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e_moon60

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Friday, Saturday... [Nov. 27th, 2010|06:35 pm]
e_moon60
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Friday and Saturday--both gorgeous days with clear deep blue skies, brilliant sunshine, crisp air.   And a hard freeze in between.   Yes, we covered the roses.   Friday was spent largely in residual post-Thanksgiving cleaning up  and eating and taking our son back to his apartment (fighting the Black Friday shopping traffic both ways.)    Then came The Lamb.   (Stop here if discussion of home butchery squicks you.)

This is a lamb that had both behavioral and shape problems as a show lamb (belonging to a friend) and was destined for the freezer.   For both the lamb's sake and that of its owner (who had a lamb show to attend and no companion animal to stay with the unshowable lamb)  the owner wanted it to be "done" this weekend.   So this morning we killed and processed the lamb, much more efficiently than the previous times.  Practice, if it doesn't make perfect, makes better.   The shot to the head, the quick slice of the throat to drain the blood, the hanging up, etc., all went smoothly.  This is the first time we've done it in the particular place we used (more often we slaughter at Rancherfriend's ranch, since his barn has many useful toys, like the meat saw and big meat grinder) but it worked OK.   We have a portable stall out in the north horse lot and used that.

The weather could not have been better for the project: the cold (still a solid freeze when we started) kept the flies away and also chilled the carcass quickly.   But it was warming all the time, and--with no wind initially--quite comfortable working.  We put hay down on the blood, and went to work skinning, cleaning, and then (moving the carcass with a garden cart to the back yard, near a hose bib) washed it well and cut into the pieces we wanted.  I used a new knife I got for the kitchen and was amazed/delighted at how much better it worked than the knife I'd used on other lambs and cattle.   Husband started with an older knife (now approaching 40 years of regular use) and then used the other new one.   He broke a hacksaw blade sawing through the sternum. but had a second hacksaw out and ready.

The discarded portions had to be carted out to the place where we've left other discarded portions, and in the afternoon the black vultures and turkey vultures came to see what was on the menu. But it was chilling fast and they prefer to have thermals to get home on.  So tonight I expect the resident gray fox to be quite happy, but perhaps driven away by the non-resident-but-regularly-visiting coyote.  

As of now, all the equipment (pistol, knives, etc. ) has been cleaned, the clothes we were in have been washed as well,  and though we are stiff and sore (which we were when we started, for that matter)  we have the satisfaction of having done a difficult (for us, anyway) job well.   We're not wimpy old layabouts yet.  We have ideas to make it easier in that location next time (pulleys, for instance.   A new knife sharpener.  Etc.)  but by golly we can still butcher a lamb. 

 
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: fair_witness
2010-11-28 01:26 am (UTC)
Got any special tasty plans for the lamb?
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-11-28 03:01 am (UTC)
Pretty much what we do with any of the lambs: roast this, stew that ("stew" includes making lamb curry.) Bits ground up turn into lamb patties or are mixed with herbs and then grilled. A variety of seasonings (but not mint. For me, mint and lamb don't go together. I think lamb benefits from Italian, Middle-Eaastern or Mexican seasoning. And of course curry. But that's just me.
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[User Picture]From: fair_witness
2010-11-28 03:04 am (UTC)
I've never used mint with lamb myself. I'm fond of sticking a branch or two of rosemary in the middle of a leg of lamb and letting it go. I also used to make a rather delicious lamb-and-carrot Welsh pie, but it's been years since I did that.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-11-28 03:29 am (UTC)
Rosemary with lamb IS really good. I don't think I ever did it quite that way, though...hmmmm.

