Monday, March 1, 2010

Cutting Meat

It's the beginning of March and it's time to process the beef and the hogs. The most difficult thing in the whole job is to try and get Mother Nature to cooperate. The weather can't be too warm or the carcasses will not cool out and definitely not too cold or they freeze solid. That left last weekend out with the nights in the single Fahrenheit digits. Too bad since both our sons would have been available to help. So minus one son, this last Friday Kirk killed the two pigs and we removed their insides and hide, cutting them in half so they would properly cool. We then pulled the tarp off the Butcher Boy meat saw, set up the tables, and pulled out the equipment for the biggest work day, Saturday.

On the far left of the saw blade is the pork chop. The lighter meat just to the left of the saw blade is the tender loin. To the right is the bacon. The ribs are cut away from the bacon which is underneath them. We aren't fond of pork ribs even barbequed and so we slice the meat between the ribs and chunk it up for sausage.
Sometimes I wonder if it would be nice to just let the butcher do all the work but there is something about doing it yourself, your way, that makes the food taste so much better. I don't know if it's the gained appreciation of the product or if it really does taste better. I know we would miss the adventure of trying something new every time we cut up meat.
It doesn't matter if you are a consumer or raising the hog yourself, it's good to know where each cut of meat comes from and I don't mean which grocery store. Because at the grocery store you can have as many pieces of whatever cut you want but if you have only one hog some things just aren't happening.
I've heard from many a butcher that has had to try and calm the lady of the house down when he told her she can't have a grocery store selection of meat cuts from her one hog. For example pork chops, pork tender loin, and Canadian bacon from her hog in the quantity she desires.
Let me explain. We know we are going to get 29 - 3/4 inch thick pork chops from each side of the pig's back totaling 58 chops. If we want Canadian bacon then we aren't getting pork chops since they come from the same location on the hog unless we cut 29 chops off one side of the spine and make the Canadian style bacon off the other side. We've done that several times.
Now as for pork loin well, it's part of the pork chop. The pork chops toward the shoulder don't have the tender loin but the ones further back toward the rump do. So from one side of the spine it is feasible to get a few pork chops from toward the shoulder and a tender loin which is nearer the rump but you'll pay extra for the time the butcher spends dividing. We have also done this.
But you are not getting two tenderloins, 58 3/4 inch pork chops, and lots of Canadian Bacon too or you've got a hog with a really weird back that everybody wants the genetic make up to, including me.
This is a side of bacon that is cut off of the inside of the ribs. Our hogs were a little fat since we couldn't coordinate weather, my mom's birthday party, and time off to get the job done until they had gain a bit more weight than we'd of liked. Oh well, we're making lots of sausage.

This is one side of the hogs back. The hind quarters and shoulder are cut away. Note the leaf lard that hangs down on the inside of the hog. Kirk has his grey gloved hand doing the Vanna White thing showing you it's location. This long pieces of fat is called Leaf Lard and is coveted for making pies. I'll be showing you later how this stringy white thing turns into golden yummy pie crust but first we have to get the rest of the pig put into nice little white packages for the freezer.

The saw makes quick work of cutting up the large sections of meat but most of the process is still done by hand with a knife. The above picture is of Kirk cutting up a front shoulder into roasts.

This is Toby trimming the excess fat off the pork chops. It will be used in the sausage making which we did today and I'll be showing you in a couple days.

This is a cuber which we use on steaks that have no bone. These pork cutlets come from the hind end of the pig. So you can either have ham or you get pork cutlets. We make one hind quarter into ham and the other into pork cutlets. The white piece of machinery is a cuber. I've never understood why they call it a cuber since it doesn't cut the meat into cubes.

What's inside are these pieces of thin metal that act like knives and cut into the meat tenderizing it. We love this machine and use it when we cut up pork, beef, antelope, deer, and elk. I have some major TMJ joint problems but I get by very well chewing meat as long as it's tender. That is something we have some control over and the flavor mmmm...! Lots and lots of flavor which comes from the type of foods you feed your animals. You can taste the same cut of meat from animals that have been fed different diets and have a subtle to a fairly dramatic taste variance. Like eating deer off a sagebrush flats or shall we say not eating the deer since it ate off the sagebrush flats. Not even our dog when we had one would eat the deer who ate off the sagebrush. The deer who grazed off my dad's oat and alfalfa feilds on the other hand we couldn't get enough of. That's another reason why we like to raise our own meat. We get the flavor we desire.
But I forgot I was talking about cubers. My husband just cooked some sausage on the grill and was feeding me pieces while I type so you can see why I would get distracted and start talking about flavor. Now where was I? Oh yeah, some cubers are separate machines but ours is an atachment that goes with a meat grinder and they interchange on a motor.

This the motor with the meat grinder attachment.

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