Porkopolis revisited: Findlay Kitchen butchering workshop focuses on locally sustainable food

Making, eating own sausage also part of the fun

CINCINNATI -- To truly embrace life as a native of Porkopolis, sign up for the next cooking class at Findlay Kitchen.

Over March 25 and 26, in the classroom kitchen on Elm Street, local chef Justin Dean and Eckerlin Meats owner Bob Lillis Jr. will walk people through the nose-to-tail butchery of a pig and then literally show them how the sausage is made. Twelve amateur butchers will leave Findlay Kitchen on Sunday with a greater knowledge of hog anatomy and the region's food system, as well as eight pounds of fresh, pasture-raised pork from Hood's Heritage Hogs in Mount Olivet, Kentucky.

"The conditions these hogs are living in are beautiful, these gorgeous pastures in Kentucky," Findlay Kitchen Director Marianne Hamilton said. "People need to know where their food comes from. It empowers so many people and dollars."

Findlay Kitchen is a nonprofit food business incubator dedicated to helping local entrepreneurs build and grow and bring local, healthy food to Greater Cincinnati. Forty-seven businesses -- established restaurants and entrepreneurs alike -- use the space and resources in Findlay Kitchen's 8,000-square-foot space on Elm Street.

You can take a cooking class at Findlay Kitchen almost every week, each hosted and taught by one of the associated business owners, with most of the fees going back into the host's business. The butchering and sausage-making class is the first one hosted by Findlay Kitchen itself.

"Nobody else was doing this, and it's such an education," Hamilton said. "And you can just have a larger conversation about sustainability."

Dean, who will teach the butchering class, is a personal chef and serves on the board of the Chefs Collaborative, which is dedicated to environmentally sustainable farming and fishing, humane animal husbandry and locally sourced, seasonally appropriate food. He helps a variety of Cincinnati restaurants source ingredients locally.

"It's not easy," Dean said. "There's a cost to locally sourcing and the customer has to be educated as to why there's a cost."

The importance of a sustainable food system will be a larger part of the curriculum on day one of the butchering class. People will learn how the red wattle hogs they are breaking down were raised and how they got to Findlay Kitchen. Dean will show them exactly what part of the pig each cut of meat comes from and how to extract each cut most efficiently.

"You don't want to throw anything into the trash, out of respect to the animal, the farmer, the whole process," Dean said.

The hands-on class continues Sunday when people return to Findlay Kitchen to learn how to grind, season, mix and stuff their own sausages. Sessions both days last from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"Good quality meat, good fresh seasoning," those are the keys to great sausage, said Lillis, who is the fifth generation of his family to run Eckerlin Meats at Findlay Market. "You've got to get stuff that's really, really fresh."

Before they leave, attendees will cook up a celebratory meal of some of their sausage and a quick kraut.

The class costs $175, most of which covers the cost of the hogs, Hamilton said. Other proceeds will help Findlay Kitchen cover the cost of additional equipment or services to help its member businesses.

For more information, visit findlaykitchen.org.

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