Since Ro-Tel has become a mainstay in my pantry, I've decided I really like Ro-Tel with lamb (in various ways.) Also like lamb with potatoes, lamb with barley, lamb with rice. (But this does not lessen my love affair with beef...)
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From: kesalemma
2010-11-28 09:57 am (UTC)
Try piercing holes throughout the lamb, and putting in sprigs of rosemary and cloves of garlic. Yum!
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[User Picture]From: msminlr
2010-11-28 01:52 pm (UTC)
I remember a Cajun Cookin' show where Justin Wilson did just that. Claimed it would season "sheep" to-where even GI's who'd been in that part of the world during WWII would be willing to eat it again.
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[User Picture]From: finnyb
2010-11-28 02:02 am (UTC)
Ohhhh...lamb yummy!
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[User Picture]From: mayakda
2010-11-28 02:11 am (UTC)
Is the blood discarded or saved? (just curious)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-11-28 03:02 am (UTC)
Discarded. I'm sure there'll be very green grass on that side of the portable stall if it ever rains again.
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[User Picture]From: danceswthcobras
2010-11-28 06:48 am (UTC)
If you are ever in my neck of the woods again for a convention, I will bring you some of the blood sausage that I make with lovely delicate spices, cream and good quality fatback. No one whom I have converted with this product ever wastes blood from a slaughter again. I've made some really beautiful blood sausage with goat, lamb, duck, pheasant, hog and chicken.
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[User Picture]From: draconin
2010-11-28 02:24 am (UTC)
I haven't done so in many, many years but I still remember helping my father butcher the sheep every month or so on the farm where I grew up (city boy now!). With Australian heat (and flies!) it was a bit of a rush job to get it all carved and into cold storage.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-11-28 03:07 am (UTC)
My very first experience was Nameless Heifer. It was well over 100 degrees F, and we were rushing like anything--just sliced off meaty chunks which I ran into the house to put in the fridge to begin cooling so they could go in the freezer without bringing the freezer temp up too high to do any good.

I heard that at one time in Australia they had people with refrigerated trucks (vans?) like big meat coolers in custom meat processing plants, that could go from place to place, so people who didn't have the facilities themselves could have some help putting up meat, and then have it chilled down. I don't think someone'd need that for a lamb, but it would've been a big help with last fall's 2000 pound bull.
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[User Picture]From: draconin
2010-11-28 03:19 am (UTC)
I don't remember such a truck but since we left the farm life when I was only nine (in the late 60's) it's probably not something I would have been aware of. Certainly Dad did all his own. With "help" from me. We weren't on a large farm - just 100 acres or so on the edge of town and Dad was the local traffic inspector/health inspector/etc for the town council. We just had orchards and ran a flock of sheep, a few cows, lots of poultry for food and, as I recall, generally butchered sheep rather than lambs. But I may simply be looking back through too many years and not recalling correctly.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-11-28 03:38 am (UTC)
I think I remember that it was something for remote areas, so probably larger acreages.

I've been on a few ranches here that had a true walk-in cold locker. (In my dreams I have a walk-in cold locker, a walk-in pantry for food, a pantry between kitchen and dining room that holds ALL the stuff for entertaining, a dining room that seats 30 at need...but of course at that point I need Staff. We had a someone trained as a butler visit with other friends one Tnanksgiving, and I developed a very undemocratic desire for Staff. Especially ones who can make cheap paper napkins look like flowers, and perfectly carve a turkey faster than I can carve one badly.)

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[User Picture]From: draconin
2010-11-28 04:31 am (UTC)
Although I never felt poor when I was young, I think looking back that we were not very well off at that time and any thoughts of a cold storage locker would have been complete pipe dreams.

I've been trying to remember the times I visited friends' farms - I don't recall there being cold lockers, although most places had very large horizontal chest freezers. Usually multiple. I think the general way was to simply load the cattle up on trucks and send them off to the abattoir. The size of farms here is generally such that you'd not consider doing it yourself except for those one or two head you kept back for your own pantry.

Remember, this is the country where you get farms as large as states in the US! *g* Yes, I exaggerate but still, there's a grain of truth. One of my students last year came from a huge cattle station (="ranch") in the north of W.Aust. It has a town for the workers and I seem to recall her saying that it was well over 5000km2. The only way in and out was by air.

I don't know about this Staff idea! I like my solitude really - although it might be nice to have someone to do "those jobs" that you never want to, the thought of sharing my house with a multitude fills me with horror. Besides, isn't the fun in learning to fold the flower napkins yourself? *g*
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[User Picture]From: made_of_paradox
2010-11-28 11:03 pm (UTC)
As Rhode Island is on the order of 3000 km2, there are probably at least several grains of truth there.

