Friday, July 20, 2012

Where There's A Will...........

I think I've mentioned before that I grew up on a cattle ranch, which my family still operates.  This means that I grew up eating beef.  LOTS of it.  I don't think many people made a really decent living at it, but one does eat well, and there's a lot to be said for knowing where one's food is coming from.

However, there are things that are very, very different living this way.  For one thing, one doesn't just "order up" food as one would like it.  One deals with things as they come.  For instance, if a cow gets hit by a car, one calls out the mobile butcher and gets 700+ pounds of very lean ground beef.  It's either that or take a $1000 loss, which would be silly.  However, it's a rather big adjustment to suddenly have a whole bunch of meat one didn't expect and wasn't planning on.  As you can imagine, my family owns some REALLY big freezers.

This year when selling the steers, 11 of them got turned back for improper marking.  That was a bit of a surprise.  The ranch has started keeping a few steers to sell directly to consumers, but 2-3 is a lot different than 11.  Since there are 4 kids from the ranch (my sister and I and two cousins), the ranch very generously gave us each a side of beef (one half an animal) and we just had to pay for the cutting and wrapping.  This is a fantastic deal, but the ranch didn't have adequate feed set aside for 11 1000-pound animals which it wasn't expecting, so there was a time crunch involved.  I had been diligently cleaning out space in our freezers and had waited as long as we could before picking up our meat, but when I picked it up on Monday and brought it home, we discovered it was MUCH more than we expected.  I spent the rest of Monday cleaning out the freezers, digging out things we could use immediately, and improvising a "frozen vegetable du jour" crock pot soup (which turned out REALLY well, I might add), and rearranging everything.  I found room for everything except 4 big 4-pound packages of soup bones, so:
 it was time to learn to can beef broth.  Thank heavens for this big stock pot, and I have some great canning books which walked me through the whole process, but I do wish they might have found a nicer way to walk me through a key step than "skim the scum off the top."  I realize I need to be much tougher for this lifestyle, but who wants "scum" on something they're going to consume?  Of course, it turns out that was the good part, because the next step after letting the stock chill overnight was to "defat" it:
Now that term I like, and if given the chance I would "defat" my thighs in a nanosecond.  It took a while to figure out a good way to do this, but finally I found a way to work it:
The huge stock pot is really great, but it would be even better if my kitchen utensils were long enough to straddle the thing.  Oh well--this worked, and I was really pretty shocked that this:
is all I ended up with from a quadruple stock recipe.  Not all of that is fat--most of it is actually sediment.  I guess the whole point of a soup bone (which I'm thinking is actually leg) is that is really from a tough, well-exercised part of the steer so it wouldn't have much fat, but I was thankful all the same.  I'm not quite tough enough to face an entire block of just chilled fat--not even if it's butter, no matter WHAT Julia Child says

After a two day process (one to make the broth, overnight to cool, then canning the next day), we have beef broth!
I think the final count was 6 quarts, 9 pints, and some that needs to be frozen into ice cubes.  I have six more packages of soup bones to deal with, but I think that sounds like a project to start tomorrow..............

1 comment:

Cindi V. Walton said...

And, Annie and I thank you for the soup bones you shared with us. I gave two to her and used the big one to make beef broth to freeze and then gave the cooked bone to Annie, too. She has been in heaven!

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