I love butcher shops.
Huge surprise. Right?
I do not mind the trendiness. Hell, when something is good, it is good. If others like it, so be it. Realizing it is a very old person’s way of thinking and gets in the way of the punk ethos of the tattooed chefs (cheves?), but I am not a chef, tattooed or otherwise. I just enjoy being able to get great meats in more places.
But when you call yourself a butcher shop and do not sell ground pork, despite preaching being a whole animal shop as well as having pork scraps and a meat grinder, I start to feel a little less warm and fuzzy. When this happened to me recently at a very highly regarded meat emporium, I was incredulous. I was in between meat grinders and I needed ground pork, so instead of trying to reason with the pork hoarder, I walked around the block and was promptly sold some really nice looking freshly ground pork.
And while the butcher ground some pork for me, I spotted a box in the cooler with hunks of smoked meat which looked smaller than pork hocks, but similar in shape and knobbiness. These were too big to be chicken tails, so when he spotted me eying up the turkey tails, he went straight at it, asking how many I wanted.
Given the ridiculously low price, I asked for a cool dozen and was on my way. Happily up to my ears in old school butcher shop treasure, I was set for a little while – only turkey tails provide little in the way of established uses. Of course, you could season greens and beans with them, but I have 3 legs of ham for that. There was a specific stew I had my eye on and given the time of year and what was just barely still in season, I broke out the Garden and Gun I had been reading for a recipe for Brunswick Stew.
Brunswick stew is a classic Southern dish with a lot of origin story confusion. Without knowing where the stew originated or what the meat of choice might be, I moved forward with a mess of turkey tails (the five for half of the recipe above weighed nearly two pounds) as my meat of choice. With tomatoes, corn, and butter beans still plentiful in the market and many regional BBQ sauces still plentiful in my fridge, I was nearly all the way there without a trip to the store.
Once cooking completed and I pulled the meat from the turkey tails, the stew had taken shape as a thick, smoky, and best of all, highly acidic stew. Now, I love fall/winter foods, but there is so much rich heaviness. It is great at the outset, but by mid-December, I am ready for something lighter.
This stew does what is good about fall/winter foods. It is hearty, smoky, and hot. However, the acid from the tomatoes and BBQ sauces make this dish stand out as something different. The smoked turkey tails have, in a single weekend, gained a strong hold on my heart. And while the first butcher shop where I was looking for ground pork disappointed, the second shop holds such esteem as well.