Cow Butchering

AGES: What you'll call the meat depends on what age the cow was when butchered.

Veal. A calf that is butchered at 8-10 weeks will weigh about 180 lb., dress out to about 100 lb., and be called "veal." Veal is light colored and mild flavored and very tender compared to beef. Veal goes well in recipes for young chicken. In Victorian days when they really went in for a big variety of exotic meats for the tables of the rich—blackbirds in a pie and the gamut to a haunch of venison—veal was a delicate and delicious regular. But from the point of view of somebody raising their own meat, veal is an uneconomical meat because in that last 8 months your calf will put on so much weight that to butcher him before is to be

Butchering Old Cows

woefully inefficient. However, you can butcher a calf any time from the day he's born, and meat's meat. Baby Beef. Breeds vary considerably in size, but, on the average, a calf 6-8 months old will weigh 300-400 lb. and about 60 percent of that will be edible. A calf that age is called "baby beef," a meat about halfway between veal and beef. Beef. A yearling may weigh from 800 to 1,000 lb. An older animal may weigh 1,200-1,500 lb. or more. The butchering principles are entirely the same—only the scale is different. But I would recommend butchering no earlier than 15 months. Let's assume you get a spring calf. You give him milk that spring and summer and he's costing you milk and trouble. Throughout the winter you have to feed him hay, and that's money and trouble again. If you butcher him the next spring, well OK—but wait. If you let him go, he'll feed on all that good free summer grass all the second summer of his life, on through the fall, up to the time you would have to start feeding hay again, when the ground gets covered with snow That's the natural time to butcher him. He'll put on weight at an amazing rate now that his basic frame is built, and that grass feeding is cheap and easy for you. If you let him go even to 24 months (when he is finally mature in build), he will continue growing all that time.

NOTE: Read "Introduction to Butchering" in Chapter 8 before you begin butchering your cow.

Killing the Cow: If the animal is gentle enough, or if it is halter broke, maneuver it to where you want to butcher, preferably right beside the hoist you have in place for hanging it, because with that kind of weight it's a lot of work to move it. Hopefully a heap of grain or a salt block will persuade it to go where you want it. Don't kill the animal when it is excited or has been running. If you've just had a big struggle getting it moved to where you want to kill it, go away for a few hours and let it calm down before shooting. That will help the final quality of your meat.

You could use a .22 but a .30-.30 or bigger is surer. Try very hard to get it right with the first shot. If you miss with the first shot, the animal may either go on a rampage and hurt somebody (come right through the side of your corral), or it may just turn around and that will make it even harder to get another shot into the right place. We had a really wild Angus heifer that Mike had to shoot 3 times to get down. She turned just at the last and wrong moment on the first shot. So you see, it can happen to anybody, even to a great shot like Mike.

Anyway, shoot your cow by mentally making an "X" with the top points on each ear and the bottom points on

each eye. Shoot where the lines cross. Tie the cow up if you can and 1 shot will be enough. Shoot straight in. You'll have to move around to do it, or wait until the cow turns to face you. Take your time and do it right. If you get it right the cow will drop to the ground instantly, exactly where it was standing when you shot it.

sticking: As soon as the cow drops, start running toward it with your best knife to cut the throat. (Don't fall on it!) You want to open up the throat while the heart is still beating so it will pump the blood out well.

I used to think you were supposed to cut across the throat from side to side, under the ears or an inch or so back, clear to the backbone on either side of the esophagus, until the head was about half off. It helps if the head is slightly downhill. That's how we did it. But I've since heard that a better way is to cut the throat lengthwise, from the jawbone to the breastbone, and then push the knife under the breastbone and between the first ribs into the chest cavity to cut the carotid arteries. Try not to cut the heart, so it will continue to pump out blood as long as it works.

Work the front leg back and forth for a while as if the animal were walking to help expel the blood. Wait until it gets completely quiet. Kicking reflexes will go on for a while and could hurt somebody. Keep the head downhill and the flow of blood unobstructed while you're waiting. Moving the Cow: If the cow didn't drop where it was handiest for you, and you have a tractor or other strong vehicle, use that to drag the body where you want it. Use a towing-type chain. Fasten one end of the chain to the cow around its cut neck, the other end to the vehicle. Then drag the cow to the place you want to skin and gut it—preferably a place where you have a way to hoist it. Hoisting the Cow: A tractor with a fork-lift (hoist) is the handiest thing for moving and raising your carcass. Cut a place to hook the singletree ends under the tendons of the rear legs. Cut on each hind leg just inside the back of the "knee." Do it just above the first joint. You will be over 2 feet up from the hoof. Don't cut the tendon. Hook up the singletree with the tendons.

