Monday, October 14, 2013

Freezer eating

It's that time of year around here.  That time when we need to be sure that the freezer has enough space in it for our beef when the time comes.  We don't get beef from "meat markets" here in the city, I buy a cow (or part of a cow) from a farmer and have it butchered at a butcher.  I know they sound the same, but they're very different.

First, I've gotten beef from a farmer I know in the country for over 20 years.  It's worth the drive back to where I used to live to get it, too!  The way he does it is that he raises the beef and sells either 1/4, 1/2 or a whole beef.  One the day that they're to be slaughtered, we pay whatever "on the hoof" market price is on the day they are taken to the butcher based on how much the cow weighed that day.  We (those who are sharing a cow) share the "kill charge" based on our percentage of the beef.  That fee isn't much at all.

Next, the butcher.  It's not like the butcher at the grocery store.  This is a true butcher.  You can't buy meat at this type of butcher.  They only take in live animals, slaughter them and clean, but and package them.  it's important to find a great butcher.  I've heard of less-reputable butchers who will just butcher everything that comes in and then divvy it up, regardless of whose cow was whose.  That might not sound like a big deal but some people like certified organic beef, some like grass-fed and I've known some who believe you can taste the grass in the beef and absolutely don't want grass-fed.  So, it really does matter that you have someone reputable that you can trust.

I also like the fact that I can specify not only what cuts of beef I get but in what quantity as well.  For example, I prefer getting burger packaged in one pound packs where a larger family might prefer two pound packs.  I also prefer getting steaks packaged two per package because sometimes two steaks are enough to feed the four of us.  I pass on the organ meats.  ORGAN meats should tell you why I pass on them.  I do, however, request all the soup bones I can get.  They make amazing stocks and broths.

Overall, I get good, quality meat far cheaper overall than I can even buying sales.  Depending on the year (hoof weight is tied to the markets), I pay on average $1.39-1.59 per pound overall.  Now, I know with sales, you can find hamburger cheaper than that.  Sometimes.  But, I challenge you to find Steak or Roasts cheaper than that.

The quality is so far above what you can get at the grocery.  I can tell my butcher that I want my burger leaner, they just put less fat in it.  When I fry up a pound of beef, I don't even have to drain the grease, I just use a paper towel to sop up what little is there.  That's the best part.  I control the cut, the mix, the packaging.  I can make the most of my meat purchase.

It does require saving up to be able to pay for a year's worth of beef all at once.  For my family, a 1/4 beef isn't enough for a year but 1/2 is too much so, what we do is one year we get a quarter and the next year we get a half.  This year is a little easier because it is the year I get a quarter beef.  So I don't have to make as much room in the freezer.

Which brings me back to eating from the freezer.  The beef will be butchered in a month or so.  That means that first we need to not only move things around in the freezer so that the old and new beef aren't mixed up.  I generally use a red Sharpie to mark the old packages this way we eat the older ground beef before the newer.  We'll also eat some of the things I've put up like soups and stocks, the extra chicken/turkey that I've put up for other meals, basically anything that I can cook for dinner from the freezer will make it easier to make room for the beef.  I don't think the family will complain too much!

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