With the close of business nearing at the North Market on a recent weeknight, the crowd inside thinned and vendors began cleaning up their stalls. At the space rented by Bluescreek Farm Meats, though, 10 people remained - all seated in plastic chairs around shop owners Cheryl and David Smith, and their 24-year-old daughter, Jamie.
With the close of business nearing at the North Market on a recent weeknight, the crowd inside thinned and vendors began cleaning up their stalls.
At the space rented by Bluescreek Farm Meats, though, 10 people remained - all seated in plastic chairs around shop owners Cheryl and David Smith, and their 24-year-old daughter, Jamie.
"Why don't we start by introducing ourselves? And tell us why you're here," Mrs. Smith said.
Grandview Heights resident Jon Browning, 54, offered: "I'm tired of reading recipes and not knowing what cuts of meat they're talking about."
"I built my own smoker," said Phil Battle, 34, of the Clintonville neighborhood. "I want quality meat to put in it."
At his home in Dayton, Tim Gabrielli, 30, built a curing chamber from an old refrigerator so he could make Italian-style dry-cured meats such as guanciale (pork jowl) and pancetta.
"I want to move my family exclusively away from grocery-store meat," he said.
Each of the 10 - ranging in age from 27 to 58 - had paid $95 for the three-hour class "Breaking Down the Hog."
The lesson in butchery is among the classes introduced two years ago by the Smiths in response to requests from customers eager to learn more about meat cuts and cutting techniques.
The family has raised hogs, goats, lambs and cattle in Marysville for decades; and, for the past 17 years, used the livestock to fill its cases at the North Market, just north of the Arena District.
"So many people wanted to take these classes," Mrs. Smith said, "we have a waiting list."
The gatherings are focused exclusively on butchery, not slaughter - although the Smiths do discuss laws and practices for slaughter.
Under state law, the slaughtering of meats to be sold must be handled at a state-inspected slaughterhouse.
Mr. Smith - along with Tim Struble, who works at the shop - then cuts the animals into chops and roasts, ribs and steaks.
Some class participants count themselves among the growing number of do-it-yourselfers who want to make everything - from butter to bacon - from scratch.
Others - including Haley Boehning, a 41-year-old who attended the most recent class with husband Charlie Goodlad, 52 - view the offering as more of a social event.
"It's our date night," Boehning said.
Still others take part for the camaraderie of like-minded people interested in the sources of their food.
With introductions and preliminary explanations complete, Struble wheeled out a 90-pound hog half on a cart.
The class crowded around as he and Mr. Smith took turns cutting the animal down from a hog to cuts found in a butcher case.
They cut through bone with a meat saw and, for cuts requiring more finesse, used razor-sharp boning knives.
All the while, Mrs. Smith and her daughter rotated tubs of pork in and out of the refrigerator to keep the parts chilled.
The students watched intently for 90 minutes, deciphering where each cut comes from as it was separated from the animal. They also sought details about preparation.
"How do you cook the pork tenderloin?" one asked.
"Pan-fry it with butter and onions," Mr. Smith replied. "Make about a pound per person."
The quip drew laughter from the class.
"He's not kidding," Jamie Smith added. "It's that good."
Such questions, Mrs. Smith noted, aren't uncommon.
"I tell them there's a hundred ways to fix everything," she said.
When the hog half was completely broken down, the students got a chance to try their hand at butchery.
Jamie Smith instructed them on hand-washing and gave them each a set of latex gloves. Each student took up a place in front of one of the colorful cutting boards set with an ultra-sharp knife.
Mr. Smith provided each a bone-in pork steak, showing again how to remove the bone.
He worked with them individually, helping to guide the knife as he did - if not as smoothly.
When the students finished the task, Mrs. Smith demonstrated in detail how to grind the scraps, which can then be used to make sausage.
Each student left with the steak boned, a pound of ground pork, a Columbus rib (a sparerib with the pork belly still attached) and a pork chop from the case.
Gabrielli, the Dayton resident, has big plans for taking the knowledge he gained from the class: Eventually, he hopes to break down a hog he will purchase with friends.
For Andrew Matune, 27, of Grandview Heights, the class provided a more modest payoff.
He doesn't plan to do his own butchery - he lives in a small apartment, so that isn't practical - but he's happy to know more about where each cut of meat originates.
"I can make more-informed decisions now."