Monday, January 14, 2013

Economy and the ick factor

My goal is to add something new to my repertoire each year.  Harvey Ussery wrote that it is respectful of our animals to use everything that we can, to not waste any part of their valuable life.  OK, that is how I interpreted it for myself, but that is the gist of what he said.  The "ick" factor is pretty strong in today's society, and I'm no different.....except I am determined to change.  One bite at a time.  Shudder.

Last year we made use of heart and livers by making our sausage 20% organ meats.  After the first meal, we forgot it was in there.  Organ meats from healthy, pastured animals are amazingly good for us.  It was time to put on the big girl pants and learn to eat them.

This year I added the chicken feet to my broths.  That wasn't as bad as I'd anticipated.

This fall, we bought our very first side of beef.  I highly recommend saving up for this.  Freezers are cheap to come by, especially if you know an busy real estate agent or realtor.  Getting rid of a freezer in the basement is often on the to-do list of their selling clients and can be had for very little cash, or even for free.  I also see them listed in local "for sale" ads for bargain prices....or free!  They don't cost much to run, and the savings of buying an entire side will more than cover the cost of the freezer and the power to run it.  If you live where the winters are cold and it will be full mostly during winter, put it in the garage and it will barely run at all.

The butcher will ask you how you want it cut up and packaged.  Do some online research in advance.  Many small farm websites have detailed information.  Think about what you usually cook as far as beef goes.....actually, you can get pork this way as well.....and order mostly those types of cuts.  It is ok if you eat ground beef most of the time!  We like roasts and ground beef, and rarely cook steaks.  So I got mostly these cuts, and asked for a few steaks so I could expand my cooking skills.  I've always enjoyed steaks at restaurants, not at home.  If the steak is not cooked right at a restaurant, you can send it back.  Not so at home.  But that will change....this year.

Buyiing an entire side, or even an entire animal, can be economical in more ways if you are adventurous and aren't afraid to rattle a few pots and pans.  Most people don't want the bones, fat, organs, and unusual cuts, and these are actually thrown away!  When I got my side of beef, the person taking the other half didn't want anything but standard grocery store style cuts.  Know what that meant?  Yup.  I got to have ALL of the other stuff, at NO additional cost to me.  That's right.  You pay a set fee, called "hanging weight," which means the weight of the side before it is cut and wrapped.  How much of that actually ends up in your freezer is up to you.

We got many, many more pounds of great food for free along with our purchased beef.  With the bones from the entire cow, I canned 54 jars of beef broth!  You can't buy broth of this quality or nutrient value in any store, no matter how many times you see words like "organic" or "natural" or "free-range" on the label.

I also rendered all the trim fat into tallow, which is the best fat for deep fat frying.  I reserved the best for this, and made some into a batch of very, very premium soap.  A bit more will go into the very best moisturizing cream, although with my dietary changes over the past few years and using only goat's milk soap to wash with, I have very little need for skin protection.

I'll admit that some of the liver.....a beef liver is HUGE....was given away (it was reported to be heavenly by liver lovers) and some will be fed to our dogs....hey, they also need good food!  It was FREE.

The heart is in the freezer...well, half of it is.  Half went into our sausage this year.  The other half is waiting for the rest of the ingredients needed to make a mincemeat recipe I found in one of my antique cookbooks that looks very promising.  I love mincemeat pie, and the spice, fruity recipe will likely hide any ick flavor.

Something terrible happened with my beef, though.  There was a mis-communication and the tail and the kidney suet was tossed in the trash.  That turned into something wonderful, though.  When you talk to the actual farmer who raised the animals, you are no longer just a number in a ledger.  It is not the same as buying meat on foam trays in the grocery store.  You develop a relationship.

So something fantastic came from this goof.  The farmer felt bad about this, and promised to give me these items from the next cow.  I got the call this week.  I will not only get the tail and the suet, but all the usual things that are tossed in the trash....all the bones and trim fat, all the organs, anything else that will be thrown away.

Meanwhile, I spent some time with the butcher, who works in his own small butcher shop.  We are also developing a relationship that will be mutually beneficial.  He is setting up a mobile slaughter truck.  (Ick, I know, you don't want to think about this.  But animals die to feed you and me, and isn't it better that they die with the least amount of stress, fear, and cruelty?  Mobile slaughter units are a way for smallholders to deal with this unpleasant task right on the farm....just by writing a check.  I think it is a brilliant solution.  And far kinder to the animals.)

