Peter Richards’ pork butchery class

I have said before that if you’re going to eat meat you ought to be prepared to do more to it than plop cubes out of a plastic carton, so when I heard about Master Butcher Peter Richards’ first pork butchery and sausage making class I was quick to put my name forward. Peter is the proprietor of Frank Richards & Sons on Western Road in Lewes. He is an excellent butcher: always willing to order in to his customers’ whims and to answer meaty questions.

Peter launched these classes as part of this year’s OctoberFeast and they have been so popular he has already added an extra date during the festival week. With plenty of interest in further classes covering beef, lamb and even game butchery; I expect Peter’s workshops will become a regular thing.

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I arrive about five minutes late to a class already in full swing. Nine others dressed in striped butcher’s aprons are holding glasses of wine and Harveys beer. Among them is a chef, a college student and an archaeologist. They all seem pretty unimpressed by my assumption that butchery classes are a man thing.

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To begin the class, Peter takes half a pig and demonstrates how to saw the carcass into thirds, the first cut being between the fifth and sixth rib. Pork is probably the only meat, he says, that you need to butcher as fresh as possible.

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Students are invited to muck in from the beginning although due to practicalities, not everyone can take a turn at each cut. As Peter demonstrates removing the tenderloin, ‘the fillet steak of the pork world’, he explains that the rest of the cuts of pork, unlike those of beef or lamb, are very similar in price.

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When celebrity chefs ‘get hold of things,’ however, Peter says ‘it makes a big difference’. His most recent example is Jamie Oliver’s suggestion to buy a hand of pork to roast on Sunday and use throughout the week. The hand, or pork shoulder on the bone, used to be a common roasting joint but it has decreased in popularity as ‘big family dinners’ become less frequent and bones less appealing. Jamie called the hand the shoulder on TV, says Peter, and the following day an unusually large amount of people came in asking for pork shoulder, usually a boneless cut.

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Peter says ‘the most difficult thing about butchery has got to be the knot,’ and while I am still yet to attempt to butcher a whole animal, I can now say from experience that butcher’s knots are bloody fiddly. After several attempts I got it with help from the phrase, ‘over the hedge and in the hole’. While knot-tying is something one can practise easily, Peter suggests that to avoid disaster you should first try out your butchery skills on ‘anything that’s going to be minced’.

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Which brings me helpfully to the sausage making demonstration. True to my expectations this brought us a lot of laughs, from the three-man job of bringing the sausage maker out from round the back, to Jill’s super speedy workmanship making sausages out of the full mix in what seemed like a few seconds. We made two types, the first being one of Peter’s bestsellers: Old English, from a one-hundred-year-old recipe, seasoned with mace, sage, white pepper and salt.

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Once our bangers had been tied it was time to go home, each of us with a bag of sausages to fry up at home and a bit more kit on our Christmas lists. While I feel far from able to steal Peter’s trade off the back of this lesson alone, I certainly feel more knowledgable about what cuts of pork to use in my kitchen at home, and more determined to make better use of the meat that I buy.

Butchery-31Peter Richards’ Pork Butchery & Sausage Making class costs £40 for a 2.5 hour session with complimentary drinks, sausage rolls and scotch eggs. To register your interest in attending these classes call Peter on 01273 473086.

Frank Richards & Sons is at 25 Western Rd, Lewes, E.Sussex, BN7 1RL.

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Disclosure: I was invited to attend Peter’s workshop free of charge for the purpose of writing this post, I have otherwise received no financial compensation.

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About Chloe King

I'm a freelance writer, designer and webby type. I live with my husband and daughter in the south of England. I like to cook and can throw a good party.

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7 comments on “Peter Richards’ pork butchery class

  1. October 1, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    Oh I would LOVE to do this. I agree, there’s a certain ethical imperative to face up to where your meat comes from, and I almost feel I would expunge a little guilt by facing up to the reality of a carcass and butchery. I’ve been learning to use less conventional, cheaper, cuts of meat for the first time this year, but I’ve never had to put them in their context – they arrive plastic wrapped and hygenic…

    • October 2, 2013 at 8:39 am

      Interesting you speak of expunging some guilt, I think there is certainly a bit of this involved. It’s way too easy to remove yourself from the reality of meat eating if you only eat processed or packaged cuts. Having said that, I am not morally against eating meat, I just think it should be eaten in moderation and treated with respect.

  2. October 1, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    Sounds great, I’ll certainly get in touch with Peter. My local (very good ) Brighton based butchers didn’t seem interested in putting on such classes when I suggested it, so it looks like Peter is going to be busy. Thanks Chole!

    • October 2, 2013 at 8:42 am

      Great Sarah, I’m glad to hear you’re thinking of attending one, it was a really enjoyable evening. 🙂

  3. October 2, 2013 at 8:19 am

    I think for me, the most important aspect would be to have hands on experience of trying to do all the cuts, but unfortunately that means only the really expensive classes would suit and then the price keeps putting me off….

    • October 2, 2013 at 8:48 am

      Indeed Kavey, that would be a pricey option but maybe worth it for those who intend to order in a whole pig to butcher at home. There were plenty of chances to help out and some were more keen than others to do this, so, depending on what kind of group you are in, you may well find you get plenty of hands-on experience. You could always video bits on your phone to help fill in the gaps.

  4. October 9, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    I’d love to be able to do something like this, a really good experience – anything that gives people a better experience with the food they eat has to be a good thing x

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