A day at the Butcher's

Basic recipes

Butcher and farmer having a conservationRecently I joined Carolina Verhoeven, who until 2010 owned the Culinary Historical Museum in Appelscha (in the North of The Netherlands) in a visit to the biological butchershop of Bernard Roosendaal in Drachtstercompagnie. Slagerij Roosendaal is a biological/organic butcher's. They also have live stock, and function as a care farm.
We watched how a lamb and half a pig were cut up, and how bloedworst (black pudding), zure zult en hoofdkaas (brawn or head cheese) and balkenbrij (scrapple) are made. So here is the story, with pictures. On the right you see the butcher in discussion with a farmer regarding the storage of grain for cattle in winter.
Recipes for making Mortadella and Lucanian sausages.

Cows, pigs and cheeseCattle
There's no way around it: a butcher works with meat, and that comes from animals. Lots of people have no problem eating meat, as long as they can't recognize that it's from an animal: meatballs, but not a whole chicken, fish fingers, but no blue trout. I advise those people to click away from this page.
Me, I also have a difficult time when I realize that those cuddly little lambs, bright pigs and doey eyed calfs will end up served on a plate. But when you limit your carnivorous urges to meat that you know comes from animals that have had a relatively good live, and compensate the extra cost by eating vegetarian meals a couple of times a week, your conscience might be more at ease.

The cattle and pigs that butcher Roosendaal processes are all from biological/organic farms. He also keeps his own pigs, from an old, slow growing breed that has been bred back from near extinction, the Bentheimer Bunte (German site). This pig breed originates from the County of Bentheim, just over the Dutch border in Germany. The oldest mention of the Bentheimer Bunte is from the middle of the nineteenth century.

The farmer we visited owned both milking cows and cattle for meat, from various breeds that I do not remember. Pigs and cattle were in the stables (it was early February), but as soon as the weather allows it, they will go outside again. The farmer's wife makes cheese (type Gouda cheese), using a vegetarian rennet. We tasted several of the cheeses, some with herbs, and one so old the salt cristals crunched between your teeth. Delicious.

The butcher shop
Bernard Roosendaal comes from a family of butchers, his father, grandfather and greatgrandfather were all butchers. He loves curing meat and making sausages: boning meat is a skill, but making cured meat and sausages is an art. Bernard's father has officially stopped working, but he is still a regular presence at the butcher's. The children that visit the care farm all lovingly call him Opa (grandpa). Old mr Roosendaal showed us how to make black pudding, brawn/head cheese and scrapple. If you want more on sausages: here is a fifteenth century recipe for making Mortadella sausage.

The smoke house

Butcher Bernard deboning a lamb

Butcher's knives are sharpened very often

A girl from the care farm makes slavinken, meatballs wrapped in bacon.

Below are brief decriptions of the making of bloedworst (blood sausage, black pudding), zure zult and hoofdkaas (brawn or head cheese), and balkenbrij (scrapple). These are all eaten as cold cuts with bread, but black pudding can also be cut in thick slices and floured and fried in butter with apple slices. Likewise, thick slices of scrapple (balkenbrij) are fried and served hot.

Blood sausage or black pudding
I'm not a vampyre, but you can wake me in the middle of the night for a slice of black pudding! Ancient cookbooks often have recipes for sausages and puddings based on pig's blood. In times when it was normal to keep a pig and slaughter it yourself (or let a travelling butcher do the work), nothing of the pig was wasted, and that included the blood. You can use the blood of sheep or cows, but pig's blood is the best.
Below are the pictures. One picture is missing: of a slice of the black pudding. I had some, but they were eaten before I thought of the camera.

Pig's blood is measured and poured in the bucket.

The same amount of rye meal is added. The meal was freshly ground by the butcher.

Carolina Verhoeven inspects the mixture of blood and rye meal.

'Granddad' Roosendaal cubes pork fat to add to the mixture.

Salt, herbs and spices (pepper, cloves, all spice and marjoram) are added

And, since we are making Groninger bloedworst, raisins and treacle (molasses) are added too.

You can best mix everything by using your hand.

Finally, wide sausage casings are filled with the mixture, and the sausages are boiled.

Brawn and vinegared brawn
Below are pictures of making zure zult and hoofdkaas. It is difficult to find exact equivalences in English. Brawn (BrE) en head cheese (AmE) come close (actually, hoofdkaas literally means 'head cheese'). But zure zult and hoofdkaas are not the same. The difference is in the spices that are used, and the vinegar that is used for zure zult, but not for hoofdkaas. However, the same meat is used for both: boiled pig´s heads, or heads of calf or cow. Let's call zure zult 'vinegared head cheese' or 'vinegared brawn'. After picking the meat from the boiled heads to remove gristle and such, and spicing it, the meat mixed with some of the stock is poured in moulds. It stiffens (jellifies) while cooling.
Meat of a pig's head is generally looked down upon. In France you can buy demi salé pig snout and pig ears, not in the Netherlands. I don't know how it is in other countries. But if you can find a butcher who bones his own pigs, or who is willing to order something for you, ask for the fat meat from the pork's jaw. It is very tasteful. In the medieval Dutch manuscript KANTL Gent 15 you can find a delicious recipe with this head meat: sucarij.

De varkenskoppen in de drukketel.

We mochten helpen met het schoonmaken van de koppen.

Het mengsel voor hoofdkaas, met peper, kruidnagel en piment.

The mixture for vinegared head cheese (with salt, nutmeg, and lots of vinegar) is poured in moulds.

Balkenbrij is not exactly the same as American scrapple, but it comes close. Stock from boiled pig's heads is used, with ground liver and buckwheat meal, and ground aniseed or other sweet spices (here, only aniseed was used). This is boiled until it is a thick mass. A kind of liver sausage without sausage casing.

Stock and liver are brought to a boil

Buckwheat and spices are added

Stirring until the scrapple has thickened

The editions below are in my possession. Links refer to available editions.
All books mentioned on this site (with short reviews)

  • Drs J.W. Baretta, dr E.J. Tobi, J.Wesseling (red.), Moderne beenhouwerij en charcuterie in woord en beeld, N.V. Centraal Boekhuis, Antwerpen,1965 (2nd, revised edition)