Thursday, May 25, 2017

Beef in the Freezer? Part 1: How Does It Get There?

With summer just around the corner, it's time to start thinking about grilling our favorite piece of meat.  What is your favorite?  Juicy hamburgers?  Sizzling steaks?  Chunky kabobs?  I love them all, and it's so easy for me to pull out a package of hamburger, rib eyes, or sirloin from my freezer and start the thawing process....

What?  You don't have meat in your freezer?

You have to run to the store and buy your beef?

That's actually the way most people get their meat, but there is another way.  Out here in the country, quite a few people have upright or chest freezers in their garages or basements, and inside them, there are vegetables, fruits, and meat just chilling and waiting to be used. Let's talk about getting some beef into your freezer.

We are lucky in that we raise feeder cattle.  Our freezer always has beef in it, but it also has quite a bit of pork sausage because we buy a half a hog from friends and have it all made into sausage, keeping the chops out for other meals.  So how does this all help you?

The first step to putting meat in your freezer is to

Find a farmer or a processor.

Around our county, people usually know who raises feeder cattle, the type you want to buy for meat. If you have friends living in rural areas, you might ask if they know of anyone selling freezer beef. Some farmers advertise with signs in front of their homes that they sell freezer beef. If you do not have luck with this method, you can also contact your county extension office.  The people working there can be a great source of information about connecting you with a farmer.

Another place to check is with a meat processor.  We have a couple of businesses close that process meat.  One is the Brook Locker, and the other is Beutler's Meat Processing in Lafayette.  These businesses go to local farmers who raise cattle to get their meat.  They may connect you to a farmer or tell you they have beef to sell from their meat on hand. You can also visit BOAH Indiana Buyer Guide to see a map meat processors in Indiana.

Once you find a farmer or business that will sell you beef, the first question they will ask is,

"How much beef do you want?"  

When they ask this question, the right answer will be "a quarter, a half, or a whole cow."  What?  Yep, your answer will come from one of these choices, but what do they mean?

  • When you buy beef from a beef producer or processor, and you don't want all of the meat from one cow, you have the choice to buy it on the halves.  If you want to purchase a quarter of beef, you need to find another buyer or you will be matched up with one so that the processor is working with cutting half of a cow (and won't have a quarter of beef that no one wants). You can also buy a half of beef and make all the decisions on your own.   
  • If you just want a quarter of the beef, know that this means you will get half of every cut on that side of beef; you will get half the roasts, steaks, hamburger, and other cuts from that half of the cow.  You can choose just the back or just the front quarter, provided you have someone to take the end you don't want.  I will talk more about this in Part 3 of this Freezer Beef series.
The last part of this beginning process is to decide when you want your meat.  We work primarily with Beutler's Meat Processing, and it takes about two weeks for your beef to be packaged and ready for pick up. Another consideration is how far out the processor is booking cows for processing. Summer is usually very busy because of 4-H fairs.  A large number of animals shown at the fair are "Market ready" and leave the fair to serve as food for consumers.  As an example, Tall Guy and I booked three days in June to bring in cows, one date in August, and one date in October.  That's how far out the processor's calendar is filled, and I'm sure they are getting to the end of the year before having open dates.

This all might sound a bit complex, but do not worry.  Farmers and processors will walk you through the process once you decide to buy freezer beef.  Why go through all the hassle?  Many of our customers say they like knowing where their meat comes from and how it was raised.  A good number of them say it also tastes incredibly better than meat they purchased at the store! If you have the money up front, it can actually be cheaper to buy meat in bulk.  The best reason for buying freezer beef is having it all right there, handy and ready to go in your crock pot, on your grill, or into a marinade so you can make all your favorite beef dishes at your convenience.

You know, I don't think there is ever a bad time to make up some beef and noodles. My family doesn't care if it's -13 outside or 73 in the shade; they love it when I serve up Beef and Noodles.  The noodles aren't too hard to come up with; I always keep a few bags of Amish noodles in the pantry, or if I'm lucky, my mom has some homemade noodles to share. The hard part of the recipe is wondering if you can find a roast, stew meat, or even short ribs to come up with the broth and meat part of the recipe. Luckily, I have all those cuts in my freezer.  Let's make some Beef and Noodles!

This is a super simple recipe, and don't judge but I used Amish noodles that I found at a wonderful store near by called The Homestead Bakery, located in Remington, Indiana, just off I-65.  (They have also opened a store in Carmel, Indiana).  For the beef, I gathered up about four packages of Beef Short Ribs, and put them, frozen,  in my crock pot with my usual two cans of beer and seasonings of garlic, beef seasoning, and seasoned salt.  About 4 hours later I had the most wonderful smell going throughout my house and this lovely meat cooling so I could pick it off the bones.

YUM!  From the chunks of meat pulled from the bone, I shredded the meat into strips and degreased the broth.  

Now it is time to work some magic.  I added some extra beef broth to what I had because the noodles will soak up a lot of liquid as they cook.

How much broth you add is a bit of a mystery because it depends on how much you had to start with in the pan.  My best instruction is to make sure as the noodles cook, there is still liquid visible in the pan, like you see in the picture below.

The last step is, of course, the best step because all that is left to do is scoop some into a bowl, and enjoy!

Short Ribs Beef and Noodles

  • 6-8 sections Beef Short Ribs
  • 2 cans Beer
  • 1 Tbs. Garlic, minced (may add more or less)
  • 1 Tbs. Beef seasoning
  • 1 Tbs. Seasoned salt
  • 3-4 Cups Beef Broth (as needed)
  • 1 16 oz. bag Amish noodles
Cooking Directions
  1. Place frozen short ribs in a crock pot with the beer, spices, seasonings, and garlic. Cook on high for 4 hours.
  2. If ribs are thawed, try 4 hours on low.
  3. Remove ribs and meat out of the crock pot, and let meat cool until it is touchable.
  4. With a knife, fork, or your fingers, separate meat from the bones and fat.
  5. With a large spoon, skim off fat that covers the top of the remaining broth.
  6. Bring broth back up to a boil and add the noodles.
  7. Stir and gauge the liquid remaining liquid in the pot. Add more broth as needed until you see it rise to the top of the noodles.
  8. Reduce heat to a lower temperature as noodles continue to cook.
  9. Stir occasionally, until noodles are done.

The next post in this series of four posts will guide you through the cost of buying freezer beef and having it processed.  Part 2   Part 3    Wrap-up

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