Fasten the singletree chain to the fork-lift and raise the animal. If you are working with a pulley or a "come-along," which is a 1-person pulley, hook that up to your singletree and haul away to get that animal raised off the ground, upside down, to a height at which you feel comfortable work ing. From 18 to 24 inches above the floor is good. If You Don't Have a Hoist: It's hard to do what needs to be done with the animal lying on the ground—but it's not impossible. We've done it that way It's the same as when you kill an elk (a cow-sized game animal) in the woods. If the cow is lying on the ground, first cut the head off. When you have the skin and meat all cut through, give the neck a hard twist around and around until you feel it break. Then finish cutting it off. Now maneuver the animal onto its back, exposing the full extent of belly topside. Doing that to a big cow is hard. Propping up one side with a stick for a brace may help. Then use the directions given below, except with the cow on the ground the innards will not fall out by themselves—you'll have to help them out. Proceed to "Gutting the Cow"

Cutting the Head Off: Usually a cow is gutted before being fully skinned, whereas sheep, rabbits, or goats are skinned first. Finish cutting around the neck. Turn the head with a hard twist around and around until you feel the neck break. Then cut it all off. You'll have to finish with the saw. Some people use beef head meat to make sausage. Most people discard it except for the tongue. Cut out the tongue and put it in your organs bucket.

(After having already sold 1,500 of these books, I discovered to my awful embarrassment that at this point I left out how to remove the innards of the cow! Bad enough printing pages upside down, but that was worse. All those people depending on me—and I told them to get the animal raised up off the ground and then directly to commence sawing off steaks!)

gutting the Cow: If you have a male you start by cutting around the genitalia, including a patch of skin around it. Then you slit up the midline (I'm assuming the animal is hanging by its heels so "up" means toward the hind end), cutting the hide first and then around the anus so that you free the gut for tying off with a twine, so nothing in there will come out. You lift free the genitalia along with the cord and then proceed to open the hide on down the belly line. The animal isn't skinned. You'll skin it after you gut it. Most folks run their hand inside the skin as they are cutting down from the outside to push back the intestines and prevent the knife accidentally cutting them open since they are right underneath. If you hear a hiss you did it. But don't despair. That happens a lot to amateurs. It's happened to us, and it needn't harm the meat. Just struggle on. Saw through the H-shaped bone, which is called the "aitch" bone. It's between the hind legs in front of the rectum. Cut all the way down the front before starting to pull the innards out. Have your washtub ready; they are big and heavy. After they are halfway out and the part that's out is in your washtub, you can take time out to find the liver and heart. Beef Heart. This is really good food, but to find it you'll have to look hard. It's encased in tissue and fat. Cut it free and put it in your organ pail. (Later, back at the house, I give it a good rinsing under cold water, slice, and bag for freezing.)

Beef Liver. This is big and easy to see. Remember to get the gall sac off the liver. You have to cut it out plus discard the part of it by the liver to do it safely, but there will be plenty of liver left. Back at the house, give the liver a good rinsing under cold water and then slice it very thinly and freeze in meal-size bags. Remember to eat up the heart and

Butchering Old Cows

Ample washtub to hold innards liver fairly quickly because they don't keep as well as the rest of the meat. If you don't have refrigeration, you'll have to have beef liver for dinner that night and every meal thereafter until you use it up, because it doesn't cure or can well. Finishing the Gutting. Cut through the breastbone now on down to the throat to finish opening up the belly side of the animal from tail to throat. That will make it easy for you to finish taking out all the innards and the tongue, which is very good to eat.

After you have the innards all out, stop and give your hands a good washing in the bucket with vinegar water. Sharpen your knives, if they need it. Now go back to work. Skinning is next.

Skinning the Cow: This is the hardest single butchering job I can think of—a long job. But stick with it because the cooler the animal gets as the body heat leaves, the harder it is to skin. The reason you butcher a cow first and skin it afterwards is that if you skinned first, those innards might wait in there too long for the meat's good. Use the goat-skinning instructions. There are good directions for handling your hide in the tanning section in Chapter 8.

Halving, Quartering, and Aging the Beef: if you cut the tail off and skin the top part of it, you have the makings for oxtail soup! For the rest of it, read on. Quartering the Beef. Pork is usually hung in halves and best left just overnight because aging doesn't improve it, but beef is so big you need smaller sections just to be able to carry it around and to help it cool quicker, and aging does improve it very much. If you do the quartering right, each quarter will turn out to be from 90 to 140 lb., depending on the age of finishing—and all 4 pieces will be nearly of the same weight.

