Spoils from a cow party

Spoils from a cow party

A few months back, I got roped into joining in on a co-op purchase of a whole cow that was estimated to come in at around 600 pounds. It was grass fed, organically raised, and was to be humanely butchered, packaged, and frozen. I made an initial $200 deposit, and this morning I paid the $290.50 balance at what was billed as a “Cow Party”.

Thirteen of the “partners” got together at 11:30am to draw lots to form a line to take turns choosing individual cuts from the cow. Though it was just one entire cow, the butcher threw in some additional tongues, testicles, and other additional offal for us to select from as well.

Here’s what was included in my 18 turns:
1.2 lb New York steak, bone in
1.0 lb New York steak, bone in
1.2 New York steak, bone in
1.4 lb Ribeye, bone in
0.5 lb top sirloin steak
0.5 lb top sirloin steak
2.4 lb bottom round roast
2.5 lb beef tritip large
0.4 lb top sirloin steak
1.9 lb beef short ribs
1.1 lb stew beef
1.1 lb stew beef
1.1 lb stew beef
1.2 lb beef cheek
1.4 lb beef oxtails
0.9 lb beef oxtails
1.4 lb beef testicles
1.3 lb beef fat

Everyone also went home with an additional box of ground beef. Mine contained 16 packages of 1lb each of ground meat as well as 2.2lbs of beef ground with heart and 0.9lbs of beef ground with liver.

This comes out to 41.6 pounds of meat in all and price of roughly $11.78 per pound.

Sadly I missed out on some nice shoulder cuts, some tongue, and I had tried to get some tripe instead of the testicles, but alas, there were apparently other menudo fans in our group.

My freezer is chock full of some serious meat for a while. Most of the cuts are fairly straightforward and I’ve already got a good idea of what I’m going to do with them. I will have to take a peek at what I ought to do for the Rocky Mountain Oysters. I’m leaning toward turning them into some delicious tacos, but I’ll take any suggestions from those who’ve done other variations before.

I do want to make an inventory of the price per pound for individual cuts versus typical markets to see how the pricing works out, as I suspect that some likely did better than others within the “lottery” system this set up. The tough part will be finding local markets that purvey this high a quality of meat for a reasonable comparison.

Spoils from a cow party was originally published on Chris Aldrich

Happy Fornicalia

Happy Fornicalia

As we coast toward the nones of February whence we’ll commence the celebration of the Fornacalia, by all accounts an Ancient Roman religious festival celebrated in honor of the goddess Fornax, a divine personification of the oven (fornax), and was related to the proper baking of bread, I thought it only appropriate to call some attention to what should be an international holiday for bakers.

While shamefully few, if any(?), now celebrate the Fornacalia, I’ve always looked at the word as a portmanteau of a festival along the lines of a bacchanalia for bread with tinges of seeming Latin cognates fornicati, fornicatus, fornicata, and fornicatae or the Greek equivalent porneia (πορνεία). Knead these all together and you’ve got the makings of a modern day besotted festival of bread immorality. And really, who wouldn’t want to celebrate such a thing?!

I’ll celebrate myself by doing some baking, listening to the bread related episodes of Eat This Podcast, while reading and looking at bread porn on Fornacalia.com. Special thanks to curio maximus Jeremy Cherfas for providing entertainment for the festival!

How will you celebrate?

 

Featured photo Bread is a flickr photo by Jeremy Keith aka adactio shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license.

Happy Fornicalia was originally published on Chris Aldrich

Advanced Apple Pie Making Techniques

Advanced Apple Pie Making Techniques

It’s Thanksgiving and you promised to bring something. Something interesting, something intended to impress. Well, it’s the high end of apple season and some of the best fruit of the season is still available right? You’ve decided to make an awesome apple pie! (You can’t slink as low as to buy one of those half-stale, mass manufactured pies that taste like it.)

