Category Archives: Christmas

Wishing you a Happy Christmas

So the meat madness is nearly over for another year , just a few more days before we are finished up in South East London. I’ve been workimng day and night …

…. not quite in these sort of conditions !

This year I’m on my way to Exmouth. With a free-range turkey, a Mrs Kings Pork Pie and plenty of smoked salmon I’m sorted. Wishing you all a wicked Christmas.

Charlie the butcher

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Cooking your turkey – there’s an app for that

OK …. the most regular question from both turkey virgins and old hands is …. “How long should I cook the turkey ?”.  Each family seems to have developed its own approach to the whole business.

It can be a very stressful time especially if you are hosting Christmas lunch for the first time and want to impress – but you don’t always need to get up in the middle of the night to kick the whole the process off.

You might like to look at this app that seems to be getting reasonable reviews ….   at just 69p it might be a life and reputation saver ….


The write up says ….

TurkeyTimer helps you take the guesswork out of Christmas and other holiday cooking. Enter the weight of your turkey, whether it’s stuffed, your desired internal temperature, and whether you plan to baste the turkey. Using algorithms based on top cookbook instructions, TurkeyTimer will track the approximate brownness of your turkey, the approximate internal temperature of your turkey, and about how long it will be until you can take the turkey out of the oven. This handy tool will even remind you when it’s time to baste the turkey!

FEATURES
– Know how soon your turkey will be ready
– Know your turkey’s internal temperature
– Track your turkey’s brownness
– Choose between a moister or a dryer turkey
– Know when it’s time to baste
– Always works, even if you send text messages or make or receive phone calls

With TurkeyTimer, you can be certain that your turkey will be perfect!

It’s a bit Americanised and I’m not sure though about defrosting times as I always say fresh is best – support your local butcher ….


Charlie the butcher

Stuffing for your turkey

It is often the trimmings that really make a Christmas lunch and I am frequently asked for advice on stuffing !!

I usually recommend people to look at my old mates at the Good Food Channel where I sometimes pop up.

Click here for some excellent stuffing ideas.

 

They also have some really great ideas for trimmings here.
Charlie the butcher

Its that goose time of year

Around this tme last year I was suggesting that you might want to think about having a goose instead of a turkey for your Christmas dinner. Have a peek here to see what I was on about.

It seems that many people are taking the idea more seriously with more people choosing a goose for Christmas – the age-old tradition, natural open-air lifestyle of the goose and succulent flavour are appealing qualities.

Families often choose a goose for the first time – and find that cooking is much easier than they’d realised. There’s also the bonus of goose fat, so cherished by top chefs, for perfect roast potatoes and parsnips.
The British Goose Producers have created a new recipe leaflet available from their producers, farm shops and butchers, or by contacting British Goose Producers.

A recent independent ADAS study on goose meat has found that the real fat content of goose meat today is much lower than the general figures quoted in the traditional nutritional textbooks. Aagain the British Goose Producers have published five helpful hints for cooking and serving goose.

For much more information from the British Goose Producers take a look here.

If all else fails you could follow Gordon Ramsey’s spicey goose recipe.


Charlie the butcher

I would like Santa to bring me a Berkel bacon slicer

I don’t suppose my ideal Christmas present is on everyone’s list but I’ve always wanted a big bad boy bacon slicer and the Berkel is tops.

Perfect, but how to gift wrap it ?

Wilhelm van Berkel, was born in Holland on 5 February 1869, son of a pub owner and brother of a butcher. He was the inventor of a cutting machine with a movable meat table. This way meat products could be cut neatly and regularly Up until that time butchers were kept busy slicing with 16-inch long carving knives.

Van Berkel had worked his way up from a butcher’s boy to become the owner of three successful shops. Then he began the deliberate search for a winning way to slice sausages and other meats mechanically.

This quest took years, often working through the night, ruining costly pieces of meat and starting many times over. During his search he saw the attempts of others who had devised mechanisms for slicing meat. No matter how ingenious these were – with spiral or elliptical knives – they could not be put to any practical purpose at all.

Van Berkel’s search was eventually rewarded. His find was the concave knife and an upper table sliding automatically towards the blade. He succeeded in constructing a prototype which more than proved its worth in his own pork shop.

He realised at once the far-reaching possibilities of his invention. He applied for a patent and immediately began to consider ways of mass producing his slicing machine.

This invention was set to revolutionise the butcher’s trade, where quality of cut and the speed of the slicer were very important.

By 1898, Van Berkel has started production at factories based in Rotterdam, and soon slicers were in demand all over Europe. Master butchers simply could not believe that hand-sliced meat or sausage could be matched or even excelled by a machine !

With his experience in the trade, Van Berkel confidently took to the road to win over all the butchers. He skillfully demonstrated the results that could be achieved with the slicer, and reassured butchers they would be fully employed coping with the increased business generated.

