Thursday 4 October 2012

Forgotten cuts of Beef.

Frank Murphy is a fifth generation traditional butcher from Midleton and now his son Brian who swore he'd never be seen in a butchers apron has joined him in the family business. The skills have been passed down from generation to generation.His grandfather just passed away last week at the age of 94.

Last year Ella McSweeney interviewed them for both her TV and radio programmes so they have become a cause célèbre in their local area and beyond.

Frank and Brian were guest speakers at our September East Cork Slow Food event on Forgotten Cuts of Beef.

The skill of butchery is not just about cutting up meat, it starts in the field, with the ability to be able to judge by the appearance of an animal when it is in prime condition, then there's the skill of humane slaughtering in a calm and gentle environment. Next comes the dressing of the carcass and the hanging, Frank explained that it's different depending on the age and breed of an animal. Finally, there's the actual butchery, here the skill lies in being able to utilize every scrap from the nose to the tail.

Problem is nowadays many people's cooking skills are limited to frying or roasting , anyone can slap a steak on the pan but it takes more' know how' not to speak of time and patience to transform some of the less well known muscular and sometimes sinewy cuts in to a melting tender stew or braise.

But it's so worth while taking the time to learn, not only are these cuts dramatically less expensive (€3.55 for shin of beefy the bone as opposed to upwards of €35.00 for fillet steak) but they also taste much more flavourful.

Years ago there were seven abbatoirs in Midleton, now Frank Murphy's is the only one which means that all the other butchers have to pick up the phone and order directly from the meat factory or wholesaler and take their word about the quality which may or may not be brilliant and will almost certainly be wet aged (vacpack) as opposed to dry aged.

Frank and Brian showed us the following cuts;
  • Beef cheek,
  • Ox Tongue,
  • Prime rib of beef,
  • Chump steak,
  • Onglet and Hanger steak,
  • Beef liver, kidney, and suet,
  • Brisket and corned beef,
  • Beef skirt, diaphragm,
  • Shin of beef,
  • Oxtail.
They also brought out a breast of lamb,some sweetbreads and a lambs kidney but we concentrated on beef and how to cook it for this evening.

Each of the 50 plus participants got a pack of recipes and a ton of tips. The response was overwhelmingly positive and many bought some of the less familiar cuts to experiment at home.

Traditional family butchers could be a dying breed unless we realise their crucial importance in the food chain.

For me they represent real traceability, they buy many of their animals directly from local farmers so they know how the animals are reared, the breed, the feed.... In Frank's case the relationship with local farmers goes back for several generations, they are our genuine link with safe food but unless we appreciate and support this dwindling sector we will loose them and be left with no choice as in many other countries who are now desperately trying to reestablish their small butcher shops.

There are many examples in the US and UK, Ginger Pig in London, Marlow and Daughter, and Meat Hook in Brooklyn.

Proceeds from the event went to support the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project where we teach children from local schools how to cook and grow.