I'd want my Staff to be live-out if I had any.
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[User Picture]From: freyaw
2010-11-28 07:33 am (UTC)
There are still small butchers (albeit not many of them) who run mobile slaughtering businesses around here. You have to rent the mobile coolroom where the meat is hung, but the butcher brings the processing equipment (knives, saws, etc) they like to use with them.

I have meat in my freezer from a hairy coo (Highland cattle meat is taaaasty) slaughtered this way.
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[User Picture]From: danceswthcobras
2010-11-28 06:44 am (UTC)
The indispensables I like to have around for a slaughter are:

Heavy cleaver and hammer; you can go right through bone including backbone with a good cleaver and a hammer, quite neatly too.

Recipro saw or wellsaw. Nothing makes a butchering job easier like a power saw. A Hobart is even better, but they're not portable and not cheap, unless you haunt Craigslist and get lucky. You can make do with a tabletop bandsaw if you creatively modify it by dropping out the bottom and replacing it with a cutting board with slits cut in it for the blade. This gives you more throat depth, which on a standard bandsaw, you will need to cut meat.

A metric butt-load of Old Hickory high carbon steel knives. They are quite inexpensive and take a ridiculously good edge, and can be hideously abused during a slaughter (eg, by pounding on them with hammers to go through bone) without guilt. Also a good knife sharpener. If you have power at the slaughter site, I recommend the Chef's Choice 110, 120 or 130.

Gambrel stick. You can buy one of the nice heavy duty gravity leg spreader models sold to hunters for moose; that one will hang a steer quite nicely and is balanced perfectly, even if you remove half or a quarter. Smaller critters are fine on a makeshift gambrel.

Chainfall hoist. Mine is rated for a ton and handles big cows just fine. Again you can get these cheap on Craigslist. For smaller animals you can butcher on a table, but hanging is ever so convenient.

Butchering table. An old picnic table works great, as does a sturdy portable that you don't mind abusing.

Buckets, 20 gallon totes, dishwashing pans and tubs, etc, to put meat in. Also ziplock bags, lots and lots of them, for immediately sequestering the edible organs and tidbits. Heavy contractor's garbage bags are immensely useful for temporarily storing carcass quarters and for getting rid of offal. A pile of empty grocery bags also tends to come in handy. I like positioning a garbage can preloaded with a heavy contractor's bag to catch the offal.

A bottle of 10% bleach spray and another bottle of 10% apple cider vinegar spray to acidulate the exposed carcass. Reduces bacterial proliferation and tastes nice, too. Scrub brushes to keep your work surface clean are helpful. Don't forget the heavy duty sprayer nozzle for the hose you hopefully have available.

I am very fond of blood sausage, so I always take a blood bucket with salt and vinegar. Your mileage may vary. One woman's gourmet delicacy is another woman's compost. ;)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-11-28 01:50 pm (UTC)
We have a full-sized meat saw over at Rancherfriend's place (great big bandsaw you can put a large beef carcass through. VERY handy. Over there Rancherfriend prefers to hang things from the bucket on his tractor (hydraulic lift...we're all getting older...) even though he has a chain hoist in the barn (which isn't used for livestock--a big metal structure with concrete floor used for Projects. Amd a big electric meat grinder. And other electrical tools like saws and even an electric knife.

Over there we also have multiple tables for cutting up (so we can have a side table positioned as in an operating room with supplies, pans & tubs, etc. Of course the heavy black bags and the many-many-many Ziplock freezer bags in various sizes, markers, etc. With the ability to hoist the carcass up without the limitations of human muscle, we do indeed use big tubs (actually, muck tubs) to catch the offal. Plumbing at the barn is nonexistent but we can run a hose from the pump house.

Over here, we don't have all that, but we do have smaller buckets (large horse wormer buckets), which are fine for lamb-sized debris, and next time will ensure that we have pulleys in place for help with the lifting. Old Hickory knives, eh? Will look them up. Bleach we have--10% apple cider vinegar spray I never thought of.