Among your cook books and the dozens of online sites there are a bevvy of apple pie recipes that are all pretty much the same with the exception of whether or not they’ve got nutmeg. (Hint: double down on the nutmeg and microplane it from a real, actual nut–they don’t really go bad and keep forever. Heck, why not keep one in your pocket for the entire holiday season?!) But somehow the pie never comes out quite right. The crust is a sloppy mess and doesn’t come out flaky the way your great grandmother’s most assuredly did. And when you cut into it, the insides come pouring out and make a huge mess. Served on the plate it looks like a heaping pile of slop.

What’s missing you ask yourself?

Most cookbooks either completely leave out the finer points of pastry making from their recipes or hide them in introductory sections that no one ever reads, because–let’s be honest–who even knew these sections existed?  No one besides me really reads a cookbook do they?

So in a quick synopsis, here are a few pro tips to help your pie come out the way you knew it should.

DO NOT overwork your dough!

This is the cardinal rule of pastry making.

The less you can touch your dough, the better off you’ll be. Kneading bread dough for 10 minutes or more is fine because you want to form a doughy and stretchy network of gluten chains that will make your bread nice and chewy once it’s baked. For pie or pastry dough however, you want the exact opposite. After you’ve used a pastry cutter to cut your flour and your fat together into pea sized bits, stir your dough as little as possible when you add your liquid. If you can get it all together with just five short stirs, then for god’s sake do not use six! If it takes ten or more when you first start practicing, that’s alright, but don’t touch it an eleventh. Whatever you do, don’t knead it together for 10 minutes like you’re making bread or that’s what you’ll end up with.

When working with your dough, keep everything cold.

Old wives tales about baking often insist “You will only make a good pastry chef if you have cold hands.” While I feel this is patently false, the root of the thinking to keep things cold while working your pastry is very sound advice. At all costs you want to keep the fat in your dough nice and cold. Allowing it to melt and mix further with your flour is only going to make things less flaky and will also tend to make a huge, sticky mess. Toward that end, keep everything that touches your dough cold–even your hands if you can help it.

One of the worst offenders is your counter top temperature when rolling out your dough. You take some nice cold dough and put it on a room temperature (or higher because you’ve probably got a stove nearby that’s already preheating) counter top and start working it over. The thinner you roll it out, the greater its surface area and thus the larger amount of heat it begins absorbing from the counter. The fix for this is easy! Just fill a 9×13″ (or larger if you’ve got it) cake/cookie pan with an ice and water slurry and set it on the part of the counter top where you’re going to roll out your crust. Do this for a few minutes at a time to cover the area where you’ll be working. The colder things are the better off you’ll be. Those thick and massive granite counter tops you spent thousands on can now be your best friend with their spectacular specific heat capacity.

A slurry of ice and water in a 9x13" cake pan can help cool down your counter top.
A slurry of ice and water in a 9×13″ cake pan can help cool down your counter top.

Apple Pie Architecture

Wonderful pies you see in shops and stores hold together incredibly well, in great part because they’re in cold display cases. When cut cold they tend to hold their shapes incredibly well. But as everyone knows warm deserts taste better and sweeter. (Don’t believe me? Try microwaving a bowl of ice cream and tell me it isn’t the sweetest thing you’ve eaten.)

But how can you keep the delicious, gooey goodness of your apple pie together when it’s been cut open just minutes out of the oven? Most cooks just heap their pie filling into their delicate crusts, but why? Laziness?

Instead, let’s use the structure of the apples and the sugary filling to our advantage. Layer your apple slices into the crust in alternating circular and radial patterns. This criss-cross pattern will allow them to hold not only all the additional sweetness you can thrown into them, but the structure will hold the thing together.

Layering your apple pie filling: circular apple slices.
Layering your apple pie filling: circular apple slices.
Layering your apple pie filling: radial apple slices.
Layering your apple pie filling: radial apple slices.

Creating this lattice structure will usually hold so well, that a pie right out of the oven can be cut almost immediately and it won’t ooze an ounce.

Just out of the oven and two minutes post-cut.
Just out of the oven and two minutes post-cut.

Take your new-found knowledge, go forth, and bake!

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Advanced Apple Pie Making Techniques was originally published on Chris Aldrich | Boffo Socko