GARDINER — When Justin and Amy Raper left Talbot, Tennessee, earlier this week, they didn’t know they’d be drinking a craft beer in Gardiner by Saturday afternoon.

But there they were, at the seventh annual Swine & Stein Oktoberfest, with hundreds of other people who had gathered for the daylong festival of live music, games, food, beer and special events showcasing Water Street businesses.

Having looked over the entrants in the Annual Gardiner Beard and Mustache Competition, they took a seat in the small theater at Johnson Hall to watch Leon Emery make short and seamless work of cutting up a half of a pig with his long, ropy arms and capable hands.

Emery, who owns Emery’s Meat & Produce in Gardiner, explained the possible cuts one can get from a pig, what they are used for and what to look for in the store.

“If you’re looking at a fresh ham, there will be the butt end and the shank end. If it still has the shank, get the butt end, or the skinless shankless ham,” Emery said, not pausing his efficient and methodical pace. The reason is that you’ll be paying for the shank bone and hock that are still attached, he said.

“The skinless, shankless ham is more money, but it’s more meat and it’s better tasting, and it’s the better value,” he said.

Emery gave two demonstrations Saturday, and he did it, he said, to show what people could do if they raise their own pigs.

The audience was filled with about equal numbers of men and women, and for the men, Emery tossed in information on what a comparable cut in a deer would be. He showed the source of salt pork and pointed out the difference between baby back ribs and St. Louis ribs.

For the Rapers, there was an added bonus: Justin Raper was the lucky winner of a couple of steaks from Emery’s, a sort of door prize — which is not exactly what a couple of people on a road trip vacation from Tennessee could use.

The Rapers headed out from eastern Tennessee on an anniversary trip two days ago. It’s about 16 hours by car, but they broke up the trip with stop at Niagara Falls. Then they drove across New York and arrived in Bethel last night.

They found out about Swine & Stein by looking on the internet for things to do in Maine.

Amy Raper said she wants to see a moose and go on a whale-watching outing while she’s here, but she’s a little worried that will be cold. Justin Raper wants to see Mount Washington. They also have plans to take in as many sights as they can.

Their list got one item longer Saturday, as they needed to find a place to grill their steaks, They collected tips about who might have a grill or what restaurant might cook them from the other people at the demonstration.

The pig, the centerpiece of the butchering demonstration, belongs to Patrick Wright, who demonstrated how to make Russian sausage from the cuts set aside for that. Wright is the executive director of Gardiner Main Street, and the event is a fundraiser for that program.

But it wasn’t the only pork in attendance. Restaurants and food trucks offered up a variety of pork dishes, both expected (pulled pork sandwiches) and less expected (chocolate bacon).

The Rapers will head back south on Friday. And they are not sure whether they might ever raise a pig for food.

“I have never seen a pig butchered before,” Justin Raper said. He might give it a try if he had some time.

“Not if it’s my pet,” Amy Raper said.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ


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