Yesterday I stopped at Proletariat Butchery up on Fremont Street in Portland to visit with owner and artisan butcher, Zeph Shepard. Zeph’s shop is the epitome of small batch, service-oriented butchery. He takes pride in knowing his customers and helping them get the most out of their eating experience.
I took a hands-on pig butchery class from Zeph last year and it was really helpful to see how a butcher views a half pig and the options it contains. With knife-in-hand, we cut up the carcass ourselves and it was educational and fun.
One great thing about working with Zeph is he’ll teach and do as much or as little as you want. If you want to learn how to cut up your pig yourself, he’ll teach you. If you just want to have him do it, he’ll cut it up for you. But no matter what you have in mind, he starts with a conversation about what you like to eat and how you can make the most out of your meat.
Proscuitto: ham cured with salt, air, and plenty of patience
Yesterday, I took Zeph a whole rear leg of pork to be cured into Prosciutto. I took the photo above in his shop and these are hams that have been salted, coated with leaf fat, and are now aging. Over time, the salt works its way into the meat while the water slowly exits the meat. Capillary action pulls the salt in as the water escapes and the meat slowly cures and becomes firm. A leg this size will take about a year to get to where I can start eating it and maybe another six to twelve months after that to develop its full potential of rich flavors.
This type of charcuterie is all about patience. I’m looking forward to sharpening my knife and taking the first thin slices off my Elkhorn prosciutto a year from now.
If you’d like to learn how to do charcuterie or maybe have Zeph get it going for you, Elkhorn can provide the primal cuts of pork you need to get started and Zeph can help you get it finished. Let us know when you’re ready and we’ll get you on the road to great eating!