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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Bulk Beef, Road Trip and Chicken Stock Revisited

Saturday finally arrived. After several weeks of eating from the freezers the day to pick up our beef arrived. I should point out that bulk meat purchases are the norm for us and they usually come with a phone call from one of our farming friends to say they are butchering a cow or pig and do we want any. So it was with this purchase. It was a good deal so we had to act and right then. My only concern was the meat was going to an abattoir's we have not dealt with before. When making a bulk meat purchase the cutting is an additional fee and the cutting options as well as pick-up is left to the buyer not the farmer. With all of the arrangements made, we headed out on a road trip Saturday morning.

The Beef

The total dressed weight for the whole cow was 820 lb. Initially two of our kids were taking 1/4 each and we were taking 1/2 but then one kid's friend wanted in on the deal and one kid decided that was a bit too much red meat. Sound confusing? What ended up happening and good thing for us is one kid and the friend took 1/4 each, the kid's inlaws took 1/4 and we took 1/4. The abbatoir divided the meat for us. It was cut to our specs of 1 inch thick steaks, 5 lb roasts, 1 lb packages of burger and keeping the soup bones. We had to bring boxes for the pick-up.

It was a bitter cold but bright sunny winter day when we left home for the hour drive to the abbatoir's where we picked up the entire dressed meat. The photo is of two of the bins in the trunk. Four smaller boxes went into the trunk and the back seat was filled with the other half of the meat. Each couple ended up with a bin as shown and two boxes of meat (205 lb total) at a cost of $1.89/lb plus $0.60/lb cutting and wrapping costs. It was a bit higher price total than we normally pay but still a great savings. After leaving the abbatoir's we headed to a truck stop some 40 minutes away to meet up with our kids and grandbaby where after eating (see below) we divided the meat in half. They headed back to drop of their small freezer and half of that meat at their friends then headed home while we made our way back to our home stopping to drop off half of the meat at our kid's inlaws. Ok that should be as clear as mud :)

Eggs & Pepperettes

I have to tell you, I love farm fresh eggs! I buy mine from a farmer not far from us who free ranges so the eggs are wonderful. Well, I knew we were getting low on eggs at home and it is the norm for country abbatoirs to have eggs for sale so I wasn't disappointed. I picked up 30 white and 19 browns for a very good price of $5 figuring my kids would take some but they didn't so that left me with 5 ½ doz eggs with what I had at home. No problem as another kid with spouse and soon to be grandbaby was home when we arrived home so I thought they would take some. Nope! So I have lots of eggs to use up.

I couldn't resist the fresh pepperettes either. One of these days I'm going to make my own pepperettes because not only are they perfect for snacking they are great for entertaining. I just had to try one after getting the car loaded. They were tender and beefy, just perfect hitting back with a nice peppery after taste. Yummy!

On the Road Food

As mentioned our first stop was meeting up with our kids and grandbaby to divide the meat. We stopped at a Flying J as it was a convenient meeting spot for both of us. We decided to get lunch while we were there so the five of us settled in. The adults enjoyed the generous buffet while grandbaby ate from everyone's plate.

I think I've mentioned before here that we would rather stop and get a buffet meal than a fast food meal when on the road. One of the reasons is for the price you end up with better food for the most part. Saturday's offering was fried and barbeque chicken. I chose the barbeque chicken with roasted potatoes, stuffing, steamed carrots and green beans along with a tossed salad for a starter and fruit bowl for dessert. For $10.99 is was a very substantial meal. My only complaint was they used margarine on the carrots and beans but that was indicated on the labels above the dishes. I don't use margarine so I would have liked to see these vegetables offered plain for the customer to add what they wanted.

Mesclun Salad

Normally our heavy meal is at dinner somewhere between 5:30 pm and 7:30 pm usually just after 6 pm. Eating a heavy meal as we did at lunch time had me thinking light foods for dinner. Seriously, we were both stuffed so come dinner time we didn't feel like eating much. A mesclun salad was just perfect because it was light and filling at the same time.

Mesclun mix is my number one favourite green mixture for sandwiches, salads and growing. The mixture differs from grower to grower but normally consists of lettuces, mustards, dandelion, cresses and parsley. If you want bang for your buck, mesclun mix sometimes called spring salad mix in the grocery store is the way to go!

I like keeping mesclun salad simple because the greens add a lot of flavour themselves. This was a dinner salad so I added tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, carrots, green onion (not shown), hard boiled egg slices (not shown), cheddar cheese cubes and simple fresh lemon juice for the dressing. Lemon juice makes all the flavours sparkle!

Concentrated Chicken Stock

Chicken stock is something I make from scratch and keep on hand. My basic method can be found here. Now chicken stock or any stock for that matter can be made fresh for immediate use, froze or my preferred method is to can. I like canning my stocks because it becomes a convenient food ingredient for me at a later date. However, concentrating the stock is an ideal way for preserving stock for those with limited storage.

My freezers are so stuffed a flea would have a hard time finding a spot in them. Getting the freezers ready for the beef purchase meant a few thing had to come out and one of them was the chicken bones I save for making stock. The problem was I really didn't have time to can the stock and I needed to free up freezer space so concentrating the stock made very good sense.

Method: Concentrating stock is not difficult. Start with your favourite stock recipe or use my basic stock recipe from the link above. Take it to the point of draining but not defatting. Bring the stock to a boil then reduce to a low simmer. Simmer until the stock is about 1/3 the volume of the original. Cool. Remove the fat layer on top. The bottom layer should be as pictured like gelatin.

This is a concentrated stock of which you do not need a lot of to add a good impact of flavour. Spoon the gelatin into ice cube trays (about 1 oz) or into muffin tins (about 4 oz). Freeze then vacuum seal in individual packages (preferred method) or pack into a zipper style freezer bag to use as needed. Because this is concentrated stock you only need one cube or puck (muffin) depending on the size of dish you are making. The main bonus of course is the flavour punch but because this is concentrated it eliminates water that would have to be boiled out for some dishes. So even if you can or freeze chicken stock keeping concentrated chicken stock on hand is a very good idea.


4 food lovers commented:

jayedee said...

LOVE the idea for concentrating chicken stock! i have sooo many recipes that call for just a quarter of a cup of stock! this is just the ticket!

Garden Gnome said...

Jayedee, concentrated stock is perfect for adding that flavour without all the water. Don't limit yourself to just chicken as this method will work with any meat stock.

Take care,

Krissi said...

Oh wow! This is a great post. I have never purchased fresh meat, but that sounds so much better. Maybe you could post some tips on ways to find farmers that sell the meat and eggs, etc. I am definitely a "suburban" girl, but I live so close to farmland, someone must be doing things like that in my neck of the woods (SC-USA). I have to admit, I don't make my own stock, but I do believe you may have inspired me to do so!

Garden Gnome said...

Krissi, we live in a rural area near where we grew up so finding farmers isn't a problem for us. Let me gather some tips and I will make an entry tomorrow that hopefully will help you and others wanting to buy meats this way.

Take care,