The WHOLE Hog

A tweet on Friday from Kocurek Family Charcuterie, @KFAcharcuterie, read: Pig butchery class this weekend on for just a donation. location to be giving out two hours before demo…be in south austin…space limited

Pig butchering class? Yes, please! I cleared my night and anxiously awaited the location. It was announced at 5:30pm – a small kitchen in one hour. Traffic was at its worst, the first UT home game of the season, and I live on the other side of town. How could I forget? We fought traffic and arrived at 6:30pm on the nose. Once there we were promptly greeted by the fairly large fellow pictured below and a solid handshake from the man who raised him, Lawrence Kocurek.

Awhile back I posted about the Whole Hog Class with Dai Due. This was nothing like that. This was last minute, minimally planned, and free of any charge. This was a very small class for people who were genuinely interested taught by a man who truly wanted to share his craft. To paraphrase Lawrence, we would be butchering him anyway, so why not invite people to join?

The class consisted of Lawrence, another Kacurek Family Charcuterie employee, and five other people (myself included). The evening began with no introductions, they were unnecessary; instead, it began with removing the head from a 256 pound pig and not one person batted an eye.

Someone asked a question about rendering fat for lard. Lawrence stopped to show us the line between the soft and hard fat. He waited until we each had a chance to see for ourselves. He talked about modern breeds and how most don’t have much fat at all, how it has been bred out in favor of leaner meats. He took the time to explain why the pig they have for breeding is an old world breed, how they want to keep some of that fat on their animals. When he talked about his pigs his eyes lit up. These pigs aren’t just pigs that are raised somewhere for production – they are his pigs – his family – his livelihood – and it showed.

From that point forward the class went quickly. Lawrence explained each cut, each section of the pig, and what each part would be used for. Not one piece would go to waste. Questions were welcomed and he would stop to answer each one in detail.

We learned about processing plants, hanging weight versus regular weight, how to tell if the kidneys are healthy, and more. Topics varied, but no discussion strayed far from the noble beast at hand.

What began as an incredibly large animal was now nothing more than bones.

What surprised me the most was size of the hog’s frame. The bone structure supports 300+ pounds, but is tiny in comparison to the hog’s overall size.

An hour and a half later and it was over. There were no hand-out’s, no suggested reading material. The class was impromptu and somehow it worked. Lawrence shared his craft in a setting best described as casual; the five of us watched with wide eyes and learned everything we wanted to know because our questions helped guide the night and he had an answer to every one. It was an experience I will not soon forget.

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