A Butcher's Take on the Economy
Feeding a Hungry Family
Side of Beef Savings?
When the price of meat drops really low, that's when I try to stock up. Like last week, when hamburger (the fatty stuff) was on sale for 99 cents a pound, I bought 15 pounds. Depending on what I have in my freezer at the time, I may make up several meat loaves to freeze, or I may just boil the stuff. Boil it? Yep. I boil it in a big pot with about 2:1 ratio of meat to water. It breaks up into nice little pieces when you boil it and it's a great way to cook the fat out.
After it's boiled, I strain it well in a mesh strainer (the holes in a typical plastic colander are too big). Then I bag it up in two-cup portions in sandwich-size resealable bags, squish most of the air out, and freeze.
Now for the fun part. You know that big pot of greasy water? I put it into a used ice cream bucket and let it cool just a bit. Then, I put it in the fridge so the fat will solidify (it will rise to the top). You'll find three layers: a fat layer, a broth layer, and all the little icky bits of "stuff" layer. Depending on freezer space, I may actually strain and freeze the broth. I take the layer of fat off, put it in a pot on the stove to melt and then strain it either through a jelly bag, muslin, cheesecloth or coffee filters. What I have when I'm finished is a very clean white beef tallow that can be used for cooking. You can use the same technique with the fats saved from pork roasts. I store mine in a clean, recycled jar in the fridge.
If I'm planning on saving the tallow or lard, I generally don't season the meat before I cook it, which leaves a nice neutral fat for cooking. Anyone questioning the use of animal fat for cooking should consider the fact that Europeans, who have a much lower instance of heart disease, cook primarily with animal fats.
Incidentally, the two-cup portions of hamburger only take about a minute to defrost in the microwave and can be used in casseroles, tacos, meat sauces, etc. If you squish the baggies flat before you freeze, they stack really well. The same is true for meat loaf, but freeze in a gallon-size bag instead.
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