B is for Boston Butt

Boston Butt? Seriously?


So here’s the story.

Yesterday, a very lovely Mexican lady of my acquaintance made us a plate of tamales. I have watched enough cooking programmes (shows) to know what they were but have never tried them.


They do not look yum, but they really are. All three kids tried them and liked them too. If I had made them it would have been a whole different story, but since I hadn’t they tucked right in and then wanted to know how they were made.

Where would we be without the internet? Of course I hadn’t a clue so I googled them and after a few errors of spelling (I am too embarrassed to admit how wrong my first attempts at spelling tamale were) I found a recipe  for tamales which called for… Boston Butt.

Now butt is one of those words that I struggle with over here. I have previously posted about hiney – an american term for bottom – and in that post I noted that butt has a fine pedigree in the English language dating back to 1450 – but it still sounds funny to my ears. Notwithstanding, I do know it means bottom so I assumed that Boston Butt is pork (guessing) from a pig’s bum.

Was I right? No, of course not. It’s from it’s shoulder. See:


Clearly, the pig’s butt is in it’s shoulder. Now that’s not just me being dim. That’s confusing. But it turns out there is a very good reason why…

On a website rather cutely offering the ‘answers to life’s vexing cooking questions’ I found the following quote from the National Pork Board:

“In pre-revolutionary New England and into the Revolutionary War, some pork cuts (not those highly valued, or “high on the hog,” like loin and ham) were packed into casks or barrels (also known as “butts”) for storage and shipment. The way the hog shoulder was cut in the Boston area became known in other regions as “Boston Butt.”

So there we go. Can’t say I’m much further forward in learning how to make a tamale, mind you, but at least I’ve learned what Boston Butt is.

And how to spell tamale.


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