Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Bulk Meat

Last time, I wrote about our Home Butchering journey.  Today I will share what happened the second time the butcher came, a week later, to cut up the hanging quarters of beef.

Whether you are buying a quarter or half or whole slaughtered animal, or have a homegrown one, the result is that you will end up with a LOT of meat, and some of it may be unfamiliar to you.  It sure was to me, and I'm really glad I asked a lot of questions throughout this process.

We'd purchased our freezer a couple of weeks earlier, switched it on and tested it.  I gathered about a dozen shallow cardboard boxes - the type mushrooms and stonefruit travel to the supermarket in.  This was a tip from a friend to separate different types of meat and allow airflow in the freezer, so the meat would freeze quicker.  It also prevents bags from sticking together.  The boxes did mean that the meat didn't pack as tightly, but we had enough space, so that was okay.

I asked around other farming friends I knew about bags, labels, cuts of meat and any other advice they had to share.  I purchased plenty of bags (and ties for some), a new marker pen and some labels.  We bagged a lot of the meat into sandwich size snaplock bags - these don't stick together in the freezer and can hold about 500g of mince packed flat, or a couple of steaks.  Obviously roasts, steak with bones, 1kg lots of mince etc did not fit in sandwich bags!  For these we used a strong type of freezer bag a neighbour picked up at a catering supply shop in town.  Twisty-ties, standard white sticky labels from the newsagents and a thick bullet-point permanent marker pen completed the packing kit...  We had hoped to vacuum seal some of the meat, but found that we just didn't have time.  If we had an extra person or two (and the space available), we could have delegated that task while other meat was packed into ordinary bags.

Source: Ausmeat Ltd.

The butcher arrived early and work started right away.  He asked lots of questions to find out what cuts of meat I was used to cooking and what would be of most use to us.  At a friend's suggestion, I had looked briefly at cuts of meat online, so I (as a non-beef-eater) was familiar with at least some of the options.  As the butcher cut each quarter and loaded the meat into a plastic tub, he told me the names of the cuts.  He was patient with me because I didn't know much about the cuts, and he even told me ways to cook some.  Occasionally I had to poke my head out of the shed, waving a steak in the air and call out, "Hey, what was this again?"  The whole butchering set-up was contained on the side of a truck which was parked beside the cold room.  There was a crane/hook device, a saw, tubs for meat and waste, and a mincer.  We decided not to make sausages this time, but he can do that on the spot too!

In the shed, next to the freezer, I had set up a large, strong, clean trestle table, somewhere to wash our hands, and the packing items all within easy reach.

My apprentice chef daughter (17) laboured away for over 2 hours with me, packing meat into labelled bags and stacking it into boxes while I wrote on bags, ran back and forth, helped her pack and asked questions.  She also shared some ideas for ways to cook various cuts and marvelled at some she'd not seen before, curious as to which part of the carcass they'd come from.  Even though we were rushing and hot she really enjoyed the process.

We were amazed at how fast the freezer was filling!  Our steer was young, and not a pure beef breed, so we didn't get as much meat as some people do when they do a home kill (or buy a 'whole beast' through their local butcher).


We now have a lot of roasts, heaps of mince, and various stewing cuts to experiment with.  There is more steak in the freezer than we've consumed in a decade!  So far we've only cooked some mince (chili con carne and meatballs in tomato sauce - both in the Thermomix) and some pan-fried steak. I tried some of the steak and it was tender and very mild in flavour.  I'm not sure I'm ready to begin eating beef again, but I did decide to at least taste some.

Because it's summer here, a lot of the cuts I'm not used to will have a bit of time in the freezer before they become casseroles and roasts.   I wonder which steak is best to cut into strips for stir-fries, and which is best to cube for curries?  I also have liver, kidneys and heart in the freezer!  I think the butcher told me a lot more about preparing various cuts than I remember...  In hindsight, a pen and paper (and clean hands) would have been handy for taking notes.

Apart from buying the freezer, and keeping it running throughout the year, this beef cost us a couple of dollars a kilo, butchered and packed.  That's cheap, quality protein, and I believe it's ethical too.  At this stage, I'd be willing to raise more large animals for the freezer.

There was very little waste from this butchering process - the skin is being tanned, the fat rendered, the bones are for dog food...  Reusable containers would omit the use of plastic bags, but we went with the easier way of packing this time.

I'd love any beef recipe suggestions you have! Meanwhile, I think this is one of the most inspiring collection of beef recipes I've come across so far...


