Monday, December 01, 2014

The seasonal "Bringing of the Beef"

Nothing says the start of the Advent season like over 300 pounds of frozen beef appearing on your doorstep. Don't get too excited, it wasn't some anonymous ring the doorbell and leave half a cow on the doorstep event. I knew it was coming because I paid for it.

Every year a friend and I split a full beef and another half between us giving us each 3/4 of a full beef. This lasts us for the entire year. Both of us have various Iowa connections, so we work with a farmer there (the farmers have changed over the years) and then one of us drives over, visits whichever friends or family we have there, picks up the beef and drives home. This year, my friend was having Thanksgiving in Iowa, so she brought the beef home.

This is why, if you had dropped by our house on Saturday night, you would have found me and J. and B. standing in the basement, a cooler full of beef at our feet, looking at two very full freezers. We were discussing where on earth the last of the beef was going to go. I had done my best to eat down the contents of the freezer during the past month in anticipation of the beef arrival, but it still wasn't enough. So that combined with the fact we were using a new meat locker which we were told was better and thus produced more meat meant we were low of space.

Eventually we took some more things out of the freezer and told people to eat them and the carted the rest up to the kitchen refrigerator and managed to fit it in its freezer. It all fits. Barely. And I absolutely cannot freeze another thing for a while.

There was another reason that it was a little more difficult to fit things in this year. For one, when the butcher asked me if I wanted my brisket whole or in half, I thought about past briskets I have had which always seemed on the small side, and blithely said I wanted it whole. Do not ever do this! I am now in possession of a brisket approximately the size of the state of Rhode Island. J. isn't even quite sure it will fit in the over to cook it. When we eventually uncover the thing in the freezer, I will have to invite my favorite 30 people over for dinner to justify its existence.

The other thing that is different is that this meat locker will give you the fat if you ask for it. Many of you are wondering why one would ask for that. Well, evidently, according the instructions my friend sent me, you can render your own lard in your crock pot. Not only do I cook with lard, but will be making tamales again this year and this is a vital ingredient for really good ones. My catch-22 is that once the lard is rendered, you can either store it for a shorter time in the refrigerator, or for a longer time in the freezer. Assuming you have room in your freezer.

Beef. It's what's for dinner. At least until there is a little wiggle room in the freezer.


Lucy said...

I have to point out- fat from beef, once it is rendered, is tallow. Lard comes from pigs.

I have rendered both in the crockpot. It is very easy. The best tip I have is to cut the fat into small chunks, the smaller the better. Then I usually strain it through cheesecloth and coffee filters. Tallow is not as soft as lard, and doesn't lend itself to putting up in canning jars like lard does. Putting tallow in something rectangular where you can cut it into useable chunks or sticks like butter, after it has hardened, works best.

sandwichinwi said...

You can wing a hunk of brisket this way. Mack informed me this morning, while reading over his science experiment, that he needed a piece of brisket to examine for muscle fibers. Shucks. I'm all out of beef!


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