At around nine in the morning, The Yu’s Braised Food Shop in the prefectural city was full of people buying braised food . It had been almost three months since the store opened and the Yu Family’s shop was becoming more and more popular with every passing day . At the start, they only braised one pig a day, but now even braising two pigs a day wasn’t necessarily enough for the demand . . .
Every single part of the pig, from its head to its feet, was used in their braised food . Not a single part was wasted, including the head, trotters, and innards . After being braised, each part of the pig had its own unique flavor . The ones that sold the quickest were the braised pig’s head meat, pig’s trotters, and offal . This was because the price was more suitable for the common people, yet the flavor wasn’t worse than the other cuts of meat . Thus, all of the commoners in the area loved those braised ingredients the most .
Although the prefectural city was a large place and didn’t lack butchers selling meat, the vast majority of the animals had to be imported into the city . Furthermore, the price of meat had risen compared to previous years . For example, in years past, pork at its highest was only around thirty-some copper coins a catty . This was the year after the disaster, so the price of pork in Tanggu Town had risen to around a hundred or so copper coins a catty, whereas, in the prefectural city, the cheapest pork available was around eighty to ninety copper coins a catty .
The commoners in the prefectural city had a higher standard of living compared to those living in Tanggu Town . However, most of them had to think for a while if they wanted to eat a meal with meat . Only after grimacing and tightening their belts could they have a dish with meat in it at their dinner table .
Usually, most families wouldn’t buy a pig’s head or intestines from the butcher even if they really craved meat . This was because no matter how they prepared it, there was always an odd smell and taste to the finished dish that made it hard to swallow . However, the unpopular parts of a chicken and pig, at the Yu Family’s shop, were now delicacies that tempted a person’s gluttonous monster .
Pig’s head meat, trotters, and intestines that had been braised were all immensely delicious at an affordable price . Regular braised pork cost around a hundred and thirty to a hundred and fifty copper coins at catty, whereas the pig’s head meat, trotters, and intestines were around fifty to sixty copper coins a catty . This price was definitely affordable for most commoners . Even a normal family could afford to buy some every three to five days to sate their desire . In fact, many people who lived in nearby towns would also buy some when they were in the prefectural city to take back home to eat .
Thus, the Yu Family's braised pig’s head meat, trotters, and innards were blazingly popular and people rushed to buy it . There was never enough to satisfy the demand . Furthermore, Yu Xiaocao wasn’t in the prefectural city at this time, so the Liu Family could only wait on disappointed customers every day without knowing what to do .
Liu Junping, on the other hand, had a sharp, flexible mind . He secretly investigated all of the nearby butchers and meat vendors in the prefectural city and found out that when their business was good, they could sell around two pigs’ worth of meat a day . When their business was not as good, they could still sell out one pig’s worth of meat in two days . Furthermore, all of these butcher shops and meat vendors had the pig’s head, trotters, and offal left over as well .
He went back to discuss with his parents what he had discovered . The three of them came to a conclusion and Liu Hu went out with his son to make a long-term business deal with these butchers and meat vendors . At the price of three copper coins a catty, they would buy all of the pig’s heads, trotters, and intestines from them . One pig had around twenty to thirty catties of meat in its head, trotters, and offal . Thus, the owners of these butcher shops and meat vendors could make an additional hundred or so copper coins in income per pig . Why wouldn’t they happily sign such a cooperative agreement?
From then on, Liu Junping was in charge of buying and transporting these extra ingredients back to the shop . Every day, he drove the donkey cart to all of the nearby butchers and meat vendors to pick up the ingredients and was always able to get around seven to eight pigs’ worth of heads, trotters, and offal .
Preparing these ingredients wasn’t an easy task . Yu Caifeng and her daughter not only had to braise food every day but also roast and smoke ducks, chickens, and geese for the shop’s more high-class offerings . They were so busy that they ran around like headless chickens every day . In order to prepare the extra pig’s heads, trotters, and offal, they often worked very late each day .
Luckily, Yu Xiaocao didn’t spend a long time in Dongshan Village . When she got back, she saw that her oldest aunt and older cousin had sunken in eyes, prominent dark circles, and exhaustion carved into their bodies . Right then and there, she made the executive decision——they were going to hire a few people to be in charge of handling these hard to prepare ingredients in the future .