Oya's Daughter said...

I don't eat beef anymore, but I do eat a lot of bison and venison as a substitute as I'm always in need of iron - I have a load of recipes, and I'll just give you some names:

Beef in red wine is very simple and very decadent: a pound of stewing meat, dredge with flour and fry in dutch oven. Add a bottle of good red wine, cup of shallots, one clove garlic, one bay leaf, salt and pepper. Cover and cook in oven till meat is tender, serve over rice.

I'll give you names of recipes and you can experiment: paprikash (get a proper hot hungarian paprika to make it, should be full flavour and not just coloured powder like one tends to get in the store). A pound of meat, dredged in flour with a teaspoon of paprika, fry, then remove from pan. Deglaze pan with white wine, then fry an onion, clove of garlic, and add two pints of stock. Add meat back to pot, add a cup of tomatoes (fresh or a tin is what I go with). I usually add more paprika at this point, another teaspoon if I can, it's supposed to be a very "red" dish and spicy as well. Cover till meat is tender, then remove cover and allow sauce to cook down till it's a somewhat thick sauce - be careful it doesn't burn on the bottom of the pan. Take of the heat, stir in a dollop of heavy cream, serve over noodles.

Stroganoff with mushrooms (which can be done with chicken or just mushrooms, I do make it loads of ways). It's essentially paprikash without the tomatoes and a lot more cream at the end, also served over noodles.

Spaghetti bolognaise made in the traditional way - one pound of mince, six pieces of bacon cut up into bite sized pieces. Fry the lot - if you have young children you can stealth some diced carrots in at this stage. Garlic, a shallot goes in too. Then, you add enough milk to cover (yes, seriously, it helps tenderise the meat). Let this simmer and boil off till it's nearly gone. Add two tins of tomatoes, and again, let this boil down as well, then add a cup of red wine (the alcohol will burn off, don't panic). The end result is a very rich and meaty sauce to serve over noodles.

Caribbean curry - which is more peppery than spicy, requiring primarily cumin. Cubed roast or stewing meat marinaded in three teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon curry powder, salt and pepper, one onion, one clove garlic, one cut bell pepper, a tablespoon of olive oil overnight in fridge. Take out the lot the following day, fry it, then cover with stock and simmer - stirring to keep it from sticking. Will form a very spicy and rich sauce - adjust seasonings, then serve over rice. Apparently if you're having your husband's rugby-playing friends over, make a lot of it or they'll be chasing each other round the house trying to get the last helping out of the pan!

Roasts can be marinaded overnight in wine or baslamic vinegar with a touch of sea salt, rubbed with thyme and cloves of garlic underneath the layer of fat for extra flavour...

Yes, I love to cook! I hope you find some recipes you enjoy.

cumbrian said...

Really good thing to do.
Sadly we can't do that here in UK. Anything bigger than a rabbit has to go to the local abbotoir. Which really destroys the idea of a stress-free end to a good life.

Bel said...

Oh, that is a pity, Cumbrian. There are registered 'mobile butchers' here in Australia and it is soooo different to having an animal transported.

Oya's Daughter - thanks for those recipe ideas, wow! The Carribean curry sounds like something really different for me. I haven't used those flavours before.

Beef in red wine certainly sounds like a good one for when we have visitors...

jenj said...

We buy our meat in bulk, and we LOVE getting the boxes with the neatly wrapped and labeled packages. We never quite know what we're going to get, so it's always a bit of a surprise.

At first, we had no idea what to do with certain cuts of meat. We'd never heard of them before, much less cooked them! The Internet became our source for cooking tips. Did you know there's a cubesteak.com? Seriously! We've tried so many wonderful new recipes, and it's always fun. Of course there's nothing quite like just throwing a nice cut on the grill with a little salt and pepper!

Bel said...

jenj - I have been searching online for recipes too!

Anonymous said...

my parents are beef farmers and i have spent my life bagging up meat! my parents for years had chest freezers, but finally ditched them in favour of freezers with drawers, because it was too hard to turn the meat in a chest freezer (if you don't turn your meat, you'll end up with a huge slab of meat stuck together that's impossible to take apart without defrosting!

good stirfry cuts of meats are topside and rump
and good stewing meats cuts are blade, chuck, shins, round

there's a goot meat table here that might help you!

Jaime said...

Just made the curry beef recipe above with frozen steak. Yummy. Put in 1.5 big zucchinis and some beans from the garden and a chilli. 4 steaks made 8 servings. Thankyou. Jaime