Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cold Meat

Modern butchering tools
Fall equals cold. Cold weather. Head colds. Cold water. Cold cuts. Okay, maybe I'm stretching a bit. But only a bit.

Munchkin and I caught a horrible head cold. We've been moping about with our kleenex and Airborne and salt water. We finally broke down and cancelled all social engagements, for the benefit of all our friends who don't need a week of moping. So I should have been an hour away when Dude showed up with our half a beef. Really... it's only half a beef... how much help would he really need?

Removing fat weight
I'm glad I was home. Well, I'm glad for him that I was home. And maybe for our food source too.

Ribs and steaks and ....
Turns out we ended up with a prime beef this year. Of course... isn't all the beef grown on our land prime? Duh. The kill team had it skinned and gutted by the time he got there, and they estimated from the other half that ours ended up at about 400 lbs total. A little more than we expected, but still covered by the pasture rent he and his bovine compatriots racked up for us.
Moving it to the cellar

Dude pulled in with an eight-foot chunk of meet encased in black garbage bag. He immediately coaxed us out of our head-splitting apathy to protect our next year's dinners from the cats and dogs. Dressed in our jammies, we headed out to man the backhoe (me) and distract the animals (Munchkin).
Smaller cuts this time

Within 20 minutes, not only had we done those jobs, but more as well. We lifted the meat up with the bucket of the hoe, and hung the carcass from the hooks. Dude spent quite a while determining the cuts he wanted to make. To our benefit, not only does he cook meat well, but he also worked as a butcher for a few years and knows what he wants to cook. He cut the carcass in half with a sawzall, letting half fall back into the bed of the pickup. Running a little test of his strength, he determined the backhoe would carry the rest of the original piece to the milk cellar -- the underground storage room the family used in the dairy days -- and he would lug it from there with my help to the nails he had placed in the overhead beams.
Puppy and kitty treats

With He-Bessie covered in black plastic, I maneuvered the neck into the cellar while Dude struggled under the rest of its weight. We dropped him four times in the 20 feet from the backhoe to the inner cellar. The plastic began to split wherever it met cut bone. Stuff stored in the cellar kept getting in the way. Even the handtruck caused more problems than it was worth. After about 20 minutes, we finally drug it to a spot under its final hanging location. But two failed attempts at hooking it onto the nails left us all exhausted, covered in beef grease, and frustrated.

We eventually settled on a workable plan. Rocking the carcass back and forth, we built a milk-crate wall below the meat, thus increasing the starting height to a point about three feet below the nails. Once Munchkin took over propping up the neck, my longer arms finally got the hook up to and over the nails. Poor Dude was left to repeatedly lift the 200-lb monster until we sick girls got our act together.
Monster meat in the cellar...

Once hung properly, we all took breaks. Drinks of water, washing up, energy drinks, more kleenex, shooing cats from the other quarter beef, more water, breaking up the fights between the dogs and cats over the beef fat...

...and mini ones in the basement.
Smarter now, Dude set about cutting the other quarter into smaller pieces, three to be exact. We put the largest one in the cellar with the first piece, then delivered the smaller ones to the basement entry room where the family used to hang the pigs. Of course, we first had to move out quite a bit of stuff that still has no home. The meat now hangs in the coldest room in the house, surrounded by decorative baskets and my childhood science trophies.

So now we're back inside, more mopey than before, hugging our kleenex and hard lemonades. Dude can barely lift my little 3-lb tablet.
Somewhere in the cellar are my favorite sunglasses. Little Dog is defending the beef fat he buried because he ate his fill before the cats could get a bite in edgewise. The beef will hang and drain for two weeks. Hopefully by then, we'll be healthy again.  Either way, I have to embrace the cold so the meat doesn't sour. Brrr.