Lamb prosciutto? NZ Wagyu bresaola? Free ranged dry cured Pork Scotch (Coppa)? What kind of mind creates these innovative, highly localised, modern takes on traditional charcuterie? Who can pull off such delicious variants using meats which most butchers wouldn’t dare to diverge with? Introducing A Lady Butcher, an outlier who’s deep knowledge and creative touch is bringing another chapter to the New Zealand meat story.
Hannah Miller is a very cool young woman who’s been around the world (hailing from Portland, Oregon) learning her craft and who has now settled in Aotearoa to ‘bring home the Lardons’. Her story is nicely told on A Lady Butcher’s web site which you can read here. For our little blog though, I’ve chosen to focus in on a few meaty questions:
What was food like at home growing up in the U.S. of A?, favourite things, early lessons or ideas…?
Hannah starting cooking at age eight ‘cause she didn’t want to eat what her mom made. She loved watching Julia Childs on TV and observing both grandma’s who were awesome cooks — one focusing on the basics while the other was real experimental. The warm homey vibe of the kitchen was a real draw for Hannah where she learned to focus on simplicity and nutrition.
What are some of the most important lessons you learned overseas and here in NZ?
While working in London at The Paternoster Chophouse the head chef Peter Weeden instilled in Hannah a keen sense of working with what’s right outside of your doorstep. There, she focused on foraging for ingredients, working closely with local farmers and bringing their stories back into the menu. And it’s these lessons she’s brought to NZ where she feels like she’s found some of the best meat in the world and revels in talking about soil all weekend with farmers like those at Grandad’s Beef in Raglan or discussing deep flavours with the lads at First Light Wagyu.
How did you learn about charcuterie?
These stories and learnings really come through in Hannah’s products, where building on 10 years of making charcuterie — especially working with Washington D.C. based chef Julian Shapiro, where she dug deep into science and methods — she’s learned how grass fed beef is ideal for curing bresaolas and when a grain finish works better for that buttery aged parmesan characteristic. Hannah’s knowledge of curing treatments, duration of ageing and seasoning is extraordinary for someone so young which shows how dedicated she is to the craft.
How did you settle on the offerings you have now?
Over the last few years Hannah has focused on five main products (for now) which really highlight the NZ meat story. For instance, when Southland farmer Bill French approached Hannah for a collaboration she decided to balance the natural salinity of Leeland’s coastal lamb flavour with rosemary and peppercorn. She’s done the same with First Light Wagyu and other meat suppliers pairing her great flavour skills with these naturally delicious meats.
What are some observations about the NZ food scene?
When Hannah first arrived in NZ she struggled to find many independent restaurants which highlighted the natural diversity of the country. Now however she’s seeing South American pop ups, fusion menus and people really wanting NZ Made goods in the recipes where provenance and free range meats matters more than ever. She also notes that people are getting more experimental at home where having restaurant quality ingredients are really important, especially during the international health crises where people are having to rediscover their kitchen and a love of cooking.
What’s your favourite food right now?
During lockdown Hannah used the time to test recipes like lamb bacon and various sausages. When she could get out and about frittatas (including her tasty lardons) were the go to as she could combine all these great leftovers into an easy to take away meal. These yummy packed lunches are especially essential right now as A Lady Butcher builds her new workspace / brewery / restaurant in Auckland’s Mt Eden. The innovation does not stop with this girl and at Raeward Fresh, we’re all the happier for her story aligning with ours.