Yu Xiaocao also reorganized the work at the braised food shop from top to bottom . She first personally made a big batch of braising spices and had them all ground up into a fine powder . The finished blend was then stored in a large ceramic jar . By doing this, it made it easier to weigh out the proper amount of spices needed to braise one catty of meat . That would save her the work of making more braising spices in the future .
As for cooking the roasted duck, roasted chicken, salt-water duck, and smoked meats, Yu Xiaocao taught all of her methods to her older female cousin, Liu Yaner . These foods weren’t difficult to make as long as the person doing it had a good grasp on the ingredients and controlled the heat properly . Liu Yaner was also a smart child and was quick with her hands . After half a month, most people, other than the picky old gluttons, couldn’t taste the difference between the food that she had made versus the ones that Xiaocao had made . Since she was also in charge of food that they limited sales of every day, she actually didn’t have to spend too much time crafting it . Thus, she spent the remaining time in the day helping to sell braised food .
Oldest Aunt, Yu Caifeng, was in charge of braising every single type of braised food every day . There were four giant pots in the store that were simmering from dawn to dusk without rest . After Liu Junping was done bringing back the pig’s heads, trotters, and offal back, he also helped his mother wash and chop the meat and light the fire . When the store was busy, he also helped with the cashier’s job, weighing meat and handling money .
Liu Hu was in charge of buying pigs in areas that weren’t as badly affected by the locust plague . The pigs were slaughtered at the site and then transported back to the shop . Every day he was busy from dawn until dusk . Sometimes, when he traveled a bit further than usual, he had to stay overnight and come back the next day .
They ended up hiring two nearby matrons who had skilled hands and were willing to work hard to prepare the pig’s head meat, trotters and offal . Each person got a wage of thirty copper coins a day, which was the same amount an adult man doing hard labor for a whole day could get . Both of these two matrons had somewhat difficult situations at home . One of them had a mother-in-law who had to take medicine all year long, while the other woman’s husband had broken his leg two years ago doing work and was still having trouble walking now .
Although prepping the pig’s heads, trotters and intestines was hard and dirty work, the most important factor was the amount of money they made . These two women didn’t have the strength and endurance to do a man’s hard labor, yet they could get the exact same salary doing this work . Even if they didn’t want to do it, there would be many other people standing in line for this job .
When they were picking these two to hire, Yu Xiaocao and her oldest paternal aunt’s entire family secretly investigated their backgrounds for a long time . Both of these matrons were honest and simple and their families were the same . The braised food shop’s business was very good and there were a lot of people eyeing it . However, when their store opened, the prefectural magistrate and the royal prince were there to show their support . Thus, those jealous people couldn’t do anything at the moment . As time passed, it was more likely that they would do more behind the scenes sabotage instead .
The Yu’s Braised Food Store had recipes that everyone wanted . Whether it was for the roasted chicken, roasted duck, or braised food, any of those secret methods could help someone make a fortune . Thus, as the braised food shop continued to grow, they would definitely need to hire more people . It was important that they carefully consider who to hire to avoid hiring someone who had ulterior motives .
Next door, the Yu’s Pickled Vegetable Store had also opened for business . Most of the salted and pickled vegetables in the shop were bought wholesale from Xiaojiang’s pickled vegetable stand in Tanggu Town . Currently, most of the products at Xiaojiang’s pickled vegetable stand were made with Xiaocao’s recipes, so their taste was guaranteed to be good . In addition, Yu Xiaocao also produced a few more secret recipes for the Yu’s Pickled Vegetable Store . These products were all personally made by her and all had unique flavors . Not long after it was first opened, the business at the Yu’s Pickled Vegetable Store was doing as well as the braised food shop .
There were also issues with the business doing too well . Yu Xiaocao spent every day in the picked vegetable shop, weighing the vegetables and handling the money . It got to the point that her voice became hoarse from interacting with the customers and she started sounding like a duck quacking . It wasn’t a pretty sound . When Madam Liu came over to the prefectural city for a visit, she also started helping out at the pickled vegetable store . Originally, she was only planning on staying one day before going back . However, she ended up spending more than half a month there helping out and was unable to leave .
