Review: The Complete Book of Butchering, Smoking, Curing, and Sausage Making

A wise man* once said, “Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made.” Think about that before reading The Complete Book of Butchering … and decide if you really want to know where your meat comes from. If you don’t understand why, think about the subtitle: How to Harvest Your Livestock & Wild Game.

This is not a book you read for fun, just because you’re interested in food. This is a working manual for people who have live animals, and who need to turn them into dead animals, and then into steaks.

Not for the squeamish

You’ve got about six pages of introduction — talking about the history of agriculture and the origins of butchering as a specific trade — before you hit chapter 1, “Muscles Are Meat”, which leads with a full-page color picture of two skinned beef carcasses.

I like when an author is clear on who they’re writing for. Philip Hasheider is a farmer and former cheese maker’s assistant. He has written How to Raise Cattle and How to Raise Pigs. He doesn’t write for “foodies” or gourmets, but for the people much earlier in the process.

Not what I expected

If I have a complaint, it’s that the title suggests it’s as much about the smoking, curing and sausage making as about the butchering, but it’s not. Besides the first chapter I already mentioned — which is mostly general guidelines about food safety, cooking temperatures, safe handling, etc. — there’s a chapter about knives and other equipment, one about preservation, and one about starting a butchery business. And six chapters of butchering directions for different types of animals.

There’s only one chapter on sausage making, and smoking and curing only get one chapter between them. If smoking and sausage making are just a part of your butchery business, that’s probably a good balance. If you want recipes that start with pre-cut meat, there are plenty of better sources available.

Some good recipes

At the end of each chapter are some recipes that make use of whatever meat is covered in that chapter. They are the classic type of recipes that I like: chicken and dumplings, stuffed pork chops, shepherd’s pie, broiled squab, venison meatloaf.

One in particular that I like is the baked corned beef hash, which I’ll be making real soon now. I’ve got a neighbor who hunts so I may be getting some venison. If I do, I’ll probably try the venison and beans.

Is this for you?

I can’t remember ever having a more clear recommendation than I have for The Complete Book of Butchering …

  • If you want to be a butcher, or want to process your own livestock or game, this is the book for you.
  • If you want to smoke meat or make sausage, there are other books that cover the subject much better.
  • If you just want to know a bit more about where different cuts come from, this book has way more (graphic) detail than you’re interested in.

Who wants my copy?

I’m not going to be doing my own butchering any time soon, if ever. Which means I don’t need most of what’s in this book.

If you are planning on butchering some livestock, or dressing some wild game, leave a comment telling me about it. Whichever one sounds most interesting, I’ll email you for a mailing address.