Boston butt is a cut of pork that includes the loin, rump and picnic. The word comes from Boston’s British colonial past when it was common for butchers to hang their meat in market stalls. Nowadays this cut is most commonly used for cooking or barbecuing and has been traditionally associated with a variety of dishes such as pulled pork, carnitas tacos, collard greens, etc.. Pork butts are also often braised alongside chicken thighs to make an international dish called ‘chilean pollo.’
The “Boston butt” is a cut of pork that is traditionally slow-cooked to create moist, tender meat. The name comes from the Boston area’s long tradition of butchering hogs.
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There are so many different slices of pork available that understanding them all may need some study. Each cut has its own distinct taste and texture, necessitating the usage of each in various cooking scenarios.
Similar to beef cuts, various parts of the pig are chopped in certain ways and given names to make them simpler to recognize.
Knowing the various names and cuts may help you not only identify what you desire, but also educate you on the distinct taste profiles that each of the cuts has to provide.
The Boston butt is an unique cut of pork that has gotten a lot of attention throughout the years. And with a name like that, it’s only natural that it’d become one of those instantly identifiable cuts.
Where did the name originate from, though? What is a Boston butt, and why is it named that? While it may seem that the term has everything to do with a pig’s posterior, there’s more to it than you may have imagined.
Also referred to as a Blade Roast
In general, depending on the grocery shop you visit, you may be able to purchase a whole pork shoulder. Grocery shops, on the other hand, are more likely to sell that shoulder already chopped into two pieces.
The aforementioned Boston butt, sometimes known as a blade roast depending on who you ask, is the upper portion of the hog shoulder. The Boston butt comes from the back of the pig’s neck and contains a little portion of shoulder blade (thus the name “blade roast”).
The picnic or arm roast refers to the lower region of the shoulder. This is the remainder of the leg, from the knee to the hock.
There are many names for this cut of beef, as there are for most other pieces of meat. This might vary depending on the place in which the cut is employed.
When it is referred to by many names, regional terminology might differ from place to place, causing some confusion.
But it doesn’t really answer the question, does it? We know what portion of the pig the Boston butt originates from, but we don’t know where the term comes from. So, what’s the story behind the name?
The Boston Butte’s History
Some people say the Boston butt’s moniker stems from the manner it was transported.
These transportation traditions extend back to the colonial era, when New England butchers would remove the less valuable hog pieces. They become immediately identifiable as a result of this.
They would load the meats that other butchers didn’t want into barrels and export them to other cities and butchers. The barrels were known as butts, and since the shoulder cut became regarded as a speciality of the New England area, it became known as the Boston butt.
You could be correct if you think the explanation is too simplistic. Some people are dubious about this possible genesis tale.
The tale itself has flaws, despite the fact that it has been repeated by big, credible newspapers. It takes a little investigation to uncover some of the details surrounding the origins of this cut of pork, but the results suggest that barrels had nothing to do with the name.
For starters, there are historical inconsistencies in the nomenclature of this specific pork chop. For example, throughout the 18th century, it wasn’t New England that was at the core of the pork trade; it was North Carolina and Virginia.
Around the mid-century period, Cincinnati and Chicago would reclaim the title. Furthermore, if you do a little digging, you will not locate a written usage of the Boston butt word prior to the Civil War. The name was coined in the later half of the nineteenth century.
The railroad business was fundamentally changing the way meat packing was done at the time. Meat packing became a nationwide business thanks to trains, which transformed it from a localized enterprise.
As a result, butchers from all across the nation would carve their cows and pigs in different ways, each using the name of their state or city for the various cuts. In case you were wondering, this is where things like St. Louis-style ribs and New York Strip steaks come from.
Pork shoulders, in a similar vein, had cuts that were particular to their regional origin. Boston shoulders, New York shoulders, skinned hams, California hams, and so on were all featured.
Closer examination reveals that the New York shoulders had a shank that was trimmed tight and clean, cut off just before the knee, and “square at the butt.”
That California ham was also not ham. It was a pork shoulder with a well-rounded butte that had been cut as closely as possible to a ham form. This is also where the phrase “picnic” came from, which is now the usual name for the bottom region of the pig’s shoulder.
It’s all about the cut, not the delivery.
So, contrary to common belief, the appellation “Boston butt” does not refer to the manner in which it was delivered. Instead, the name implies that it is a Boston-style pork chop.
Butt was originally a general word for the “larger or thicker end of a section of anything.” After all, there’s the butt of a gun and the butts of cigarettes and cigars. It’s referring to the pork shoulder in this scenario. That’s all there is to it.
Boston, of course, wasn’t the first city to have a butt named after it. With the rib and neckbone left on, the Milwaukee type of butt is remarkably similar to the Boston cut.
Even while it was never as popular as the aforementioned Boston butt, there are references to a New Orleans cut.
So the next time a Boston butt is served at your house, you’ll be able to tell your guests about the name’s history. No, it has nothing to do with how it was transported during the early days of the colony, although it does have the Boston roots that the name suggests.
Every time you cut into a Boston butt, you’ll be reminded of America’s early days and how naming conventions were adopted.
And the next time you hear of a piece of meat with a city or state name attached to it, you’ll know where that name comes from. Knowing where your food originates from might help you put it in its proper historical perspective.
Plus, you’ll be able to wow your friends, family, and visitors with your knowledge of the many cuts of meat available, telling them the origin tales of some of the most renowned cuts of meat. That’s a lovely little parlor trick you can do everytime a new dinner guest arrives.
The “boston shoulder pork” is a cut of meat from the Boston butt. The Boston butt is a type of pork that has been around for centuries, but it wasn’t until the late 1800s when it became popular in America.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why they call it a Boston butt?
A: Boston butt is a cut of pork with the loin and rump removed.
Why is it called pork butt if its shoulder?
A: Pork butt is the term used to describe a part of the pig that includes upper arm, shoulder, and head.
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