“Thank you for caring about animal husbandry that doesn’t suck” –Matt Caputo
I recently had a pottersville moment with regards to Salt Lake City’s food environment. It happened while attending a media event at Caputo’s where they were introducing their new butcher shop.
What if Tony Caputo, the food purveyor, never existed? What if he and his businesses had fizzled out like the majority of other restaurants and grocers? Salt Lake may have ended up like…
Provo! I shutter at the thought.
But in all honesty, the very best of what I love most about food can be found at Caputo’s. The fragrant cheeses and wonderfully cured meats are both on par with what I’ve tasted in Europe. The chocolate they stock is capable of altering reality. The vinegars and olive oils continue to challenge my palate. The only thing they are missing from my list of favorites is bread. Maybe someday.
I’m also a fan of fresh cuts of meat. Beautiful in their raw and simple states. So much flavor and potential wrapped up in protein, bone, and fat. Just watching a salt and sugar-rubbed pork shoulder turn into a soft, squishy pillow of porky candy in my 300-degree oven over the course of 5 or 6 hours lets me know that God does indeed exist.
And now, thanks to a man named Frody Volgger and his faithful sidekick Dillon, I’m able to attain a 100% Berkshire, pasture-raised pork shoulder from Christiansen’s Farm without buying the whole pig.
While sparing you the entire history of what lengths I’ll go to in order to obtain great meat, I will share my latest adventure that turned out to be a bit of a disappointment.
In August of 2010 we purchased, with the help of some friends, Vince and Emily, one half of a 100% grass-fed steer from Canyon Meadows Ranch. Wonderful experience. My wife Kim and I were able pick out the steer and spend the night on the ranch dreaming of the wonderful steaks and hamburger that we’d soon be enjoying.
Here he is by the way, #9170. You were delicious, thank you.
We have since consumed the 80 lbs that was our quarter beef in a little over a year’s time. So this year we decided to try pork. Pre-2010, I knew next to nothing about steer anatomy. The extent of my beef knowledge was confined to the little Styrofoam and plastic-wrapped packages at the grocery store. I had to educate myself before spending $400 on meat. Same thing happened with pork. Only this time, I was up to my neck in architecture school and learning how to be a father. Good thing the anatomy of a pig is a lot simpler than that of beef.
We put our order in for a whole pig that we would again split with Vince and Emily. The person who raised it was a friend of my wife. I have no complaints at all about the actual raising of the animal. It was the processing that really made my angry. Premium Meat Company in Brigham City. I made my usual call or calls to them in order to better understand the process that we’d be going through, the cuts, the costs, the time required for the hams and bacon to cure, etc… I did this about a month before the pig was to be slaughtered. At this time, I expressed interest in keeping as much of the pig as possible. I specifically remember that I made it clear to them that I wanted to keep the head (for headcheese) as well as the ham hocks and several of the organs. The lady on the phone (who was particularly grumpy and wasn’t nearly as patient with me as Springville Meat Company had been during the beef buying process) said “all right” and proceeded to the next question, almost like she was changing the subject. About a month later, I received a voice mail that said that our pork would be available for pick up after about 2 weeks.
At this point, much to my chagrin, I was informed that everything except the belly, hams, shoulders, and ribs were thrown into the trash. I was livid. I am not an advocate for the vegetarian cause by any means, but if there’s one thing we have in common, it’s our respect for animals. I am of the firm opinion that you probably shouldn’t be eating meat if:
- You can’t stand the thought of meat being from an actual animal
- You hate it when you find veins in your meat
- You can’t eat something off the bone
- You don’t like it when the head of something is attached to the cut you want
- The thought of raw meat repulses you
- You have an inability to handle raw meat
- You order your steaks well-done
Morbidly imagine that highly sophisticated, social, carnivorous cows ruled the world and that you were bred to be meat for them. Now you would have already resigned to the fact that you would never have been born if they hadn’t initiated the breeding process so you’re fine with the idea of being meat, as long as you are put to good use and lived a reasonably happy life. We all have to die sometime right?
However, some of the cows would say, after looking at you, “Ewww….I don’t want that part, it’s disgusting, just throw it in the trash.” Pretty disrespectful to a creature who is giving their life in order to sustain your own.
That’s basically how I feel when I hear of hunters who hunt only for sport, or when I hear about a butcher shop that throws away certain parts of the animal they are processing. They shouldn’t be in business and they shouldn’t be hunting.
Needless to say, we won’t be using them again. The pork itself is fantastic save for the sausage, which they couldn’t do in link form and has an annoying maple syrupy taste. The bacon is great and the shoulder cuts are fantastic. The pig itself was worth the money. The processing of our purchase, however, left a rancid taste in my mouth.
So when I heard about Caputo’s latest venture to turn their dead-cat space that had previously been a place to stock water in their downtown location into a full service butcher counter, I was elated.
I read a book by Bill Buford last year called Heat. Among many other stories therein, it chronicles his time spent with famed butcher Dario Cecchini in Tuscany. Ever since then I’ve longed for a butcher who is able to treat meat like (I hate to say it) a European. I hope and believe Frody Volgger to be that man.
The sources of the meat are all local, coming from the best that Utah has to offer. The lamb will come from Stig and Susan Hansen at Snowy Mountain Sheep Creamery in Eden, UT, who also make incredible cheeses. The pork is from Christian and Hollie Christiansen’s Farm in Vernon, UT (pictured below, scoping out their wares…check out his t-shirt).
The beef comes from Pleasant Creek Ranch.
Everything that we had during our little introduction was spectacular.
They had an assortment of cured meats including a tender and slightly smoky lamb ham, Coppa, aged Coppa, Jagdwurst, and many others.
House-made pork sausages for $8/lb include Linguica, Dolce, Piccante, and a Basque Chorizo. They are also offering house-made lamb sausages that are a little more expensive and require more care in the preparation.
This last weekend, I ordered 3 of each variety of pork sausages for a little dinner we had with friends. They were absolutely divine…the sausages I mean, not the friends. While I was at Caputo’s getting the sausages, I left the meat counter to buy some feta and olives from the cheese counter. While my feta was being weighed and packaged with brine, Frody and Dillon summoned me back to the their corner to try some of what they had just cooked up, a simple pork shoulder, sliced thin and quickly sautéed. Fantastic.
I am almost giddy with excitement at the prospect of buying meat from Frody and getting to know him better. His apprentice, Dillon, needs to thank his lucky stars. I hope he realizes how fortunate he is to be a sponge next to a master. I wish them and Caputo’s the best of luck in this new venture. And Matt, please take my money now.