On a busy Sunday afternoon in Kansas City's East Bottoms, there are people lunching at picnic tables on a gravel lot outside of the Local Pig. Inside, just behind the deli counter, there’s a huge butcher’s block, where chefs and amateurs alike have gathered for a crash course.
“There's a pretty good mix of people in the class,” butcher Jimmy Spradlin says. “There's a young chef and then just some old rough and tumble redneck guy that's like, ‘I'm just here for the pork chops.’”
But today, they’re all here to make sausage.
Spradlin has been the head butcher at the Local Pig for two years, and he teaches a class every Sunday. He says the shop produces around 400 pounds of fresh sausage every week.
“If Local Pig has a heart and soul, it's sausage, it really is,” he says. “Mostly the demand for the sausage class just came from people wanting to be able to work with meat in their kitchen.”
During the class, Spradlin sets out herbs and spices, most of which are typical household ingredients: garlic, rosemary, sage.
“Chiefly, a sausage will have probably 10 or less ingredients in it,” Spradlin says.
The group splits off into four sausage stations: beer brats, roasted garlic and rosemary, ginger and sage breakfast, and chorizo rojo. Then, they measure out their spices before blending them into a liquid to mix with the pork.
Spradlin pulls out a large vat, labeled “PFG.”
“It's ‘pork for grind,’” he explains. “It's essentially just nose to tail scrap. Everything that comes off of a hog that doesn't make a good chop of a steak or a good cut. It’s perfectly good pork but it just doesn't necessarily look pretty.”
The meat industry is often considered secretive. But, at the Local Pig, the butchers work to counter that mentality.
“We don't do anything behind closed doors. I'm there every week cutting up beef, pork, lamb, chicken on the table right in front of the customers. People can walk in and see exactly what I'm doing,” Spradlin says.
What’s more, he says, people are often intimidated by the idea of preparing meat themselves. That’s why they offer classes. Spradlin wants customers to know that working with meat is easy. He says the only tools you need to make sausage are a KitchenAid mixer and a sausage-stuffing attachment.
“Getting people to understand how simple something is that they thought was so complicated. Just watching the relief or realization come over their face, it kind of warms my little butcher's heart,” he says.
Danielle Hogerty is an intern for KCUR 89.3.