Ever eat a sausage and wonder how it was made? In Panton, Agricola Farm owner Alessandra Rellini began cutting her own pigs after apprenticing with a master butcher in Italy. Whenever she sells a whole or half pig, she invites customers who are interested in learning to break down a carcass to cut it up with her. Plenty take her up on it — since January 1, Rellini says, she's already gone through the process with three different customers. Now she plans to offer her instruction on an organized basis.
By day, Rellini is a University of Vermont associate professor of psychology, so teaching is a natural outgrowth of her farm practice. Her impromptu courses grew from customer questions. "We're always having this conversation at the farmers market," Rellini says. "I'm always educating people about lean and fat and how to prepare roasts in different ways." The open dialogue "can make [people's] culinary experiences so much better," she adds. "So why not offer people [more] opportunities to learn about [meats] in different ways?"
Starting later this month, she'll begin offering afternoon classes ($20 to $40) on how to make specialty Italian sausages and stuffed pork, lamb and chicken roasts. Students interested in practicing their newfound skills at home will be able to purchase ingredients after the class.
In Butchering 101, Rellini will demonstrate how an animal comes apart into cuts of meat and fats, using half an Agricola pig to explain basic anatomy, physiology and biology. "I really want to show students how to read their meat," she says. "It's harder when it comes already cut in pieces, but when you have a half [of a pig] in front of you, you can really see the quality of the fats and meats and how farm management affects the animal."