Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Taste Test

The corned beef.  I cooked two pieces together, one from each bucket.  They had to overlap in the pot when I started.

Afterwards, they both fit on a single plate with room to spare.  A lot of shrinkage.  I forgot to take a picture.

The results so far- the piece from the first bucket was pinking up nicely along the edges, and you could almost tell where I had poked it, as the pink followed through in spots.  It mostly tasted like corned beef, although it was a little heavy on the pepper.  The piece from the second bucket remained a grey colour, right through cooking, and tasted more like very peppery roast beef than corned beef.

So, the rest shall remain in the basement a few more days, awaiting another taste test.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Corning Beef

This was a new one for me. I attempted some hams with our first pigs. They didn't work out so well. With our second pigs, I tried a brine, making some back bacon and cottage roll type hams. They were better. The smaller pieces turned out really well, actually. The larger pieces needed more time in the brine, and maybe some injections into the centre of the thickest parts. We ended up eating them as slow roasted pull apart pork. Delish!

I found three brine recipes online.  I used this one in one bucket.  I started out with this one in the second bucket, and then started fiddling with it, because it just didn't seem right to me.  It ended up closer to the first, without the cloves,  and bay leaves.  I don't have a kitchen scale, so my measurements are approximate.  I left out the sodium nitrate.  I'm going to freeze it after anyways, if it goes bad before then, I'd rather throw it out than eat carcinogens on purpose.
I used some of the methodology found here.  I used the egg in a shell to test the saltiness of the water.  I pierced the meat vigorously with a fork before submersing it in the brine.
Now it sits in the buckets in the cold room, covered by a plate to keep it submerged, as well as a lid to keep dust and such out.  Stirred on day five.  The directions vary, saying to leave it for 3-15 days. I'll be testing the first piece today, on day 9.  If it's done, I'll package and freeze the rest.  If it's a little weak, I'll leave it sit a few more days, and test another piece, continuing until it seems ready.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Graphic images will follow.

The tenderloin is located on the inside of the carcass, just below the hips. Start at the lower end, on the spine side, and run your knife through til you hit bone. Run the knife up the length of the tenderloin. Insert fingers and lift the meat off the back.

It can be pulled out mostly with your fingers, but you may need to trim a bit around the upper section with your knife. 

You can slice it into steaks, or cube it and use for stir fry.  Or leave it alone, in place, for t-bones!! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rendering Fat

Before rendering the fat for lard, I went exploring.  Turns out, it's not lard.  It's tallow.  Same purpose, same idea.  Different name.

I followed the basic methodology seen here, Mark's Daily Apple.  With a few changes, of course.  I used all of the fat that I trimmed off the beef, not just the back and kidney fat.  A lot of it was thin and stringy strips.  I cut the larger pieces up, but left the thin bits.  I never shredded it.  I didn't cut the bits of meat off either.  I just spend two days trimming all of the excess fat off my beef, I wasn't about to spend another two days trimming the bits of meat off my fat.  I did the oven method, leaving the roasting pan of fat in the oven at 200°F overnight.  There was a lot of fat, and it took a long time to render.

 In the morning, I drained off the liquid fat.
Then added more trimmings to the roasting pot, and put it back in the oven.
I poured the liquid fat through a strainer, into pint jars.
Now just to wait for it to cool and harden.

I left some headroom, as I was considering freezing it.  Freezer space is at a premium though, with 5 turkeys and all of those roosters left to butcher.  I'll probably just store it in the cold room instead.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Graphic images will follow.

I meant to post this awhile ago.

Start at the top of the leg and cut through the skin.  Peel that skin back, and start cutting and peeling next to the skin. 
The weight of the skin will help peel it away from the meat as you go.
Make shallow cuts, into the skin/away from the meat.  Keep pulling.
Work around the lower legs the same way.  Cut through the skin at the top of the legs, back to the chest opening to separate it from the body.

