Category Archives: Little extras

National Butchers’ Week 2012

It’s that time of year when everyone should be celebrating butchers’ creativity and passion.


National Butchers’ Week was set up five years ago by leading business-to-business magazine Meat Trades Journal to promote the craft skills, knowledge and profile of retail butchers across the UK by leading a week of special focus and activities.


By headlining the week under the banner ‘Ask the Expert‘, and encouraging consumers to visit the  ‘Find a Butcher‘ website to locate their nearest first rate independent butcher, Meat Trades Journal uses the week to highlight the true expertise of the trained artisan butcher – many of whom have been at the heartland of their communities for decades.


From showcasing butchery as a craft-based, fast-paced retail career, to providing recipe lesson plans for schools to teach primary aged children all about the nutrition of meat using the fun of sausage and burger making, National Butchers’ Week seeks to engage with all ages.

Butchers all over the country will be running special events, activities and promotions to highlight the value for money that the shopper can find on their local high street as well as offering – as they do every day – their specialist knowledge and free advice on any aspect of meat cuts, the use of meat in recipes and cooking instructions

You can also gain special access to many of the butchers’ own special recipes .

Charlie the Butcher


Pork Scratchings – scratching a living

Recently, there seems to be a bit of a thing about Pork Scratchings.  Perhaps people are latching on to my own method for making them at home ?  My earlier recipe is here.

Mmmmm .... hint of caraway seed added

So a bit more information on the subject is required …..

  • Pork scratchings originated in the early 19th century, when the production of meat began to be industrialised. The term literally means the scraps from the slaughterhouse floor.
  • An estimated 20 million packs of pork scratchings are sold each year as bar snacks. The Black Country in the West Midlands is the epicentre of the industry.
  • There are 606 calories and 2.9g of salt per 100g of pork scratchings (Source: Mr Porky’s, sold in 20g packs).
  • Traditionally, scratchings are fried and made with the softer, relatively hairless skin with attached fat, behind the hock (back foot) of the pig; crackling is roasted or baked, and can be made from a wider portion of the pig.
  • Before cooking scratchings, hair must be singed off and the skin blanched in boiling water to open the pores. Some swear by this to optimise crackling levels when roasting pork at home.
  • International versions include pork rinds and cracklings in the USA, grillons or grattons in France, chicharrones in Central America and the Spanish Caribbean.
  • 99 per cent of scratchings sold in the UK are made with Danish pork. Before recent changes in legislation, this was not revealed on labels.
  • When fried, the skin of the scratching hardens. All UK brands carry a label warning that contents are suitable only for people with strong healthy teeth.

There are also a couple of excellent websites devoted to Pork Sratchings with more on the history, recipes, reviews etc …. click on the logos


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

Good listening

A great little show on BBC Radio London aired last week to coincide with the Meat Traders Journal “Best Butchers Shop 2012”. This is the award that I won last year for managing the best shop in the South of England. Ed, the editor of MTJ has done a great job plugging the trade, nice one mate and thanks also to Robert Elms. Click this link or cut and paste below.

Charlie the Butcher.

Meat Raffle

Meat Raffle with Al Murray

DAVE  the digital channel has produced six one-hour episodes of Al Murray’s “Compete For The Meat” – based on his 2010 sell-out Edinburgh Festival show.

Four teams take part in each episode and the series started earlier in May.

This new series sees Al back to his best. You may remember his face from his legendary Pub Landlord  pub quiz show.

And that’s not all – like those quizzes your mum and dad used to take you to back in the day, teams compete for a side of meat. It’s television’s only meat-based quiz show. I’m sure there is a huge market for a Saturday night meat raffle shows.

The ‘steaks’ are high as the Guv’nor himself asks the questions to four teams of two, who play for the honour of taking home a frozen chicken and the accolade of being slightly smarter than the competition. Runners-up can expect to walk away with sausages, while the only thing the losing team can look forward to is a Slow Walk of Shame.

Al Murray’s “Compete for the Meat “is on DAVE at 9.00 pm on Thursdays, and repeated  like top gear all week. That is Thursdays nights sorted.!/CompeteForMeat

Sorry I’ve not posted in a little while, I’ve been a busy young bee. But I’m back to the blog and have a couple of things up my apron. So watch this space. Cheers.

Charlie the Butcher.


The Tamworth Two

The Tamworth Two.  Well, where do I start.

12 years ago two Tamworth pigs escaped. It was in January, 1998 that the pair fled from a Wiltshire abattoir, forcing a fence and swimming across the River Avon. They spent a week on the run, searching back gardens and vegetable patches for food, before being rounded up. With a huge media scrum around the story, the two Tamworths became called “The Tamworth Two”.

