Yes, it's that time of year: time for the drive to Union City to pick up a side of beef. Or it will be soon. I haven't heard from Melvin yet, but one of these days soon I'll get an e-mail or a call from him indicating that our beef is dry-aging and we need to decide how it should be cut.
This year we were worried that we wouldn't find anyone to share in the half a cow we wanted, but a good friend came through. He even bought a chest freezer. Well, everyone who has the money and the space ought to have a chest freezer anyway, in my opinion. It's good for more than storing a large quantity of meat, after all.
So we had a discussion about cuts of meat and so on. I know for us it was a very confusing matter the first time we had to order beef. We've learned a lot since then, though, and this year I think I'll call the meat processor myself rather than go through Melvin, the beef producer. I have a few questions.
I will probably make myself obnoxious in dispensing advice to my friend on the cooking of grass-fed beef. A slow cooker is a big help in making roasts tender and juicy--and don't even get me started on the heavenly gravy ... Our friend is a little leery of the idea of roasts, but that's only because he doesn't realize there are delicious leftovers to be used in beef barley soup, beef stew, beef pot pie, roast beef hash, and the like. Inviting friends for dinner is also a good idea. The aroma of a slow cooking pot roast is one of the most tantalizing, teasing one all afternoon and revving up one's appetite. Steaks I marinate, regardless of the cut. Even porterhouse can benefit from the flavors of a good marinade. Since we started buying grass-fed beef we've gotten used to eating our steaks a bit rarer than we used to eat them. Less cooking means more tender steaks, and we don't worry about food poisoning since the cattle are raised in healthy conditions.
I am urging our friend to take the tail if we are lucky enough to get it (could be the buyer of the other half of the cow calls dibs on it). Yes, the tail is quite large, but it makes a quantity of beef broth that can be divided into useable portions which are then frozen.
It's all about getting a little different mindset, I guess, one in which large quantities aren't intimidating but rather reassuring. The chest freezer our friend bought will serve him well in dealing with broth and gravy, leftovers, and bones with meat scraps clinging to them, not just the frozen raw beef he's buying. It's a little different way of approaching things when you're used to picking up a couple of meals' worth of meat at the market, but it doesn't take long to get used to it. A little planning, a little forethought, a willingness to inventory the freezer occasionally, and you're all set.
We're looking forward to the trip, to seeing Melvin, to eating at the local restaurant crammed with the regulars. And to another year of eating beef that's humanely raised and is actually good for us.