When Zhu Junyang was heading back to the capital, he stopped by the prefectural city to check up on her . At that time, Xiaocao, who originally had a small and thin face, now looked as if she didn’t have an extra ounce on her . Her chin was so sharp that it looked like it could stab a person to death . Zhu Junyang felt his heart hurt seeing her like this .
He raised his hands to his chest and was puzzled, ‘Just when did I get an internal injury here? In the past, I never had problems with chest pangs but why is it happening so often now? That’s not okay, when I get back to the capital, I need to have an imperial physician inspect me carefully . I don’t want to suddenly die early . ’
Zhu Junyang stood silently across the street from the Yu Family’s braised food shop and pickled vegetable shop . He mutely watched as the figures inside the stores ran back and forth as if he was spellbound by the sight .
By the time it was noon, the customers at the braised food shop and pickled vegetable shop left . Everyone working there let out a sigh of relief . Yu Xiaocao used a wet cloth to wipe her hands before she took off the flowery apron . She shook out both her arms and legs to relax .
When she raised her head, she saw Royal Prince Yang across the street, so she hurriedly ran out of the shop and grinned in welcome, “Young Royal Prince, when did you come over? Come inside the residence and rest a bit ah!”
Royal Prince Yang silently nodded his head and went through the main gate next to the braised food shop . The front courtyard was now very neat and tidy . There was a small tiled road in the middle of the courtyard and on both sides were gardens . One side was planted with all sorts of green vegetables while the other side was currently growing autumn vegetables . All of the plants were flourishing in the gardens . Zhu Junyang quirked up the corners of his lips, ‘I just knew with this lass around that she wouldn’t let a single inch of land go to waste . ’
He walked in further and the main residence had osmanthus trees planted on both sides of the building . Both trees were dotted with tiny yellow flowers all throughout, resembling tiny stars . The dense, sweet fragrance of the flowers wafted throughout the main courtyard .
As he carefully smelled the air, he detected the pungent and tantalizing aroma of meat coming from the inner courtyard . Zhu Junyang stopped moving and changed his direction to the small gate at the side .
Yu Xiaocao tried to stop him, “Young Royal Prince, we braise all of the meat in the inner courtyard, so it’s a bit of a mess back there . How about you rest in the main courtyard ah?”
“It’s not a problem . This prince just wants to see just how exactly you guys braise such delicious meat . What? Are you afraid that I’ll steal your secret methods?” Zhu Junyang raised an eyebrow and slanted a look from his phoenix eyes at her . A smile graced his lips that made him look devilishly handsome and vaguely seductive .
When confronted with such a stunningly handsome man, Yu Xiaocao was almost unable to control herself and barely managed to keep the saliva from dripping out of her mouth . She chuckled dryly and then said, “Your Royal Highness, if you really want the secret recipe, I will gladly ‘present it’ to you with both hands!”
After hearing the little lass’s flattering remarks, Zhu Junyang suddenly felt like the weather and surroundings were incredibly pleasing today . He deepened the smile on his lips and snorted, “What would this prince do with your secret recipe? I have no interest in making small change like you are!”
This was the guy who had brought back countless treasures from the western hemisphere . Every single item from the west was worth quite a bit of money . For example, the pocket watch that Zhu Junyang gifted Xiaocao was priced at five thousand taels at his Treasure Pavilion, yet they had all been sold out within half a year . The cost of buying one of these pocket watches in the west was only around a dozen taels . This meant that every item that was sold at the prince’s Treasure Pavilion made a few hundred-fold in profits . There weren't many people in the capital who could compete with Royal Prince Yang’s personal wealth at this point! In comparison, the Yu Family’s braised food shop made around a hundred to two hundred taels in profit every day . This wasn’t a small sum, but in the eyes of the prince, it was merely ‘small change’!
When he entered the inner courtyard, he looked through the wide open kitchen door and saw four giant pots simmering over the fire . The dense smell of meat wafted out of the room and was even able to overcome the sweet scent of the osmanthus flowers .
After noticing Yu Caifeng and her son sweating buckets as they labored over the pots, Zhu Junyang frowned a bit and asked, “Have all of you been working like this every day for all this time? With no time to rest?”