This is a three-part interview. Part One and Part Three are also available.
On Tuesday, July 8, butcher-owner Jarrod Spangler of brand new Kittery Foreside shop MEat discussed with Eater Maine his incredible neighborhood, the constant consumer education required of a true butcher, and how cool it is "to see people being wow-ed by something that's almost really simple," like a good roast chicken. Together with partner Shannon Hill and apprentice Anthony Bernier, Spangler is introducing southern Maine to whole animal, all-local butchery, continuing the work he started when he developed the butchery program at Rosemont Market.
In Part Two of the three-part interview, Spangler talks about turnover in a butcher shop's meat case, how he learned to break down whole animals through careful observation, and some plans for the future growth of MEat, including processing and cooking food on-premise.
What do you do if something sits in the case too long, if there are certain cuts people haven't gotten to?
There are a lot of different things we do with it. The other thing about being a butcher is trying to be creative with your product. A lot of it has to do with how we're setting up the case. We set up the case earlier in the week, it's a little bit lighter. We're not trying to cut so much stuff to put it out there. But as time goes on, there's a steak here, a steak there that doesn't quite make it. Those end up in hot dogs, kielbasa, nothing is really going bad. It's funny, the perception of meat people have. Everyone thinks that it has to be perfectly nice, deep, red color, little bit of brown in there is not what people are looking for. But in all honesty, once things start to age a little bit like that in the case, those are the steaks that I prefer.
Of course we take a steak home now and then, throw it on the grill if it wasn't quite fit to sell to people that day, but a lot of times, like today: I'm gonna be busting out a batch of spicy beef hot dogs, people are digging on the kielbasa...selling people kielbasa and quarts of Morse's sauerkraut? That's a no-brainer. That's dinner going on. People are always asking for crazy recipes and stuff like that, they're like, "Well what do you do with this?" This stuff is so delicious that I just go home and put salt and pepper and maybe a little bit of olive oil on it and call it a day. You want to taste it. You don't want to mask it. If I was going to buy shitty beef at Market Basket or something, yeah, season the shit out of it, but not with what we do. I'd like to taste the delicious meat that we're serving here.
A little bit like good cuts of fish for sushi - you almost just want to eat it raw?
You want to appreciate the nuances of it. We do two different types of beef here. We're getting beef from Caldwell, and we're getting grass-fed Red Devon cows from a friend up in Bath, New Hampshire. Just to do side-by-side tastings of the two types of beef, there's a definite difference. They're both amazing in their own right, but if you sit and try them there's a definite difference between a bit of barley-finished Angus to that 100% grass-fed. But when you look at the grass-fed stuff we get, I've got whole rib eyes that have been aging a little over two weeks now, and when we cut into them, they look more marbled than half the stuff you'd see at a grocery store coming off a feedlot. It's night and day difference between products. That's what makes it fun. Cutting these beautiful, beautiful pieces of meat that, you just put them out and they sell themselves, they're so pretty.
You must be a huge hit at parties. Is MEat hosting any?
We'd like to do something like that. As time goes on, we definitely have plans to do some events here at the shop, and looking forward to maybe working with some local farms to do an offsite event here and there. We'll eventually do some butchering classes and demos and things, hopefully working with some local chefs to start teaching some of the young chefs that want to learn. There's a lot of interest in what we do, but there aren't enough people out there that are willing to teach, per se.
I've been open two weeks and I've already been approached by four or five younger people that are really eager to stage for a few days to learn how to break down beef and things. It's something that you have to work at for a long time to really understand it, but I kind of taught myself how to butcher. It took me years to figure out how to be good at it, but I just watched people. My first intro to butchering was watching one of my chefs in San Francisco break down lambs all day long. I would put my cutting board near him and do all my prep, get my prep list done, but watch him and what he did and where he made his cuts, took mental pictures of everything. It all started to make sense and fall into place.
Translate that into pigs, start breaking down pigs...I've always been involved in charcuterie, sausages, and terrines, so it all had a logical sense to it. Trying to figure out how to break down beef, all the animal structures are the same, but beef is just more complex. You've got all these little muscles on pigs that you end up cutting into sausage, but on a cow they're big enough to do something with individually. Getting up to breaking down cows was probably the biggest challenge of it, but once you see it and start to understand muscle structure, you can take that and start to build on it for yourself.
I look forward to getting a rhythm here at the shop, getting things figured out as far as what people are looking for. We're finally going to be able to cook and process some things here on premise, which will hopefully allow us to branch out and do more stuff, grow a little bit larger of a staff so I don't have to be beating myself up as much. And just letting me focus on what I want to focus on, which is growing the business, doing dry-curing of meat, prepared foods, foods I was used to seeing in Europe, introducing people to new things.
· Jarrod Spangler of MEat, Interview Part One and Part Three [-EME-]
· MEat [Website, Facebook, Twitter]
· "The Butcher of Rosemont" [Maine Magazine]
· "Kittery, Maine, is no longer gritty, but a happening place these days" [Washington Post]
· All MEat Coverage [-EME-]
· All The Five Days of Meat Coverage [-EME-]