20 Jan 2010

Countryside Game Butchery Course

I felt like a right city girl, as I ploughed through 6 inches of snow in my light converse trainers and the rest of my group graced the snow, weather proofed in hardy wellingtons and walking boots. I had popped up to Kingham on the edges of the Cotswolds for a morning’s education about game butchery with the Daylesford Organic Farm School. The snow had long ago melted in the metropolis, not that London had really seen that much anyway. But as I sat there on the train, heading through the Home Counties still deep in snow, it slowly dawned on me that I was somewhat under-prepared.

Grateful for a coffee on arrival to thaw my fingers chilled by a draughty train journey, we trudged out the back of the Daylesford country complex through untouched powder to their Chelsea Flower Show Garden. Thankfully we were butchering inside the stunning, Bamford styled glass room – home to the Organic Farm School – against a backdrop of beautiful countryside swathed with drifts of snow.

Naked pheasants graced our chopping boards, plucked, gutted and awaiting our attention, whilst a couple silently hung from the beams in their just shot feathery form. Hosted by a seasoned Hunter, Master Butcher and Cookery Teacher we talked through types of birds to eat, different species of venison, the dangers of shot, the ethics and sustainability of shooting for meat and how to make the most of the prize in the kitchen. 

As with other courses I have taken, this class was largely hands on. I need to get my hands dirty to really grasp and appreciate the skill and precision required in a craft such as butchery. We spent most of our time handling the meat, tying knots and stuffing birds as expertly as possible. Very quickly the team erased my fear of wild birds and beasts and equipped us with names of mysterious cuts. Did you know haunch is the same cut as rump or that saddle is the same as loin – well you do now! The best bit of course was leaving with a pheasant jointed, deboned and stuffed by our own fair hands, to cook at home and consume with pride.

With my meat in the bag and knowledge on my mind, I zipped back to the city with a taste for the wild. So, whilst this proud city girl won’t be found shooting the local pigeon population at Trafalgar Square, she will be in wilds of Peckham roasting her pheasant breasts, preserving legs a la confit and hunting for venison next time at the butchers.

For more details of the courses run by Daylesford, check out their website and please note that I was a bog standard paying customer, so no bribes were accepted for this glowing review (except a lift to the station...)

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