacon (my favorite) imaginable. I never knew pork could taste as delectable as this. The girls (our three daughters) get to muck around and see his chickens (source of our eggs) and his lovely little piglets. Agreed, that this is the way meat-eating should be: marked by familiarity and community.

Love your blog, by the way.