There are other methods to do this.  Some say they're easier.  I don't find this difficult, and it gives me something to do while I wait for the meat to age. 

The skin is now hanging inside the garage door.  I'm not tanning it 'properly'.  Just scraping, drying and salting.  I have no special plans for it.  Maybe some repairs to harnesses and such.  Mostly just to see if it'll turn out.

Cutting Steaks

Graphic images will follow.

I cut both front leg/shoulder sections the same as with the road kill bear. Dad came over to help me with the first side, to section the meat and cut the steaks. I don't have a lot of pictures because it was a learn as you go process, and messy, and I was busy trying to keep up, lol.

We used the meat chart from mom's old cookbook. There are lots available online as well. We drew roughly where we figured the cuts should be made right on the beef, then tried to make sense of our drawings by lining up the bones on the other side.  Dad never worked in a butcher shop, and when he butchers wild game he debones everything.

The first picture is separating the rib steak section from the t-bone section.  The t-bones start at the base of the tenderloin and run up to the top of it.  The brisket/shoulder section, and the flank (belly fat) were already removed.  My knife is inserted between the ribs just below where the tenderloin had been.

This is my current meat band saw.  It's an old black and decker that we bought at a pawn shop.  I like it, because it's powered externally by a drill, so I can open it all up after I'm done and wash everything with no fear of damaging it.  I would like to get a proper meat band saw some day, because there isn't quite enough clearance to slide the steaks right through on this one.  We have to turn them as we cut.

My sad little t-bones.   I never knew that tender oh-so-delicious piece on the bottom side of the t-bone was part of the tenderloin.  Tenderloins don't leave moose camp.  They're the first piece to rot if you hang too long or in less than desirable conditions, so hunters pop them out and fry them up at camp.  We made some delicious stir fries with them.  But they would have been better on my t-bones!

And just for fun, here's a side pic so you can see how thick they were.  You can also see that I don't cut straight.

The rib steaks were cut the same way.  We also used the band saw to cut the ribs.

We cut boneless blade steaks.  We cut a few round steaks from the first side.  I cooked them for supper so I'd know whether I wanted to cut more from the second side or keep it for  roast.  Those are the really big cheap steaks you see in the store.  They weren't bad, but I'd rather have the roast.  I love roast beef. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Price of Beef

This week's Food Basics flyer has the following beef on sale
outside round roast or steak - $5.49/ lb
sirloin tip roast or steak - $5.99/ lb

Links (if they work at all) will only work temporarily.  When the new flyer goes up next week it'll wipe these out.

In other words- rump roast ranging from $3-6 per pound.  I cut each side into 5-6 roasts.  12 roasts of approximately 4 pounds each.  At $5/pound, my roasts would currently be valued at $240.

No Frill's
stewing beef - $3.99/ lb
I've got ten packages so far, roughly 2 pounds each, with approximately 4 more packages left to trim.  Value- $112

inside round roast - $4.99/ lb
strip loin steak - $9.99/ lb
top sirloin roast or club pack steak - $2.99/ lb

24 top sirloin steaks, about a pound each, $71.76

red grill angus tenderloin or steak - $14.99/ lb
stewing beef - $3.99/lb

Tenderloin.  Times two.  At least three pounds each.  Yum!!!  $90!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I cut t-bone steak and rib steak, over a pound each, 50 steaks.  Conservatively, at $6/ lb (that'd be a really good sale) $300.

Shoulder blade and other assorted roasts, guessing roughly $5/ lb, approximately 4 pounds each X 18 - $360.

Corned beef- This will be experimental, post to come... - approximately 24 pounds @ $8/ lb (the last price I saw it on sale for)- $192

Ribs.  Hmmm.   I've never bought beef ribs.  I can only remember even considering it once when these dinky little packages were on sale for about $4 each.  That was at least two years ago.  At that price, comparatively, I've got about $48 or so worth of ribs.

