Rembrandt Butchery in 8th Street, Linden, is a landmark in Johannesburg. It belongs to Ross Schutte and has done for 30 years. When he bought the butchery in 1981 he knew nothing about meat or running a business. All he knew was that he didn’t enjoy his job in distributing newspapers, and wanted out. Owning a butchery seemed a good idea at the time.
Text: Leilani Basson
Photography: Jannie Herbst
“I have everything in life, except money.” Ross Schutte isn’t smiling when he says this. He is serious. But there’s no bitterness or sense of regret about him as he tells the story of his life over a raw leg of lamb in the homely setting of Rembrandt Butchery.
Rugby memorabilia overpowers the small shop. It’s nothing like your “normal” butchery.
Makarapas are on display, together with framed family photos and rugby jerseys. Children’s drawings decorate one wall. The righthand side of the shop is the hoarding hoekie. A portable radio with a tape deck, an old TV, trays full of tools, three tin kettles, an upside-down blue flower umbrella next to the door and a myriad other seemingly out of place items.
There is a softness in Ross’s demeanour. He is a happy man.
“When I bought the butchery, I knew nothing about meat. One of the workers who had been with the previous owner was supposed to stay with me and teach me the ropes. It didn’t happen that way. He left, leaving me ankle deep in buckets of meat, with no idea of what to do with it. However, the Lord sent a drunk man into my shop shortly afterwards. His name was Sugar.”
Sugar knew everything about meat. He promised not to drink on the job and Ross promised to hire him if he kept his promise and taught him all there was to know.
“In hierdie lewe het mens nie ’n graad nodig nie,” says Ross. “Jy’t ’n ruggraat nodig. And then you stick to what you’ve learnt and you make the best of it.”
And so it happened that Ross learnt everything there is to know about being a butcher… and being a damn good one at that. He is known all over Johannesburg. His customers are like family, and so are the young guys working for him.
“It is difficult to teach an old man,” says Ross. “An old tree isn’t bent easily. These youngsters want to learn, and accept that they know nothing. In fact, not one person that works in Rembrandt Butchery – including myself — knew anything about the industry when they started. We make butchers here. You can’t go out and recruit a blockman. You have to make one.”
Over the years Ross has introduced many innovative ways of using meat to his customers. His best cut is the lamb rump.
“Many people don’t know about this cut. It is usually sold with the leg of lamb and not separately.
“The idea came to me when I realised there was no small piece of lamb that two people could enjoy together. A leg of lamb is simply too big and cumbersome. People these days don’t like ou tannie kos (leftovers). They prefer making smaller amounts of food for one meal. Re-heating for the next day is not an option.”
So Ross decided to cut these two succulent, flavourful pieces of prime meat from the legs, neatly trim them of unnecessary fat and prepare them on the braai as a tester.
“It was a winner. And still is. It’s great to take along on a camping expedition. It can be vacuum packed and there are no bones or wastage. You also don’t need a lot of spices or flavouring. Rumps are the best, tastiest cuts on any animal. Take my word for it.”
Pot roasted Lamb Rump
What you need:
2x medium sized lamb rumps
Fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Ground herbs (3tsp rosemary; 2tsp sage; 1tsp thyme)
Chopped roasting vegetables (mushrooms, butternut, onions, baby marrow, patty pans, peppers, potatoes)
What you do:
Season the lamb rumps with salt, pepper, ground herbs and lemon juice. Pour olive oil into a cast iron pot that is placed on high heat (stove or coals) and sear the lamb rumps. Lower the heat, place a lid on the pot and let the rumps cook slowly, with the fat side down.
Blanche the vegetables in a pot of boiling salted water (bigger vegetables first) until they are just cooked. Transfer them to the pot containing the lamb rumps. When all the vegetables are in – turn up the heat again- turn the meat and give the vegetables some colour!
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