“Meat Processor” sounds nicer than slaughterhouse, right? Welp, that’s my one concession in this blog. I am going to be discussing and showing parts of the cow that don’t make it into your average meat case. In fact, I think a lot of the time they end up on the slaughterhouse floor and incorporated into pet food or the most discussed food topic of the day, pink slime.
I’m not planning to show anything graphic from the process of killing a cow or anything, but there will be a lot of organs. I won’t take offense if you scroll down to this picture of Janet proudly standing on her own, smile, exhale, and close this window to read no further.
A few weeks ago I mentioned that Uncle Billy continued his run as the most underrated ADB blog contributor by leaving me a cooler full of miscellaneous meat in Vermont. The back story was that Billy had raised a cow with a friend and eventually split up the meat. He let me know there would be plenty of cuts they wouldn’t be interested in and he’d be happy to save for me.
A couple weeks before the planned slaughter, Billy and I exchanged a few emails regarding what I would like saved. In those emails I’m pretty sure I sounded like a budding serial killer, but Billy was patient with my endless questions and saved me a bunch of my requests. Leading to a pickup of this cooler a few days after the cow met its end.
That right there is a bunch of organs and unusual cuts from a grass fed cow, stuffed into trash bags and thrown in a cooler. I’d imagine it took a lot of unnecessary effort to butcher the cuts I ended up with, especially since they were for someone else, so big thanks to Billy and his buddy for doing so.
After hanging with our friends Tara and Nancy until late on Sunday night after picking up the cooler, I realized I needed to get this stuff cleaned, trimmed, vacuum sealed, and in the freezer before it spoiled. I prepped accordingly.
I had a general idea of what was in the cooler, but there was a lot left to discover. First out was a cut I hadn’t seen before but one that looked the most normal of anything in the batch.
My first guess was that it was cheeks, but Billy had mentioned that he wasn’t able to keep any parts of the head due to sanitary reasons. Also, the fact that it was in one continuous piece didn’t seem right.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to drop some disgusting bombshell here (that comes later). It turns out that it is the piece between the spine and diaphragm, which I believe is known as hanger steak. See! This blog isn’t all gross! There’s stuff we all overpay for when paired with french fries that they call “frites”!
Next up, a throwback to one of the early posts on this blog back when I knew even less about what I was doing than I do now.
The heart was quite a bit larger than the one I cooked a couple years ago, and it also didn’t arrive pre-butchered. The only steps I took before bagging and labeling was removing the ventricle and valve-laden top area and cut the whole thing in half so I wouldn’t need to prepare it all in one meal. Should have mentioned that part of the goal of bagging was getting everything into individual meal portions. You know, so I can drag out the misery for my friends (joy for me) for more than one meal.
Next up was the thymus gland (or sweetbreads) and tongue. Both of these don’t require a ton of detail since they are pretty common on restaurant menus, but….
The thymus gland isn’t that pleasant to look at it in it’s fully butchered form, but when it’s still encased in the hard, bloody fat that surrounds it, it’s even less so. I will have to revisit this when it’s in some sort of delicious meal in a few months.
The tongue had the biggest, “oooohhhh, daggg.” moment of the entire process when I removed it from the trashbag and found it still covered with grass from the cow’s last meal. As I said in the chicken slaughter post, it’s occasionally good to get a reminder of the previously happy animal on the other end of your grubfest. I love eating animals, but if this paragraph grosses you out and the $18 Filet at Applebees doesn’t, it might be time for a reminder that your meat doesn’t grow in styrofoam packages.
Alright, enough preachiness on topics other people care about far more than me, how bout some kidneys!
Although the kidneys had that distinct kidney smell, they also smelled cleaner than the ones I had purchased previously. Not sure if that makes any sense or if I was just imagining it because I liked the idea of the non-factory farmed cow smelling fresher. Regardless, I have no idea what I will be doing with these kidneys since the last few months have left me a little kindney-ed out. Will think of something.
Next to last out of the bag was the whole skinned cow tail.
I’ve had oxtail a couple times before and also participated in a few failed attempts to cook it. It’s tender and flavorful stuff, like great pot roast, when cooked right. Usually, it’s sliced perpendicularly into inch-thick pieces and this is the first time I had ever seen a whole tail.
I ended up learning that the cartilage that runs down the center of the tail is a lot thicker than I thought when I couldn’t get through it with less than 4 swings of my cleaver. This was likely due to my consistently decreasing muscle content, the lightweight/dull cleaver, and my wildly innacurrate swings that either missed entirely or landed an inch to the left of the previous cut. Oh well, I got it broken down to three pieces and into a bag.
Last up was easily the most bizarre/gross item in the bunch and one that led to multiple, “wait, seriously?” emails from Billy after I requested it; the udder.
As gross as it sounds, I know from watching lots of TV and web research that this is a somewhat common food at grill restaurants in various South American countries. I was picturing something incredibly fatty but more like an heavily marbled piece of meat than what it ended up being; a huge block of fat marbled with meat.
I had no idea what I would eventually do with the udder, but I knew I wouldn’t want to use it all at once so it was cut and divided into multiple smaller bags. During the cutting process you could see the incredibly odd texture of the meat, with large pockets of fat and pink meat running between it. Odd stuff, looking forward to experimenting with it a bit in the future, especially after learning a lot this past weekend when I grilled a few slices of it.
After nearly burning out my food saver, here is where I ended up.
This all headed into my chest freezer in the basement in a reusable grocery bag that I should have written “Kristi, don’t look in here” on. Also, chest freezers and food savers are the best use of $300 (combined) that I have encountered in my life.
Thanks to Uncle Billy for providing me with awesome ingredients along with a beef buyers guide that I have been studying with a confused look on my face like an 8 year old boy with a Playboy. Next week will either be one of my go to recipes or some pretty interesting food that we made last weekend on our visit to NJ.