The Beauty of Brisket

I owe the lovely owner of this next shop a huge apology for my tardiness in posting this blog, but it is still tres au courant given recent events.

As I am a relatively superstitious person, part of my New Year’s preparation is to make sure everything in the house is fresh and clean by the time the bells ring (or the ball drops depending on where you are).  Part of my preparation involved dropping my big ‘ole duvet off at Aulde Sox my local laundromat.  As luck would have it, due to my always snazzy parking I finally found myself right outside this establishment, which I took to be the rumoured ‘really good butcher’ not far from my home.

T. Johnston Store Front – Abbey View

One of the many cultural impasses that you can encounter when living in a new country is that the cuts of meat are often very different, not just in name but in preparation.  I have really been hankering for some BBQ Beef Brisket and for years have been unsuccessful in getting decent information from any of my Edinburgh-based or local supermarket butchers as to the availability of that cut.


So, I entered the shop…bright, clean, fresh…so far, so good. I could spy the butcher/owner but as always I was a little nervous, not only to ask my eternally annoying question but also as I am always a little unsure how a honking American accent will be greeted in new circumstances such as the present one.

Well, happy days prevailed as the butcher, Derek O’Niell was not only lovely but a  fan of the Food Network, Man v Food and The Barefoot Contessa in particular, and he too was curious about the difference in the cuts of meat!

(Please appreciate that this next bit happened wayyyyy before the current horse meat scandal (like last year) so this next bit was all just business as usual.)

Derek and I chatted about the importance of animal welfare and traceability to the overall quality of meats, and he was even able to show me a picture of all the local farmers who raised the beef that he carried in the shop. Just to bring the point home these were not  just Scottish farmers, these were the specific farmers in a 10 mile radius to me in Dunfermline that supplied his shop.

And not only did he know each farmer, each piece of meat that comes into his shop is tagged with these babies, that specify the date, farm and animal that you are purchasing.  Now THAT is the way is should be done folks. Of course beef is not the only product that Derek carries but everything in the shop has a great pedigree of quality – and the sausage rolls which are made on site won best in Scotland 2010!

Vegetarians look away now because it all gets quite meat-tastick for the next few shots.  

So, on to the brisket.  Derek said he had a fresh ‘delivery’ and that he could show me and would prepare a brisket for me.  Now, I am not sure what I was expecting, but I was most definitely NOT expecting him to pop into the fridge and emerge with a quarter of a cow!

I was so stunned I don’t even think I realised how far I was pushing my luck to ask him to pause for a little longer holding a huge, freezing carcass…so that I could get a nice snap. 🙂

I finally got out of his way so he could heave this beast onto his bench and reveal the exact location to what in Britain is known as brisket.  That would be the lovely tear-drop shaped muscle between the leg and the ribs.

In a few deft movements that took just second he removed the brisket and trimmed it of all remaining fat.

For reasons neither of us could readily explain, brisket is always sold rolled up and served Pot Roast Style as in this recipes that I pinched from the BBC website. (Please cut me a bit of slack on the original recipes as of late, but I am a) stuck at home with Scarlet Fevered children and b) deep in development trails for my future cookbook.)

I of course had to satiate my BBQ brisket craving which was so very appreciated thanks to my local butcher Derek O’Neill at T. Johnston Butchers in Abbey View. Happy Happy Days.

(I made this just before heading out to my weekly support meeting of   “I Make Too Much Brown Food”, really –  hurry up Spring!)

If you choose to eat meat you really should make every effort to support your local farmers, butchers, fishmongers, etc, and if you need any more reason to do so,  the recent horse meat extravagant should be enough to convince you. Just to be clear, the issue is not the origin of the animal but if suppliers and processors can’t be bothered to make they are even working with the proper animal for their food, you can pretty much toss notions of standards of safety and handling out the window as well.

So everybody, get out there and give your custom to your local food purveyors and know that you are doing you part in helping to ensure the safety and quality of your diet.  For you local folks get yourself over to T. Johnston’s Butchers either in Abbey View or on the High Street in Dunfermline, or do a search for local butchers in your area.

It is nice to have confidence in the quality and safety of  what you feed your family. Happy Monday!

T. Johnston – Abbey View





Comments (3)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. mandy wilkie says:

    Brilliant….I’ve being saying buy local, buy British for so many years…loved your comments x

  2. jess says:

    love it! super duper meat-tasik, i love butcher stories and bless those people who do it so well. and local to boot, wow – lucky girl.

    great post, Jean – keep us posted on cookbook developments!

  3. Gigi Murphy says:

    I’m totally in agreement with you. If you are going to eat meat, this is how it should be done….using a proper butcher with locally raised, well cared for animals

    I talked with a cattle farmer during the mad cow disease crisis while we were living in the UK, and asked about their feelings for the cows. He said that yes, they do raise them to be killed, but at the same time, they give them the best life they can and really care about them. He was totally sincere.

    These are real people, and they care. Hats off.

Leave a Reply to mandy wilkie

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.

%d bloggers like this: