A MEAT MINUTEMAN MEMOIR
BY ALL-STAR VOLUNTEER BRUCE
I am a home meat monger and had been making my own sausage and bacon for a few years when the Smoking Goose opened. When they started offering classes, I started taking them. After a couple years and about five classes, I discovered that they had a program called The Minute Man. For those of you that are not familiar with it, The Minute Man program allows you to volunteer to work in production at Smoking Goose. in return, they pay you generously in meaty treats. You can do it as little or often as you like. Fortunately, I have a flexible schedule and an understanding wife, so I signed on and have been going in about one day a week. my meat skills have really improved!
On my first day, I was introduced to “The Cube”. The cube is really a building within a building at the Dorman Street Meatery. My first impression was sensory overload. It is bright white and stainless steel, cold, wet, noisy, and crowded. Most of the time music is playing louder than the grinders, everything from Big Band to Heavy Metal and Rap. Inhabiting this space is a merry band of madmen who are the magicians of meat. Here they take lean and fat, salt, sugar, herbs and spices and turn it into all those great products.
After spending some time in there, several things have struck me. The first and foremost is that everything is handcrafted from the highest quality ingredients. Sure, machines grind and mix sausage meat, but the final assembly is all by hand. I have learned to stuff, tie and truss hams, sausages of all types and shapes, duck breasts, you name it. Everyone in The Cube can perform multiple roles, often shifting from one task to another and back again as the ebb and flow of production goes on. Everyone also has a careful eye for quality. If something slips by one person, someone else will catch and correct it.
The second thing is the quantity of product that is produced, especially given the handcrafted nature of it. Ever wonder what a half-ton of bacon looks like? Sign up for Minute Man duty and you’ll get your chance. The Goose ships all over the country so it is a constant balancing act to have product ready to go given that much of it has a six week or longer aging period. One batch comes out, the next goes in.
The last big thing I noticed is the amount of creativity. There is a constant search for new and different recipes for sausage and meats. A number of people contribute and often someone will bring in a test batch for everyone to try. Critiques are made and formulas adjusted to get the final product just right. The same applies to production techniques. There is always a search to find better ways to keep quality high and achieve the production needed.
It has certainly been a refreshing and enjoyable time. I can’t recommend it enough for anyone interested in improving their home sausage making skills or just wanting to learn the basics to get started. All the guys in the cube are pretty patient and willing to share their knowledge. I am a hunter and have always butchered my own meat, but my knife skills are also vastly improved. (And I still have all ten digits at full length!) If you are interested in giving the Meat Minuteman (and Woman) Program a try, i encourage you to sign up.
Oh, and that understanding wife, she now places her orders for the products I am working for!