Best thing ever.....I had a conversation with the butcher about getting the "trash" from other animals once he is up and running.  There are legal ins and outs to this, so not all can do it.  For example, if I send a pig to slaughter and don't want the bones and fat, the slaughterhouse can't sell them.  If the farmer sends an animal and gets it back all cut and wrapped and then sells it piece by piece, he can sell the bones, fat, organs, etc.  But he usually doesn't, as nobody wants them, so they can be purchased for a song, in bulk, if he knows in advance.  I've set myself up to be able to do this.  Ask and you shall receive.

Today's story, though, is really about the beef tongue.  Ick.  Double ick.  It LOOKS like a tongue.  Nasty.

So I corned it, like corned beef brisket (recipe here).  Once it was peeled (shudder again) and sliced, it was the most tender corned beef I've ever eaten.  It was marvelous on sourdough bread with home made fermented mustard, and later, hubby diced it up and scrambled it with his breakfast eggs.  A beef tongue is HUGE, by the way.  Several pounds of tender, succulent meat.

In the brine for 10 days while I try to forget.....

What will you be creative with this year?  Can you find a way to be a bit more brave and honor the animals a little more?  

Or let the dogs do so....they have to eat, too!  Nothin' wrong with that!

The shameless commerce portion of today's post:  My next get healthy/stay healthy class starts soon!  January 28, 2013, to be exact.  All via telephone, and you can sign up, put the phone on speaker mode, and invite as many to listen with you as you can fit in the room.  Twelve weeks of great information and some great give-aways, too.  For details, click here.

Oh, and you never have to eat any ick if you don't want to, promise....but there will be bacon!


  1. You are a stronger woman than I. I will eat a lot of things, but if I had to (gag!) peel a tongue, I don't think I would be eating it!

    Thank goodness we have lots of dogs and cats who are happy to take care of the icky bits.

  2. Hahaha! I too am trying to get over the "ick" factor, and funnily enough just cooked my first beef tongue a few days ago, too. We made tacos de lengua from it, and like you discovered it to be amazingly lean, tender, and flavorful meat. I didn't tell my kids the WHOLE truth about the meat (I said it was chopped beef, which it was) prior to our family taco night, but they all commented on how the meat was excellent and squabbled over the last bites in the serving bowl. When I told them where it came from, my kids (who I am proud to say I am raising to be free of much of the "ick factor") asked if we had any more and when we could have that for dinner :) The farmer I get our beef from sells ground organic, grass-fed beef for $6/lb and tongue for only $3 so this will help me to provide healthy, cruelty-free beef for my family. My next self-imposed food challenge is organ dentist loves rabbit kidneys and livers, and I take him some whenever I have a checkup, but I process litters of rabbits more often than I go to the dentist, and while our dogs are more than happy to eat any parts of the rabbits that we don't want, I don't want to let something that could be good "people food" go to the dogs, who are just as happy with bones and ears and lungs and the fatty deposits from the shoulder area. Maybe if your mincemeat pie is good you could post the recipe?

  3. My new skill this year will be chicken feet in the stock...

  4. Amazing that tongue is so cheap, huh? I'm ready to cook up another one, and it doesn't seem so gross to me now. I will definitely post the mincemeat recipe if we like it. I need suet, and that is hard to come by. The guys doing the slaughter toss it, since no one wants it. To get them NOT to has been a futile struggle thus far, but I still have hope!

    Chicken feet really aren't bad...the first few I peeled were definitely icky, but then you get the hang of it and it is like taking a glove off. Ok, still icky! But I just keep repeating to myself that I am respecting the animal and its life by wasting as little as possible.

  5. Just wondering (because we live in the same area) if you'd be willing to share what farm you got your beef side from? I got a a half pig from a friend, and would love to get some nice pasture raised beef...

  6. Sure, if you know me and have my email address (not sure who you are!) shoot me an email. If not, go to my website and contact me through there: We'll both be needing a third hound tomorrow is definitely gonna be a three dog night! Hmmm....I wonder if my sweet goat Plum would be willing to snuggle in place of that third dog?

  7. Great post! :) Beef tongue is SO awesome! The texture is lovely. I'm hungry...

  8. Thanks, I've sent you an e-mail...

  9. I didn't know chicken feet can make broth. And I was imagining a pot of boiling chicken feet with the yellow scales and little toenails still on, wondering how hard you scrubbed the feet to get them clean, until you said you peel them. I didn't know THAT was possible either. Pretty cool!

  10. Chicken feet make a great addition to broth. Yes, peeling them is easy if you scald them well. No gross toes or scales!

  11. I enjoy your blog! I hope you post more soon!

    -new reader, Natasha

  12. Thanks, Wildcard! I just got a new laptop and as soon as I can get my pictures loaded onto it, I plan on starting up again. Computer issues!

  13. Awesome, Monique! This was so informative... I look forward to when you're up and posting regularly. And - welcome to the NLN network! ~Pam