Monday, August 1, 2011

A lesson re-learned

Back when I was a "learning lad" and for a few years thereafter, each year I felt the need to remind myself why I didn't gamble. To accomplish this, each fall I would go to our local Indian reservation, eat the buffet dinner that was presented to me and drop fifty bucks on the slots and/or on cards in their casino. If I really lingered over the meal, it might have taken an hour from the time I walked in the door until I walked out again, sans the price of the meal plus the aforementioned fifty bucks. It was a good lesson about throwing money down the toilet and it was well worth the price of admission.

Well, earlier today Melissa and I did something along those lines. But instead of re-learning lessons about gambling by going to a casino, we went to the supermarket and purchased a pound of lean hamburger to remember why we have a freezer full of our own beef downstairs. We make our own hamburger lean so to be fair we gave the store stuff every chance; we purchased the freshest, best and priciest stuff they had available which was on sale today for $ 3.99/lb.

It's no wonder people complain about the was pure garbage. I made hamburgers with it earlier and I knew it was going to be an unpleasant experience right from the get go because it smelled awful as soon as I opened the package and the smell got worse and intensified as I began to cook it. When it was ready to eat...or at least when it was as ready as it was ever going to be, we did our best to mask the taste with condiments and we choked it down. I managed to eat both of mine and Melissa ate about one and a half of hers. Two hours later, I feel as though I ate a lead balloon and I'm already dreading the burpy consequences later tonight.

I don't honestly know how the beef in my freezer compares price wise to the store stuff, but I know the quality and taste of the stuff downstairs is leagues better. Given a much improved taste profile, and given that I like how it smells when it's cooking plus I can eat my hamburger all night long with no digestive upset, I don't really care what mine cost. If it's more expensive to grow mine and put it in the freezer than it is to buy it in the store, so be it.

Our beef is mostly grass fed simply because grass grows easily here and I've found the cheapest and best inputs are those nature provides. But just because nature provides it doesn't mean it can't be pretty easily mucked up. There is an art to using grass properly and getting tasty grass fed beef in the freezer. Way too much grass fed beef is tough, musty and has off flavours. Tough mostly has to do with stress, genetics and whether or not the beef was properly aged after slaughter, but that's a topic for another day.

It's been our experience that off flavours mostly have to do with killing the beef at the wrong time of year. If the grass is green, lush and actively growing it is the WRONG time to be thinking about killing a beef. We've had much better results (and no off flavours) by waiting until the grass is semi-dormant, either during a long dry spell in the middle of the summer or late in the fall after frost, to schedule our slaughter dates.

Growing and preparing good food of any type remains at least as much an art as it is a science. I'm a big fan of good cooking, but I believe that good, well grown ingredients can go a long way toward masking a middlin' job of cooking. With that, I'm going to go down to the freezer and pull out a pound of hamburger so we can re-try frying some burgers that are worth eating tomorrow night.


RuckusButt said...

Hell ya! I have almost exclusively been getting locally raised meat for the last few years. A couple weeks ago I was in a pinch for dinner and stopped to get some chicken at the grocery store. I opened the package and vowed to never eat commercial chicken again! It wasn't "off" but it wasn't right either.

On that note, I just sent my cutting instructions to the farmer who is raising the pig and cow I've purchased. The pigs are ready and I feel so good about their breed and how they've been raised.

Funder said...

The stars haven't yet aligned for me to buy a half cow from my hay farmer. But I've been eating Whole Foods hippie meat almost exclusively for a couple years.

Last winter it was pouring down snow and I was out of food, so I drove to the closest grocery store and bought a lovely rib roast. I sliced it into a couple thick ribeyes and... they were the worst ribeyes I've ever had. Tough, the fat tasted off, the meat was pretty flavorless. I wince every time I pay WF prices for beef, but I wince even harder thinking about "normal" beef.

So jealous of your cows! Maybe this fall I'll finally get around to a half cow or a pig. Nom nom nom!