I’ve been going through the meat apprentice program at work, where I’m learning how to fabricate different cuts of meat with the endgame of becoming a full fledged meat cutter. Over the past few months, I’ve gotten a good grasp on the breakdown of whole legs and primals to yield case-ready cuts of meat, but I’m still curious about where stuff comes from, and how it’s used.

The other day, I was breaking down a whole lamb, (you remember the lamb post, right?) and I was taking my time to seam out all the little flaps of meat. In doing so, I found the skirt steak, the flanks, and as I separated a layer of fat from an otherwise grinder bound portion of meat, the belly.

Neck, Shanks, Skirts, Bellies

Neck, Shanks, Skirts, Bellies

I’ve dealt with bacon before, curing it and smoking it a dozen times when I was working the smokehouse a few months back, but I’ve never done much with lamb belly.

As I’m prone to do when I get a food-related idea in my head, I scoured the internet looking for recipes on what to do with bellies. I stumbled upon From Belly To Baconwhich has been showing up lately in my searches at the top of the list. It seems that there’s another blogger out there with ideas similar to mine who attempts food projects on the regular that a guy like me would be interested in. I looked a bit closer, and it turns out that it’s a guy named Mark, who I’ve been in contact with through various Chicago-centric food events and tweets.

Reading through his post about making lamb bacon, I flipped through my mental Rolodex as to what spices I had in my pantry to make this happen. On our trip out east this Summer, from which we just returned, I picked up the sweetest fennel seeds from the madre, and I had some juniper berries available. Salt? Check. Pepper? Check. Cinnamon, clove? Double check.

I love being able to discover things that I can do in the kitchen or behind the meat counter, and with added knowledge and skills, I can fabricate and procure new and different cuts of meat with which I can experiment. Within about a week or two, I’ll have a couple of bellies that I personally trimmed ready for bacon or another application, along with a boneless neck for curing for coppa. I’m excited to find out the possibilities for a dish that I am eager to eat and share.