Comparatively, $1413 worth of mostly run of the mill, whatever came off the assembly line beef.  Compared to organic grass fed beef- ha!  Can you even buy it here?  Cause that's what he was!  I'm guessing, maybe, double it?  $2826

Plus tallow and beef stock and dog food.

I paid $1000 for Steaks, and with any luck, come spring, he will be a daddy to three new born calves.  I'm pretty sure I got one hell of a bargain.

Thank you Steaks, and thank you Mother Earth for this bountiful harvest!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Off With His Head

Graphic images will follow.

Steaks was too big for the garage!  His head and front hooves were on the floor.

#2 used another come-a-long, tied to Steaks' front hoof, to jack him up toward the ceiling at an angle. This gave us room to work around his head and neck.
I cut through the skin and muscle around his neck. Then #2 sawed through the neck bone with the reciprocating saw.
After the head was off, he sawed through the sternum and up the chest bone.  I cut through the neck, around the esophagus. 
There he was, ready to finish skinning and hang.  He was still just inches off the floor.

I didn't think about measuring him until after I had him gutted, hung, and skinned.  Dad suggested my horse tape, which gives us a weight of 821 pounds.  Horses and cows are built differently though, so I searched online for a way to convert.  I found this formula:
heart girth X heart girth X length  / 300
(65"x65"x59") /300
=830.9 pounds

I'll have to remember that for a more accurate measurement in the future.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hanging Steaks

Graphic images will follow.

After the gun shot, I slit his throat.  Then I stood there, like an idiot, without the foggiest idea of what to do.  Then I started to panic.  I just shot my $1000 bull, and I don't know what to do.  OMG.  What the hell is wrong with me.

#1 was standing beside me.  'What's wrong mom?'

'I can't remember where to start.'

'diaphragm, mom?'

Ok.  It might not have been the exact procedure, but it got my head back in the game.

Note to self;  even when you think you know what you're doing, you've done it before, you should know how to do this- don't wait until you're standing at the back of the pasture with the animal on the ground, every second counts, and let it occur to you, maybe I should have reviewed the procedure...

So I got started.  Slicing the belly skin lightly.  The stomach was already starting to expand at an alarming rate, working against me.  There were some tricky moments, but I managed to get him opened up without slicing through it.  I popped the diaphragm.  Cut around the testicles.  Opened up the pelvis.  Then Husband and the Bigs got him chained up and lifted him up with the tractor.
I didn't have enough muscle to pull out his innards.  #2 stepped in.  Got the job done.  We lowered him back to the ground.  Husband used the hatchet to split the pelvic bone, while I held the intestines out of the way.  Then I removed the testicles and penis.  Cut through the pelvic area to the anus.  Husband lifted him back in the air.  I cut around the rest of the anus and tail.  Husband chopped through the tail bone with the hatchet.  The Bigs each grabbed a lower leg and pulled them backwards to open up the pelvis and let the last of the innards slide out.
Then husband took him up to the garage.

I retrieved the liver and followed on foot.  I left while they were getting him hung up.  It's frustrating for me to watch, because I am worse than useless with the come-a-long, and stand there making odd noises and strange faces, worrying that they are going to drop my beef on the dirty garage floor.  I went to cook supper.  They got it done.

He was a little too big for the height of the garage.  His head and front hooves were still on the floor.  We're definitely going to need a butcher shop if we're going to continue doing these things.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Steaks' Last Meal

Steaks enjoyed one last breakfast, before meeting his end with my 308. He's been hanging in the garage 14 days. The weather has been perfect, ranging from -6 to +12. The garage is like a big walk-in cooler. I started butchering yesterday, with the left front leg and shoulder.  Thursday appears to be my deadline- the temperature is supposed to drop.  So a lot of work to be done over the next few days!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

How I Learned to Love My Chainsaw

This morning I was reading how tragedy struck at Misty Meadows, and her comment on getting her own firewood made me think, I should write a little post on chainsaws.

