Yesterday I drove up to Snohomish to pick up 3/4 of a cow that Cascade Range Beef had grown for me.
We had eaten Cascade Range beef last winter and even the hamburger was amazingly gamy and lean. I never once had to drain the pan after browning before adding the other ingredients. It made wonderful meatballs, bolognese, taco meat and other things my family likes to eat.
The great thing about finding a personal farmer is that not only are you supporting a local small farm but you can find one that is like minded – sustainably pasturing cows and slaughters on the farm which is the most humane and least traumatic for the animal. Cascade Range Beef cows are 100% grass fed rather than fed part grain and silage that are not a part of the animal’s natural diet. That means your cow will be healthier, tastier, and play an integral part in land management (by naturally fertilizing the land) rather than contribute to greenhouse gasses.
I managed to sell the whole cow which is, of course, a prerequisite in order to get your meat.
Here is what Kelso’s (the butcher) looks like
And here is what one Volvo station wagon loaded up with 600 pounds of meat looks like
To better help you visualize just how much meat one quarter cow is, it’s about two and a half regular sized coolers of meat. Luckily it packs really well into neat little blocks of meat unlike the various cuts of pig which were a ton of odd shapes that didn’t fit as neatly together.
From my house it was about 25 miles to Kelso’s and the time actually went pretty fast on the road. The time I spent arranging and re-arranging cuts of meat in coolers and boxes, sorting for this person who wanted no stew meat or that person who wanted only short ribs, was not so fast. My advice when loading a frozen cow? GLOVES!
I’m ever so thankful I happened to have a pair of running gloves in the back of the car. Otherwise it probably would have taken me twice the hour that I spent man-handling beef.
I dropped one quarter of the cow off at a neighbor’s then raced home to rearrange my freezer and load my quarter. I had to take out the turkey that Pastured Sensations raised for me as well as two pork butts from Akyla Farms which we’ll smoke this weekend, then trade for some of the neighbor’s smoked salmon and repackage what is left to re-freeze.
I raced to the bus stop to pick up Chicken Little and a neighbor boy, dropped off the boy, raced to another neighbor’s to store the turkey and some ground beef in her freezer since my was full, then raced across town to deliver the final quarter for a friend who was at work. After three cooler trips down to her basement and loading her freezer we raced back home and got there just in time to lock the chickens up for the night.
There have been so many raccoon attacks this time of year, both in our neighborhood and all around town, that I’m paranoid about not getting them locked up by dusk. We’ve got plenty of good dog smells around the yard but that probably isn’t enough to keep them away.
There was no room for the soup bones in the freezer (which you have to request or they are thrown away – they are not allowed to donate them to food banks or sell them according to USDA regulation.) I started two large stock pots of beef bone broth which has been simmering for almost 24 hours now. Normally I like to simmer it gently for 48 hours or more to extract all the minerals and gelatin from the bones but my husband is coming back in town tonight and he’s not so fond of the simmering cauldrons on the stove.
There are quite a few mistakes I made when ordering the cuts. The frustrating part about ordering an animal is the information they don’t tell you. For instance, they ask if you want pork chops (who wouldn’t?) but don’t tell you that if you get pork chops you don’t then get a loin roast.
And so it is that I now have a freezer full of meat and no brisket to smoke or corn for St. Patty’s day. Apparently brisket is a specialty meat meaning if you don’t request it they turn it into stew meat or hamburger. My husband the smoker is not going to be happy about this. And when we try to throw our annual St. Patty’s Day corned beef dinner I’m not sure what we’ll do. With more than a year’s worth of meat in the freezer I may just need to break down and buy a brisket that won’t be the grass fed $3.50 per pound this meat worked out to. It will for sure cost a lot more.
Lesson learned. Always ask “If I get that, what will I not get?”