My favorite use for blood is in the garden, where it can a) deter nibblers and b) at the bottom of trenches and planting holes, makes the greedier plants very happy indeed. Roses, for instance. But also tomatoes. The mix of nutrients is perfect for some plants. And yes, it does quick-start compost. It also doesn't take me the time required to make sausage. Yesterday, however, we had a semi-emergency slaughter and two older people who were both already tired, sore, and stiff.
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[User Picture]From: danceswthcobras
2010-11-28 04:34 pm (UTC)
Old Hickory knives are obscenely cheap and are the best in the world for slaughter. I own some rather expensive knives including Damascus and a few custom forged for me to butcher with, as well as selected Henckel's and other pricey pieces, and the $6-$18 Old Hickory knives are still my main work horses even with all those in the butchering kit.

Basic blood sausage is pretty quick to make if you don't bother putting it into casings. Exsanguinate into salt and vinegar, add the nice thick chocolaty paste you get to some heavy cream and spices and diced fatback, add bread crumbs if you like, and you're done. I freeze it in Ziplock bags and fry it up in an iron skillet for a treat.
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[User Picture]From: ebeeman
2010-11-28 02:47 pm (UTC)
It really is fascinating to read these accounts, as a city girl (born on the outskirts of Los Angeles). Thank you for posting!

---Ellen
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-11-28 03:50 pm (UTC)
Thanks--glad it works for you. One thing I would like to do is reduce the psychological space in which some (not all!) hunters and survivalists trumpet their superiority ("She can field-dress a moose"--big screaming deal, sez I. Most people if taken on enough hunts in their youth, learn to field-dress whatever's hunted, and bigger just means more work.)

Yes, if you're ever in a situation where you desperately need to kill and eat something to survive, prior experience is very helpful. But knowing how is no more "superior" than knowing how to rewire a lamp or write clean code or bake bread. The person who has it is not superior to those who don't except in having one more particular skill. Butchering of livestock sized animals is hard work and skill makes a difference, but it's skill that most people could learn. (Certain physical disabilities would make it extremely hard, but I'm not going to say impossible unless someone's bedfast.) It's possible today to watch videos online and learn some of the tricks (applying them is another thing)--at least get a clear idea of what's first, second, etc., what the anatomy is like, what the critter will look like at various stages.

Interestingly, those with the most experience in home meat processing (farmers who raise their own meat for the most part) are least likely to be over-smug about the slaughter and butchery aspect. At least in my experience, the over-smug are usually hunters with a survivalist bent. Sure and certain that you and I will fall by the wayside when Armageddon comes along and they--with their stashes of extra guns and ammo and ability to load their own ammo and gut a deer--will come through in the end.

But anyway--if reading about it reduces the anxiety level of imagining doing it someday, if need comes, then that's a goal achieved. Personally, I find that learning the old skills of food preparation, from growing a garden to processing meat and on up to the edible final stage, gives me satisfaction...I feel connected to human history and the rest of the world, in a way. This would come in handy in a survival situation, sure, but more than that these are things still commonly done in many places other than American urban/suburban life. I was reading about classes in London teaching foodies how to dissect a carcass, if they buy a lamb direct from the farmer, for instance (the killing and initial work would be done by the farmer, I understand.) A lamb or half a lamb would fit easily in most freezers, once subdivided to the buyer's particular needs. The writer commented that nobody from this series of classes has gone on to become a professional butcher, but that most feel more connected to their food source and also know how to talk with their butcher, not just walk in and buy X because it's already in a package.

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[User Picture]From: danceswthcobras
2010-11-28 04:56 pm (UTC)
For me it's not a smug superiority thing as utter confusion as to why everyone doesn't do it this way. The meat you get alive from the farm is much cheaper (and in the case of cull roosters, often free) than the tasteless stuff you can buy in the supermarket, and infinitely superior in flavor and quality.

