Pork Cutting: Leg Primal

Having divided the side of pork into primals, we will now deal with each primal in turn.  First the leg.

This is a whole leg of pork.  In the Austrian style, it was removed so that the entire hip bone was left within.  (In North America, the pig is usually divided so that part of the hip remains on the loin.)  Since the sirloin is defined as the loin section where the hip bone is, the entire sirloin is also still attached to this leg.  But we’ll talk about that later.

Whole leg of pork

First we remove the trotter.  The joint between the foot and the hock is a bit funny.  On the lower, hind side of the joint there is a long bone that extends up.  With some MS Paint magic, we can show the bone structure:

Finding wrist

We cut around that bone, then expose the joint.  At this point we can lean on the trotter and use the weight of the leg to snap the joint.

Exposing wrist joint

The leg, with removed trotter:

Trotter removed

Next we’ll remove the hock.  In North America we typically saw through a bone to do this.  In Austria, the hock is more often separated at the joint.

Feel along the front side of the leg for the kneecap.  The stifle joint is located just below this cap.

Finding kneecapExposing stifle joint

As with the trotter, once the joint is exposed we can lean on the hock to snap the joint and then cut any remaining connections with our knife.

Here’s the leg with the trotter and hock removed.

Leg, hock, trotter

Here’s the leg.  Running horizontally along the top you can see vertebrae.  The first vertebra on the left is the last lumbar vertebra.  Then the vertebrae bend upwards, and become sacral vertebrae.

Below the tail bone we can also see an exposed face of the hip bone.  It looks a bit like a white comma.

Leg, hock and trotter removed

Right between the tail bone and the exposed hip bone is a small, flat piece of meat that separates easily.  In Austria it is called the butcher’s snack (Metzgerjause).  There’s no equivalent name in English that I know of.  It’s a fantastic little steak.

The butcher's snack

Here is the removed Metzgerjause, cleaned of some (but not all!) of the fat.  Ready to be seasoned and seared over high heat for a mid-butchering snack.

The butcher's snack

Next we removed the tail bone.  I start by cutting around the hind portion like so.

Cutting out tail

The tail bone and hip bone must be separated.  There’s a very narrow, tight adhesion between the two that can be difficult to locate, but once you find it, the knife slides through easily.

Separating tail bone from hip bone

The leg, tailbone removed.

Tail bone removed

Next the hip bone is removed whole.  This is a complicated bone with lots of curves.  Follow the bone with small, exploratory cuts until it separates from the meat.

Hip bone removed

Here’s a picture of the hip bone.  Lots of curves.

The hip bone

At this point I usually skin the leg.

Skin removed

Just for the sake of completeness, here’s the outside of the skinned leg.

Outside of leg, skin removed

Now we have a big chunk of meat with only one, large bone, the femur, or thigh bone, running through the middle.

The leg, tail and hip removed

This is where the “seam” aspect of Austrian butchery hits its stride.  To expose the bone, there is a natural seem shown with the knife below.  To the right is the inside round.  In Austria this cut is called the Kaiserteil, which literally means “the kaiser’s piece.”  To the left is the tip, or sirloin tip, which is called the Nuß in Austria.  Nuß means “nut,” and refers to the compact, round shape of the cut.

Anyways, for now we are simply opening this seam to expose the thigh bone.

Separating inside and tip to expose thigh boneThigh bone exposed

The leg, with the thigh bone removed.

Thigh bone removed

Now we have a boneless hunk of meat, and we can start separating the different muscle groups along the natural seams.

We started this process by separating the inside round.

Removing the inside roast

Here is the inside round, removed and cleaned.  This is the most moist and flavourful cut on the leg (hence the name “kaiser’s piece,” I guess).

Inside roast

The next cut to be removed is the tip.

Locating the tip roast

Here’s the tip, removed.  Very round and compact.  A good roast.

The tip roast

Next we removed the sirloin.  In Austria this is called the Schlussbraten, which means “the last roast.”

Separating sirloin and outside roastSirloin and outside, separated

To make the sirloin into a nice round, roast, we remove the flat portion as shown below.

Cleaning sirloin

Finally we have the outside roast, called the Frikandeau in Austria.  In Britian this cut is called the silverside, because of a large band of silverskin, indicated below.

The silverskin on the outside roast

This muscle group also contains the eye of round.

Locating the eye

Here is the outside round, cleaned of silverskin, with the eye of round removed.

Outside roast, eye removed

The outside roast can be cut into beautiful steaks that have much more marbling than most centre-cut loin chops.

Outside steaks

So that’s the leg.  To recap, it yielded us the following:

  • trotter, to be used in soups and stews, or to be boned out and stuffed
  • hock, to be cured, smoked, and either simmered for broth or roasted
  • tail, hip, and thigh bones to be used in stock
  • a large sheet of skin to be used in sausage or crackling
  • inside roast
  • tip roast
  • sirloin roast
  • outside roast
  • some fatty trim for sausage