They hit the headlines and had tv crews rushing to Wiltshire to cover the story. After the media stories it was decided not to send them to the slaughter house and they missed the butcher’s block but ended up at the Rare Breeds Centre in Kent which is a great place. They were nicknamed Butch and Sundance. But sadly the famous Butch has been put to rest and not for the bacon sarnie lovers, but due to bad health.

Farm manager Davy McColm said:  “Butch was always the livelier of the two, the more physically active. We knew it was serious because in the end she would just stand there and let us examine her without causing a fuss.”

‘She was chronically ill and was not responding to treatment. The vets could not say for certain what was wrong with her, but the prime suspect is liver cancer. Sadly, it reached the point where it was in the animal’s best interests to put her to sleep. Considering she was destined for the chop at six months, she had a good innings.’

So if you are ever passing pop in a give her partner Sundance a pat and cheer her up.

RIP Butch.

Charlie the Butcher.

Verjuice – my special ingredient

OK- time for me to share a little secret with you !  It might well be the next big thing !

Verjuice (from Middle French vertjus “green juice”) is a very acidic juice made by pressing unripe grapes. Sometimes lemon or sorrel juice, herbs or spices are added to change the flavour. In the Middle Ages, it was widely used all over Western Europe as an ingredient in sauces, as a condiment, or to deglaze.

Picking green grapes for making verjuice. Tacuinum Sanitatis (1474). Paris Bibliothèque Nationale.

It was once used where modern cooks would use either wine or some variety of vinegar, but has become much less widely used as wines and variously flavoured vinegars became more accessible. Nonetheless, it is still used in a number of French dishes as well as recipes from other European and Middle Eastern cuisines.

The South Australian cook Maggie Beer has popularised the use of verjuice in her cooking, and it is being used increasingly in South Australian restaurants. Take a look at her website.

Maggie Beer's verjuice

Verjuice is first and foremost a flavour enhancer, adding richness and flavourful complexity to all your cooking with its balance of gentle acidity and sweetness.

Verjuice is also an elegant, delicate alternative to both vinegar and lemon juice and can be used in larger quantities than either of these in cooking. It adds zest to your food, avoiding the sharpness of both vinegar and lemon juice and therefore, does not mask flavours but rather enhances them.

It heightens the flavours of any fish, chicken, game, red meat, vegetable and fruit dishes. It is ideal for deglazing, dressings, syrups, sauces, marinades, gravies and reductions. It has an affinity with nut oils, e.g., walnut, hazelnut and peanut oil and emulsifies well with olive oil.

Range of verjuices from Verjuice UK

It isn’t always easy to get hold of but it is stocked in Harvey Nicholls Food Halls and after a bit of persuading I think that some Waitrose stores may have it on their shelves.  An alternative is to order it direct from Verjuice UK, new on-line supplier of South African sourced verjuice.

For all my meat fans I will suggest a seasonal recipe but the real deal is …….

Deglazing with Verjuice

Set aside your roast/fries/grills and any vegetables that you have cooked with the meat.
Remove excess fat from the pan, leaving approximately 1 teaspoonful. Over a medium heat, add 225 ml verjuice and using a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits, incorporating them into the verjuice.

Bring to the boil and reduce until jus begins to coat the spoon. Add stock or water to thin if necessary and stir in a knob of butter for richness and shine.

Tip: Resist thickening the jus.

Now, thanks to Maggie Beer, here is a recipe for you that uses verjuice to deglaze.  It will be just right for the autumn.

Pheasant with grapes and verjuice

Ingredients (serve six)
3 young pheasants
1 lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g chilled, unsalted butter
250 ml verjuice
250 ml chicken stock
2 handfuls of grapes


Step 1
Preheat the oven to 240C. Remove the second joint and wing tip from the pheasant and cut through the skin around the thigh to free the legs a little but do not remove them completely.

Step 2
Squeeze a little lemon juice into the cavity of each bird and season with the salt and pepper. Melt a little of the butter in a frying pan and brown the birds gently on all sides until golden brown

Step 3
Arrange the birds in a baking dish allowing the legs to spread.  Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn over, then cover and rest in a warm place for 15 minutes.

Step 4
Deglaze the baking dish with the verjuice and boil vigorously. Add the stock and cook until reduced by half, then beat in the remaining butter to finish the sauce.

Step 5
Less than a minute before serving add the grapes to the sauce. Carve the breasts and legs, pour over the sauce and serve immediately.

Charlie the Butcher