I grew up on a farm, with a wood stove.  Dad cut the firewood while mom, big brother and I loaded it up.  It was just another part of our country life.  I never expected to use a chainsaw.

Fast forward a few years.  Husband and I move to a big old farm house with an itty bitty wood stove.  The Bigs were little- 9 & 8.  The Littles were very little- 4 & 2.  Husband cut some firewood.  The boys and I loaded it.  We nearly froze that first winter, with gas bills through the roof. 

The following summer we took the firewood a bit more seriously.  But with Husband on the road, it was a losing battle.  The chainsaw scared me.

Until one day, we were out and about and got sucked into this infomercial playing at Canadian Tire.  I bought a Lopper.  A miniature electric tree trimmer chainsaw with a little 6" blade, and guards over both sides of the blade.  It worked like a great big pair of scissors.

Oh, how I loved my lopper.  I started out with branches and dead wood that I could drag up to the house on my own.  Then I'd cut it into firewood and pile it.  After a while I had Husband cutting wood into manageable sizes when he was home, and then I'd cut it into firewood size at home when he wasn't around.  Sometime after that we bought a generator, and Husband built a trailer for it, and I could take my lopper out into the woods.

It survived three years of hard work- much more than it was ever designed to handle- and my only complaint was that it does have enough power to saw right through it's extension cord.  Crap!  Eventually, after our move up north, the scissor action failed, but the motor was still good.  Dad took it apart for me and turned it into a mini chainsaw.  It worked, but it was awkward to use that way.  I bought a second lopper, but as with most things these days, the new version just wasn't as good as the original, and the scissor action failed within a few months.

I got more comfortable with chainsaws through this process, and used Husband's 18" Poulon on occasion, out in the woods.  I could handle it, but it was big and heavy and awkward.  It was older, and a pull until your arm feels like it's going to fall off model.  By this point I was cutting the majority of the firewood for the house.  We had bought 11 chords of wood our first winter here- $750- and it didn't last three months.  We also went through over $1200 of oil.  A new chain saw seemed pretty cheap, all things considered.  I bought a 14" poulon.  It got the job done.  It was still pretty heavy, and it vibrated a lot.  The one I bought had a 'no tools needed' plastic screw cap over the chain.  I'm not sure if that was the cause or not, but I seemed to spend almost as much time putting the chain back on that saw as I spent cutting with it.

My next saw was a spur of the moment, that looks so cool, gotta have it purchase.  We were at home depot in the spring, and they were having a clearance sale.  Amongst a pile of assorted crap, sat this tiny little 14" Echo.  It was very light, had very little vibration, worked like a charm.  I loved my Echo.  Something happened to it this spring.  It started vibrating a lot.  To the point that I would be in tears after a couple of hours.  Husband kicked my ass and took me shopping.

We bought a 16" Husqavarna from Canadian Tire.  It was too cheap, and I should have known better.  Dad had a Husqavarna.  They used to be the top of the line, and incredibly expensive.  But you get what you pay for.  And now they sell them cheap at Canadian Tire.  But you get what you pay for.  Apparently Husqavarna has undergone some changes in recent years, so, if you go out and buy yourself one of these cheap saws, you are really just buying a poulon inside the shell of the Husqavarna.  You are paying for the name.  Not good. 

Besides that, the eco engine laws made all the manufacturers redesign their engines so they are more environmentally friendly.  I checked out a new Echo, and I swear it's twice the size and weight of my old one.  I was not a happy lumberjack this year.

The Husqavarna/Poulon works ok, but it's heavy and awkward.  It can be a pain to start.  It wears me out.  Mostly I kept using my Echo, after Husband ripped it apart, cleaned it out, tightened up some loose screws.  It was better, but still not like it should be.

So, mid summer, on another shopping trip, we went into this little shop in the city looking for quad parts.  They also happened to be a Stihl dealer.  So I browsed a bit.  They had a 12 inch tree trimmer saw that was just over 6 pounds.  I played with it for a bit.  The weight was nice, but the balance seemed off.  They had a 14" on sale.  I played with it too.  To be honest, I didn't really like it.  I was still pretty sour about not being able to buy a new Echo.  I wasn't happy with the Husqavarna.  I'd never used a Stihl or seen one in action.  It was only 8.3 pounds.