Van Berkel’s foresight and commercial spirit quickly led him to foreign markets. Berkel Ltd was established in London in 1908 and was manufacturing slicers in England for a period after the first World War. In America, Berkel started manufacturing as the U.S. Slicing Machine Co. Inc. in 1909. By 1915, the company had outgrown its facilities in Chicago and moved on to La Porte, Indiana.

Now part of Avery Berkel, slicers and food processing equipment are still sold under the Berkel brand throughout its companies and distribution network.

Van Berkel’s Patent Model A was the first commercially produced slicing machine to come out of the Rotterdam factory in 1898. This somewhat clumsy looking machine is today a museum piece. A hundred years ago it revolutionised the butcher’s trade across Europe, though it was anything but cheap to buy. The price was often more than the total value of the inventory of many a butcher’s business.

After the 1st  World War Van Berkel also started with the production of balances and related products for the butcher and the Food Industry. Sale offices and factories were built in several  countries, in the United States under the name Slicing machine Co. Inc. and in United Kingdom under the name of Berkel Ltd.

Here’s a clip in which Emilio Mitidieri discusses and demos one of his antique Berkel meat slicers on The History Channel’s “Modern Marvels: Cold Cuts”, from his showroom in San Francisco’s Mission district.


There’s also a super-cool animation here demonstrating how a Berkel works !

Charlie the Butcher

Wishing you a Happy Christmas

So the meat madness is nearly over, almost finished up at Borough Market and this year I’m saying put in South East London. With a free-range turkey, a Mrs Kings Pork Pie and plenty of smoked salmon I’m sorted. Wishing you all a wicked Christmas.

…. and have a great New Year and always remember …..

Charlie the Butcher.

How about a goose ?

Before being overtaken by turkey, goose was the preferred choice for the Christmas lunch table in England and more recently there are signs of it making a bit of a comeback. Goose meat is richer and darker than turkey. It has a higher fat content, but a lot of the fat melts away during cooking leaving deliciously tasty and succulent meat.

Although not cheap, goose makes a wonderful treat for any special meal. In addition the goose fat collected during cooking makes the best roast potatoes and is almost worth the entrance price alone. Goose has a wonderfully rich, buttery flavour, bordering on the beefy, thanks to its grass diet. It’s certainly a fatty bird, but don’t let that put you off – the flavour is worth it.

The common domesticated goose is a descendant of the greylag goose (Anser anser) still found in the wild in Ireland, western Scotland and some other parts of Europe The most popular strain of commercial goose is the Legarth, a white-feathered bird with a high meat-to-bone ratio. This breed is very well-suited to free-range grazing. The Embden is another white variety that shares similar characteristics. Geese, by their very nature, are all free-range, but some will, of course, be better reared than others.

Free range Legarth geese

HISTORY

Geese were bred in ancient Egypt and goose liver was loved by the Romans. Goose has always been important in French cuisine where it plays a key part in traditional dishes such as cassoulet, confit d’oie and foie gras.

In Victorian times, the homes of the poor often had open fireplaces for heat and cooking but not with ovens. So many families, like the Cratchits in Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol, took their Christmas goose or turkey to the baker’s shop.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, first edition 1843

Bakers were forbidden to open on Sundays and holidays but would open their shops on these days to the poor and bake their dinners for a small fee. Dickens mentions Master Peter Cratchit and the two younger Cratchits going to fetch their Christmas goose from the bakers.

Bringing home the Christmas goose

There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavor, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn’t ate it all at last! Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows! But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs. Cratchit left the room alone, — too nervous to bear witnesses, — to take the pudding up, and bring it in….. from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens first published by Chapman and Hall on 19 December 1843.

Christmas dinner at the Cratchit's

TIPS
BUYING
Fresh geese are available from specialist suppliers and quality butchers. You may need to order in advance, particularly around Christmas. Geese are quite big-boned and so choose a larger bird than you would a chicken (allow at least 750g per person). Having said that, smaller (younger) birds are the most tender, so two small geese are preferable to a single huge one.

Choose plump-looking free-range birds.

STORING
Keep refrigerated, giblets removed, for 2 or 3 days.

PREPARING
Scoop out any excess fat from the cavity and put aside for roasting potatoes. Rinse the goose inside and out and pat well dry. Prick the skin to enable the fat to be released during cooking (try not to pierce the flesh) and rub the skin with salt and pepper.

Place breast side up on a rack over a roasting pan. Roast at 220°C for 30 minutes followed by around 2½ to 3½ hours (depending on size) at 180°C. Baste the goose every 20 to 30 minutes and remove the fat that accumulates in the pan or it will smoke furiously (the fat can be stored in the fridge for a few days, or frozen). If parts of the goose seem to be browning too quickly, wrap them in foil.

The goose is cooked when a skewer in the thickest part of the thigh reveals clear juices (the flesh may still be slightly pink). Remove from the oven, cover with foil and rest for 15 minutes or so before carving.

Charlie the Butcher