Hammering rock music blasts from the back of The Meat Hook butcher shop. Behind a deli counter, three men in their 30s are calmly taking apart sides of meat at a large, communal table. Here, a razor-sharp fillet knife traces through a rack of ribs. There, a band saw whirs through a leg of pork. This is not a scene for the faint of heart—or the vegetarian of stomach.
Tom Mylan, Ben Turley, and Brent Young are the butchers at The Meat Hook. Less than six months after opening, the butcher shop on Frost Street in Williamsburg has partnered with The Brooklyn Kitchen to become a Cracker Barrel-like amalgamation of kitchen supply store in the front, full service deli and meat counter in the back. The Meat Hook is quickly becoming known for its specialty sausages, which range from gourmand-friendly varieties — red wine vinegar, green chorizo, and toasted fennel, for example — to more experimental types like bacon cheeseburger, bahn mi dog, and the spicy big bite.
Since sausage was traditionally made to preserve meat that couldn't be consumed fresh, WNYC's Amy Eddings headed to The Meat Hook to chat with Mylan about it for Last Chance Foods. The former butcher for Marlow and Daughters showed Eddings how to make Mexican red chorizo sausage.
The process beings with large chunks of pork from the shoulder and the ham. The meat is then shoved through a three-horsepower grinder that The Meat Hook butchers have cheerfully named "Brittney." After the ground meat is mixed with spices, a dollop is fried and tasted, and seasonings are adjusted as needed. (Raw pork consumption is not wise.) Next, the meaty mess is pushed through a stuffer and into ghost-white intestinal casing. Mylan then jabs the long tube of meat with three-pronged sausage-poker to eliminate air bubbles. (Sausage has been known to explode, resulting in flying pork bits.) Finally, he twists it into links before setting it in the refrigerator to dry.
Mylan noted that industrially produced, grain-fed meat has lost its seasonality. However, pasture-raised meat is best at the end of fall, after cattle has spent the summer grazing on lush spring and summertime grass. In addition to focusing on sustainably raised beef, he explained that The Meat Hook sources its sides of meat from "small, family-owned slaughter houses that specialize in working with farmers." Mylan says to stay away from meat that smells sulphuric or like the inside of a refrigerator case.
Also, there's good news for sausage-lovers around the country: The shop recently started shipping orders of sausage. Each pack contains five different types that have been frozen and vacuum packed.
"As a butcher, you have to make sausage, there's no way around it," said Mylan, explaining that sausage is good use of trimmings that would otherwise go to waste. "One thing that a butcher shop should do well is also to add value. Having a really good sausage recipe does that." A former vegetarian who had a weakness for Gimme Lean, Mylan put it in simple terms: "It's inexpensive and everybody loves a sausage."
Mylan recommends baking the sausage in the oven. He also likes to use The Meat Hook's Mexican red chorizo sausage in posole, a thick stew popular in the Southwest and Mexico. Here's his recipe:
Quickie Chorizo Posole
by Tom Mylan
- 1/2 pound of Mexican chorizo, out of the casing
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped coarse
- 1 large can (28 oz.) hominy (posole)
- 1 quart pork stock
1. Fry sausage on medium heat in a soup pot, breaking it up as you go with your spoon.
2. Once your chorizo is fried, add onions and sauté them until softish.
3. Add pork stock and can of posole.
4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Serve hot with chopped cilantro, limes—and shots of tequila.