We left, did some other shopping.  I kept tossing it around in my head.  We went back.  I played with them some more.  I bought the 14".

I have to say a few things about the experience.  Nobody bugged me while I was playing with the saws.  Most places send someone over right away.  Like they're afraid I'm going to mess up their display or something.  This place just let me fiddle around with one saw after another until I made up my mind.  I like that. 

When I decided which one I wanted, they were very helpful, and chatty.  We discussed my echo, the eco changes, even the Husqavarnas.  They used to sell them, but stopped a year or so earlier, when the company changes stopped them from being able to back up their products.  They do repairs on site.  They sold me an additional 2 year warranty (which I normally always refuse on PITA principle).  Any issues for the next three years, I walk in and hand them my saw, they fix it.  No sending it off somewhere, no wondering what's going to happen.  Right there.  On site.

The extended warranty cost $20, and came with a six pack of premium chain saw oil.  And they took the time to explain to me why I shouldn't be buying cheap 2 cycle oil from Canadian Tire for my chainsaws.  Specialty oil has a different burn rate.  That change alone has got the rest of our saws working much better, and starting much easier.

I got it home and put it to work.  It's a bit heavier than my Echo- maybe a pound or two.  It has a small gas tank, so I am refilling it constantly.  It vibrates a bit, but it's up my left arm, where I can handle it.  I mangled my right wrist as a child, so that's where I usually have issues.  It slices like butter.  I thought it was just the 'new chain effect' at first.  But even after a few months of me sharpening it, it slices like butter.  I have to attribute that to the way it's balanced.  It's a good sturdy saw, and I'm very happy with it. 

It's also made in the US.  My Echo was assembled in Canada with parts made in the US and Italy.  I couldn't tell you where the others were made- or if they're still made there now.

  I can't say I love it (yet), because I'm still heart broken over my Echo.  This winter I'll be taking both saws into the shop for tune ups and repairs.  Next spring I'll see which one I love best.

There is such a thing as the right tool for the job.  If you're cutting huge trees, you might need a huge saw.  There aren't too many trees in our woods that are too big for my saw, although some times I have to plan my cuts a bit differently.  If you only cut a little bit of wood occasionally, a bigger all purpose saw might be the way to go.  If you're spending a lot of days in the bush cutting a lot of wood, believe me, the lightest saw that will do the job with the least vibration is what you need.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Clearing the Greenhouse

The boys loaded up a trailer full of compost for the greenhouse.

I pulled out the tomato cages, markers, and the remaining plant roots. The turkeys got in under some loose plastic and devoured what was left. No more brussel sprouts. :-( But I am kind of happy that the garden is done for the year. As great as it's been this year, I've been busy with other things and haven't been keeping up with it anyway.  They dumped the trailer inside, and I spread it around with the garden rake.  Ready to grow in the spring.

The Bigs carried my plant stand back inside.  The plastic was damaged by the wind on one of the greenhouse stands.  We draped the plastic from the bean rows over top of the stands for now.  I'll need to trim it a bit in the spring, and tie it down.  Then we did a few minor repairs, added a few staples and fixed a couple of 1X3s that had come loose.  If it holds up through the winter, I should be able to get an even earlier head start on planting next year.

I decided to plant some wild bird seed inside.  Last year I tried sprouting bird seed, which was fine when I remembered to rinse the seed two or three times a day.  As often as not though, I'd forget to rinse, and it would get all dried out and die.  I'm hoping this method works a little better.  I started four trays, on the sunroom greenhouse stand.  I plan to rotate the trays through the chicken coop, then back into the house start another batch.  I need to get a couple of buckets of compost brought in the house for this project, and starting seeds in the spring.