I'm something of a hardcore foodie, and I know quality when I see it. An slow grown acorn fed heritage Berkshire hog is *quality*, so I bought one. I see tourists at expensive gourmet stores paying $100/lb for acorn fed Iberico ham, or $8-$20/lb for organic free range grass fed beef. And I can have it for $1/lb on the hoof by putting in a day of work.

I live in the city, in an apartment. I don't live on a farm. I just get to eat like I do, because I buy all of my meat from small local farms, mostly of the backyard variety. Over the years I've found it worthwhile to invest in decent butchering equipment for when I do large animals, but I don't generally bother with any more than a table, my hammer and cleaver and hacksaw and a bucket of Old Hickory knives if I'm going out to take apart something that weighs less than 150 lbs. When the weather is cold I throw a 2mm disposable tarp on my living room floor, put up a portable heavy duty plastic table and butcher inside. Works just fine for an urban lifestyle.

Top level chefs who regularly put out $50 dinner plates have envied the quality of what I get to work with. For not much more than the price of one of their entrees I can buy the entire lamb and do endless gourmet dishes with every part of it. I suppose it's hard not to feel just a little bit smug at that, but the point is that *anyone can do it* if you care enough about the quality of your food to invest the time.
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-11-29 01:29 am (UTC)
I too enjoy these posts, but am looking for a bit more explantion about the "lamb that had both behavioral and shape problems." I get shape problems and why it wouldn't be good to breed a lamb with such. But what types of bahavioral problems do lambs have and in particular this one had that would make it key to butcher and butcher now (as opposed to later)?

-Kathleen
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2010-11-29 03:19 am (UTC)
This lamb wasn't a breeding animal--show lambs are all altered males (because as they work their way through the levels of shows, they end up sold for slaughter.) The reason not to take it to shows is that it wasn't going to place, and going to shows is expensive. Even entering for shows is expensive: exhibitors pay a fee to "tag" the lamb (an ear-tag) for the shows it may attend later in the year. So is the lamb, and its feed and the time and effort expended on training and grooming. Keeping a lamb that you know will not place--either because it can't be trained to behave well in the show, or it's not got the structure and muscle the judges look for--worst of all both, as in this one--means increasing your loss. The sooner you get it gone, the better.

Lambs with a good show disposition can learn to lead fairly quickly, learn a routine both at home and at shows--you can lead them to exercise them, handle them to wash and clip them and accustom them to the handling that a judge will give them (as with dogs in dog shows, there are specific things that a judge is feeling for in a lamb.) They need to learn to travel quietly in their pens in a trailer (or a lamb-cage if being hauled in the back of a pickup) without wasting energy and risking injury to themselves or the other lambs by fighting it. They need to stand still for the judge. They should be easy to catch, responding fairly quickly to good handling. Lambs that cannot settle down and accept handling, leading, grooming, etc. without freaking out, fighting the halter, bucking and trying to escape when being touched, kicking, butting, etc. are not good show prospects.

This particular lamb had been unruly from the beginning, never settled down, and had knocked down the kid showing it repeatedly. You can't really tell, at the age when they're weaned and sold as show lambs, what the innate temperament is, because at that age they're all skittish. But some quickly adapt and settle down, and some (a minority if handled well) don't. I know these people; they handle all animals well.

Structurally, this lamb didn't continue growing up--it did not fulfill the promise of its early structure (except in having a really nice long loin)--it was short-legged (out of proportion) and had not developed the larger hindquarter preferred in a meat lamb. It was putting on fat instead of growing--and putting it on in the forequarter, as we found after skinning. A lamb this age should have had less fat, especially as this family exercises their lambs vigorously.

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From: (Anonymous)
2010-11-29 12:58 pm (UTC)
Interesting info. Thanks for taking the time to explain.

Re the Old Hickory knifes mentioned above. I purchased three at the grocery store when I got my first apartment to be my first set of kitchen knives (all I could afford at the time). They are exceptionally good for the price.

-Kathleen
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[User Picture]From: filkferengi
2010-12-02 04:10 pm (UTC)
Leslie Fish agrees with you in her song "Better Than Who."

http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/l/leslie_fish/better_than_who.html
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