Thursday, August 28, 2008

Slaughter Event

Culinary Communion's Gabriel Claycamp killing a 730-lb hog.

We hosted an educational slaughter event yesterday. Among others, the visitors included Gabriel Claycamp, Tom Black and Gary Tuss (of Seattle's bleeding edge Culinary Communion) and Erik Wood and Matt of Collin's Pub.

The purpose was to allow chefs to learn how to slaughter - with as much or as little help as they wanted. The slaughterer was there to supervise people as they killed and eviscerated their own hogs. If they didn't want to do it, he'd take over.

Killing hogs is stressful because mistakes can ruin some or all of the meat. Given that, a lot of people throw up their hands and let the slaughterer do it. The goal of yesterday's event was to create a positive learning environment.

With the Culinary Communion folks, there are practical reasons for them to learn how to slaughter - they already do all the processing, so they might as well kill their hogs too. Given their high-standards, they are better off doing it themselves and not being dependent on a slaughterer.

Vassily and his son Vitaly showing how to eviscerate.

Vassily was the instructor/slaughterer. He's got about 30 years of hog-killing and processing experience. For the last decade, he's killed about 2 hogs a week. He's comfortable doing things different ways (e.g. scalding versus burning). He's also people-person: authoritative, calm and relaxed. Where he comes from, they make traditional products, so he seemed a good fit for the chefs.

August is a bad time to kill hogs, so we started in the evening, when it is cooler and there's less flies. Unfortunately, things went too slowly and we ran out of natural light. We used electric lamps, but it really slowed us down.

The original plan was to have Vassily do two small hogs so that the visitors could watch those, perhaps help and then do their own (or have Vassily do them). That was a mistake - by the time Vassily was getting done with first two, it was getting dark, and the Culinary Communion team still had to kill and process a 730-lb hog. Lesson learned: do the critical hogs first.

In the end, we killed four hogs. Vassily showed how to eviscerate one hog. Erik Wood eviscerated (with Vassily looking on) the second hog. Gabriel Claycamp and his team stunned, stuck and eviscerated their hog, then broke it down, vacuum-packed it and hauled it away. Vassily advised them when they needed help. I killed a fourth hog, and Vassily showed me a bit about how to eviscerate it. One interesting thing I learned: with the small hogs, scalding (even if all you do is ladle water over it) is the way to go. Except for the feet, where the hairs will probably stick and need burning.

Left to right: Gabriel Claycamp, Natalie and Tom Black.
They've just finished catching the blood.

The hog-killing was a very social event. Here you can see Tom Black photographing Gabriel and his assistant (Natalie) after they've collected the blood from their hog. The hog slaughter event isn't just about turning animals into meat, but about people having fun and doing something important together.


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