Making meat is easy. But possibly the most difficult part of meat club is finding a night when you can bring all of your peeps together. Here are a few tips to make it easier to bring your friends together for the meat extravaganza.
Ease into the world of meaty goodness by starting with one of the meat projects that either aren't too daunting or don't require a lot of equipment to get started.
If it's your first time making sausage, take a look at the Breakfast Sausage and Italian Sausage recipes. They're easy to make, and you can find all of the spice ingredients at your regular grocery store. Stop by the butcher and ask him to grind up 10 pounds of pork shoulder at a ratio of 80% muscle to 20% fat, and you can skip the meat grinding steps in each of the meat projects.
Those who already have a smoker love going straight for the jackpot - the ever-so-fine Meat Club Bacon. It just requires enough space in the fridge to store 20 pounds of pork belly.
We suggest four people max. Any more than four tends to lean more towards a drunken clown ensemble. Focus on the meat! Often the guy with the newborn baby will have to cancel, but you should bring him a pack of the finished goods anyway.
And make sure you invite team players - the last thing you want is a guy sitting in the corner scratching his balls while the other 3 crew members are chopping and grinding. After all, the 5th rule of Meat Club is, “Everyone Participates,” and if they don’t, you’re gonna have to give them the boot.
After word gets around your circle of friends (especially after they've tasted your meat), they will start dropping hints about joining. Mix it up and invite new people from time to time.
Use a who’s-free-when app like http://www.doodle.com to make it easier to find a night that works for everyone when you’re getting started.
Later on, you can carve out a standing meat night once a month, and if you don't, you'll find that six months can go by without one. A fair bit of warning - the missus gets edgy when you run out of the homemade Bacon...
You'll have most of the equipment in any one of your kitchens. But there are a few hefty pieces of equipment that you'll need to invest in to make all of the Meat Club meat projects.
When we started out, sharing equipment expenses helped get our meat club off the ground. Ryan bought a meat grinder and a standing freezer, and Dietrich bought a smoker. And when we realized just how much Bacon we were producing every month, we went halfsies on a professional grade meat slicer. Now, we'll never make Pastrami or Bacon again without using the meat slicer to attack the goods when they come out of the smoker.
Before the event, assign each person to a task that will help the group be prepared for the event. Not only does this ease the burden on all of us overworked dudes, it also works great as a guilt trip to force everyone to show up.
First, we'll need a host for the meat club event. Presumably this will be in that individual's house, but it could be coordinated in a local commissary kitchen. This person is also responsible for making sure you have all of the necessary equipment for that event.
One person will be the chef, who will plan and cook the family meal. At every meat club gathering, we make meat together, and we break bread together. It’s ideal to use a meat that was made in a previous meat club for inspiration, but as long as we grub at the same table, it's all good.
Another will be the grocery boy, who's responsible for pulling all of the ingredients together for the evening. This is often the Host, because the Host knows what he already has in the kitchen and pantry. So y’all may want to coordinate to make sure you don’t buy more than 1 of the same ingredient. Don't forget to place your meat order with the butcher at least a couple days before your meat club gathering. It's a real bummer when you make a last minute run to the butcher and find out that they're out of pork belly.
Finally, you’ll need a line manager - a designated person who knows the recipe by heart, so they can help steer the group members and keep things running smoothly. Sometimes this person writes or prints out the recipe and tapes it to the kitchen cupboard doors, just to make sure we don’t miss an ingredient or a step. And we’ve found it works best if this person talks the rest of the clubbers through the steps during the family meal, just to make sure everyone’s on the same page.
The format of a meat club event will vary depending on the recipe that is being made that day or night, but here's the basic construct:
Typically, you'll eat first, gulp down a beer, and catch up with your peeps before diving in. But sometimes a recipe will have a logical break in the action, like when you’re making Hot Dogs and place the meat in the freezer while waiting for the quenelle test, where a family meal fits perfectly.
Next, pull together the mise-en-place, which is the fancy ass French term for measuring out all of the ingredients ahead of time so that you don't miss anything, and you're not scrambling to add a final ingredient during the meat production.
Then we make the magic happen. Soak the casing, chop the meat, grind the meat, whisk the spices together, mix the spices into the meat, taste the magic, stuff the meat into the casing, and wrap it up. For smoked meats, we'll let it sit in the fridge for a day to develop the pellicle.
After you make the meat, clean up. Seriously y'all, we've said it before, we'll say it again. Nothing will piss your partner off more than when they find ground meat caked to the kitchen floor the next morning. Even if you make the argument that it was at least delicious meat.
Finally, after the cleanup is done, then you can pull the bottles of whiskey out of the cabinet. And toast to thy meat.
This is your meat club. Own it. Make it yours.
Naming your meat club is like naming your bowling team. Except it's more fun. And it produces delicious results. You can even make custom aprons, headbands and wristbands with your group's name on them.
We kept it simple and called our crew the PDX Meat Club, named after the short code for the Portland airport. But you’ll want to stand out from competing meat clubs in your neighborhood, so maybe you’ll want something more distinct, like Salami Slingers, The Kielbasanators, The Chi-Town Chorizos, or Frank and the Beans. Our new favorite club name comes from a group of ladies in Maryland - the Baltimore Babybacks. Can you top that?
When Tim Tebow was traded to the New York Jets, Carnegie Deli created a 3 ½ pound monster of a sandwich, topped with corned beef, Pastrami and a plethora of other ingredients, and called it the Jetbow in honor of their potential savior who could take them to the Super Bowl. That’s when Dave Vaughn and Dan Hogan, fellow members of the PDX Meat Club, decided to make spicy 18-inch long Merguez sausages with a couple teaspoons of cayenne pepper and double the red pepper flakes and dubbed them the Jetbow and the Jetchez, after the Jets’ other quarterback, Mark Sanchez.
Every dude has their signature recipe for the grill, whether it’s burgers mixed with a custom spice blend, or a rosemary-and-garlic-rubbed pork tenderloin. Now, you get a chance to step up your game with your own signature Bratwurst or Linguiça. Take one of our recipes, and tweak it to give it your own personal flair.
We’d love to hear about your signature meat projects, so drop us a line on Twitter at @meatclubin, or fork our Github repo - https://www.github.com/meatclub - and open source your own meat recipe. That is, if you’re willing to share your secret.