Primal Cuts: Cooking With America’s Best Butchers

For many Americans the ritual of buying meat is a boring and impersonal ordeal. Everything is in a neat package on display in refrigerated cases.  Everything has been cut down into pretty steaks and roasts with no imperfections and no indication that it actually came from a living breathing thing.  That seems to be changing, albeit on a very small scale.  Artisan butchers are popping up across the country and a new book called Primal Cuts: Cooking with America’s Best Butchers by Marissa Guggiana offers an extraordinary portrait of many of them, including Wisconsin’s own Scott Buer, owner of Bolzano Artisan Meats.
This book is very impressive.  Part biography, part tour guide, and part cookbook, it covers a ton of territory with recipes using everything from traditional cuts like ribs and chops to obscure things like beef heart and pork kidneys.  The book talks about numerous preparation methods from grilling and braising to curing.   While some authors have tackled the subject of charcuterie in a more comprehensive manner, such as Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie, this book is a nice place to start for those who want to dip their toes into the world charcuterie.
I think what I enjoy most about Primal Cuts is how Guggiana went out and found butchers (around 50)  from around the country and profiled them.  I always prefer cookbooks that tell a story and lend a personal touch to the recipes and this one fits the bill.  Milwaukee’s own Scott Buer (of Bolzano Meats fame), who I interviewed back in 2009. is featured in the book and offers up a couple of interesting recipes (Red Cooked Pork Hocks and Pork Kidney and Liver Pie).  I had a chance to talk to Scott about his inclusion in the book.
Scott said that he was recommended to the author by Slow Food Wisconsin Southeast.  I asked him how he selected the two dishes included in the book and he said that the author kind of had a list of every cut imaginable by the time he was able to select his.  The Red Cooked Pork Hock recipe came about because he wasn’t using the pork hocks for Bolzano at the time so it was a nice way to utilize them.  He said using pork kidneys was a bit more challenging but added that “a paté in crust does call me once in a while.” 
In order to celebrate the release of the book, Scott will be giving a talk on November 3, 2010 at Boswell Books in Milwaukee.  In addition they will be selling their charcuterie products and 20 percent of the sales from that event will go to benefit Slow Food Wisconsin Southeast.
In addition to the book release, Scott has been busy with other projects. For those who want to try their hand at Charcuterie and Whole Hog Butchering, Scott  Classes for a while, anyone can register for those online at It’s $100 a person, class is 7-8 students doing hands on cutting with Scott and students take home all the meat from the whole Hereford hog! In terms of new products, Scott informs me that their Speck Prosciutto has been a year in the making and first batches are just getting done.  They also are will have whole front leg versions of their stellar Paletilla Húngara (you need to try this, its delicious) ready in a few months. They look just like a mini prosciutto, and are bone in and foot on in the Spanish style. Scott has also been looking at working special events or making restaurant and wine bar appearances where he slices paper thin cuts of Bolzano products by hand using an imported Spanish ham stands and a very sharp knife.  He said their test run at Wine and Dine Wisconsin was drawing quite a crowd and a few photographers.
Anyone who has any interest in moving beyond the basic supermarket cuts of meat needs this book.  It’s basically a crash-course in nose-to-tail cooking.  Charcuterie, offal, and traditional cuts are covered in an approachable manner.  For anyone who always was interested in using the lesser-known cuts of meat and offal, this book is for you.  Also if you are interested in learning about butchers, farmers, and other artisans that are working to change how meat is raised, butchered, and purchased, this is a must-read.
More Details:
Primal Cuts
by Marissa Guggiana
Introduction by Andrew Zimmern
Foreword by Dario Cecchini
288 pages, 8 x 10
150 full color photographs
Hardcover, $37.50 ($44.00 CAN)
ISBN: 978-1-59962-088-6

Milwaukee Event:

Milwaukee, WI: November 3rd, 7pm
Book promo and signing with butcher, Scott Buer, owner of Bolzano Artisan Meats. Food for sale and tasting, and a general food/farmer event.
Boswell Books, 2559 N. Downer Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53211

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