It's the Meat that Matters
If you’re a meat maven then you should get to know Jarrod Spangler, butcher extraordinaire whose well used chopping block gets a full workout at the Brighton Avenue branch of the Rosemont Market in Portland.
He calls himself a “whole animal butcher,” which barely scratches the surface of what he does. As part of the Rosemont team, he’s a shop within a shop forging a culture that’s catching on around the country.
Simply put, it’s farm-to-butcher artistry.
What Rosemont’s Spangler practices is a revival of old-fashioned artisanal butcher practices. The difference here from more traditional purveyors is that he deals only with heritage breeds from local farms loaded with breeding provenance.
When meats reach his counter, as whole or half animals, that’s when the artistry begins. Whereas supermarkets or small retail butcher shops basically take the meats that they get from Mid-western distributors out of their box and into the display case.
Even the heritage variety of meats that are now widely available at farmer’s markets in Maine first go to local slaughter houses where the volume is so great that these purveyors can’t possibly custom cut in the way that an artisanal craftsman does.
Spangler relies on a roster of local farmers for his natural and organic meats, but the list is ever evolving. Currently his beef is from Caldwell Farms in Turner; pork is from Valley View Farm in Auburn; lamb hails from Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick and occasionally island lamb from Straw's Farm in Newcastle. Chickens are generally brought in from Serendipity Farm in North Yarmouth or Maine-ly Poultry in Warren.
None of this comes cheaply and one really shouldn’t expect it to be from such a carriage trade operation. Spangler, who has a background as a chef, does more than just carve up steaks, chops and roasts for sale. Rather he often creates cuts that one wouldn’t normally find. Take, for example, his faux hangar steak, a very popular cut amongst his customers.
A cow only yields a few hanger steaks which are derived from underside of the diaphragm between the loin and rib, where it “hangs.” A flavorful cut, it can also be tough if not marinated or grilled over high heat. To make up for the low yield Spangler takes a portion of the sirloin and butchers it in such a way that resembles the true hanger but with a bigger yield. It’s also more tender but still has that inimitable rich beefy flavor. These are perfect steaks for pan frying or grilling.
Some of his other special cuts include a customized hamburger blend of ground short ribs and brisket; T-bone pork chops, which includes the fillet and are great for stuffing; cowboy steak, which is a thick rib steak anchored on the bone and Frenched; boned legs of lamb that are tied together to create an exquisite cut for roasting or grilling; noisettes of lamb — a boned loin, rolled into a filet steak shape.
Spangler is also big on porchetta — an Italian culinary staple that food mavens clamor for. It’s part of the loin that’s wrapped around pork belly and highly seasoned with fennel and garlic and often stuffed and roasted at a very high heat.
The shop also prepares their own house-cured bacon, sausage, salami and other charcuterie. But for a real treat, I’m partial to what Spangler calls “the new olive oil.” Here fresh leaf lard is rendered into that luscious cooking fat used in baking, biscuits and sautéing or frying. It’s healthier with less harmful fats than butter or shortening and makes everything it touches delicious!
John Golden makes no bones about sharing his opinion. If you'd like to share yours, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.