On Thursday evening, the press preview and pig butchering demo was held at the East Village Meat Market to highlight this year’s Pig Island gathering to be held on September 7 in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The first time I’d ever been to the market was last year, when Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43 invited me to watch the pig he was going to use for the event being divided up to set aside for cooking and brining. This year, several chefs and food writers and photographers got together as two master butchers divided up the two 100-pound pigs that had been donated by Ag Local, an organization that champions responsibly-raised meat.
We were treated to a tour of the market, including a peek into their sausage curing cabinet. At the East Village Meat Market, they make all their cured meat products in-house each day. They also produce other older-world delicacies like head cheese (also in a chicken version, which I’d never seen before), jellied pigs’ feet, stuffed cabbage, white and red borscht, and homemade soups and other delicatessen-type products.
For the press preview, we were fortunate to be able to sample some of their house-made meat products. There was a platter of their velvety-smooth City Ham (they brine and smoke the hams on premises and sell them bone-in and bone-out). We snacked on their hearty, robustly-meaty beer sausage (which Jimmy has on his menu) and their more delicately-fragrant garlic sausage. As delicious as the meat was, one of the highlights was that they served it alongside pots of their fiery-strong, nasal-passage-clearing house mustard.
The real event of the evening was not just in the eating of these products, but also in the process of how the pigs are broken down to be used to make them. “These guys are the real deal,” said Jimmy, taking of Andrew, George, and Vasily, who were our hosts for the evening. They have been butchers for decades and have seen the neighborhood and the clientele change with the years. Now, they said they get large amounts of orders primarily during the Orthodox and Christian Christmas and Easter holidays, with families buying large amounts of their smoked meats for their tables. They do a steady business with the locals as well as with NYU students, as their prices are relatively reasonable and they carry homemade soups.
The evening was a way to show respect for and to celebrate this craft that we all get to enjoy once those meats hit our palates. It was also a great kick-off to one of my favorite food events of the fall season – Pig Island. I can’t wait to see what the chefs bring with them this year, as they can create any dish they want to using the pigs supplied by local-area farms. Here’s the link to last year’s event recap, which will show you in all its porky glory why I like this gathering so much.
Tickets are available now to purchase for this event and get you all that you can eat plus beers from sponsors and Brooklyn brewers Sixpoint, who supplied the beer for the press preview. An early-bird ticket also nets you a digital copy of an e-book being produced about the history of Pig Island, produced by Jimmy Carbone and Rachel Wharton and photographed by John Taggart.