Saw down the middle of the backbone to divide the animal into equal halves. Use a wood saw or a chain saw or whatever you can lay your hands on. It's a mean job, and it helps if there is more than 1 person so you can take turns —one resting while the other is working. Now standing on the "belly" side and starting with the rear end of the cow, look inside the chest cavity to see where the ribs begin and count them. Cut between the third and fourth rib from the rear. When you get the 2 ribs cut part way apart, make a slit between the fourth and fifth ribs and tie a rope through there. That's preparation so the front quarters can be hung by that rope in whatever place you have ready for hanging the quarters. Have someone else hold the front quarter off the ground while you finish separating it, then carry it to the hanging place and hang there by your rope from a rafter or whatever. Get the other front quarter the same way. Now let the hoist down enough so you can untie the hindquarters, and then move them to your hanging place for aging. The Hanging Place. This should be someplace cat-proof, dog-proof, and fly-proof, if possible (you can use meat bags —even make your own out of old sheets or some such— to help with the fly problem, or, better yet, butcher out of fly season). You need a cool place, too, and if you haven't butchered in cool weather you'll want to put the animal in a neighbor's or butcher's walk-in cooler. But a lot of butchers won't let you use their walk-in cooler now because federal laws have made it illegal to have uninspected homestead-type meat in there with the high-class fast-food-type meat. Aging the Beef. Tenderizing the beef improves the taste. How, I don't know, but it really does. Age it at least a few days and preferably a week or even a little more. Aging just means letting it wait before you go ahead and cut it up, wrap, and freeze or can. The meat doesn't rot right away because there aren't any microbe seeds in there. It was just alive. When it does start to go bad, it'll start from the outside and work in, so you have plenty of warning and can trim off any bad parts. But handle the tallow (fat that you want to make special use of—maybe for soap) and hide promptly. Once they start going, it's impossible to get the bad odor out.

Cutting Up

Timing. When the time does come for cutting up the quarters, it's a good idea to do it no faster than a quarter at a time. I mean a quarter per day. Another day of aging will improve the remaining beef, and defrosting could be a disaster for food already in your freezer when you put the meat in. Defrosting is what happens if you suddenly put a whole beef in there. In my experience it takes nearly 24 hours to get 1 quarter of beef all frozen in a large chest freezer. Or rent a locker or make arrangements to have it quick-frozen and then move it all to your freezer. Making Cuts. If you're a pro you know exactly what you want. If you're not sure what you're doing, cut steaks off the wide ends, make roasts out of the narrow ones, and hamburger out of the mistakes. Mike thinks that 3A inch

Rump roasts

Sirloin Porterhouse T-bone

Roasts and stew meat

Rump roasts

Sirloin Porterhouse T-bone

Roasts and stew meat

Butchering Old Cows

Shank—soup bones or hamburger

Hamburger or soup bones

Shank—soup bones or hamburger

Hamburger or soup bones is a perfect thickness for steaks. I like V2 inch, but he thinks that's really too thin for any beef steak except maybe round. He says any steak with a bone in it should be at least 3A inch thick. Some people do cut them an inch or even an inch and a quarter, but I think that's way too thick. But, bottom line, how thick you cut is entirely a matter of personal preference. Or economy—a thinner cut yields more steaks!

To saw out steak, cut with your knife all around the bone. Then saw through the bone. The tenderloin is the most tender steak. The round is the toughest. The muscles the cow uses the most (round, hind leg) are the toughest. Don't trim off all the fat—you want some around the edges of your steaks for flavor. Hindquarters

1. Cut the leg from the body.

2. Starting from the top of the leg, slice off the round steaks clear down to the "knee" joint. When packaging, if you cut the round steaks in half, they will be easier to thaw.

3. The next portion of the leg (working down) will become roasts. If you make them about 2 inches thick or more it's fine. You are slicing the same as a steak only much thicker, and that makes it a roast. If you trim out the bone that can be a soup bone for you.

4. When you get down to where there isn't so much meat, cut the rest of the lower leg into chunks for soup bones that are called "shank boil." Or you can trim off the meat and put it in your hamburger pile, if you want.

5. Cut the belly abdominal muscle flap away from the rest. That goes into the hamburger pile.

6. On the piece that's left you can start from the "front" end, taking odd rib steaks. There will be 11-14 inches of rib steak on a big beef, 6 or 7 on a smaller one. The big hind end of the loin is the rump roast. Saw it off. It will have something of a triangular shape.

7. Now start taking off sirloin steaks. The porterhouse is in the middle. The T-bones are clear to the front. Front Quarters

1. Remove the "arm" at the joint. Have 1 person cut from underneath as the other pulls the arm upwards. You've got to force it on up and out, under and around that shoulder blade. You now have an arm plus the rest.

2. Cut off the top one-third of the arm for a "blade roast" and trim off some of the fat. Don't trim the roast completely clean either. Some fat around it helps the taste when it's cooking.

3. The next 6 inches can be a roast. And so can the next. Make it into what you like. It could be a big roast or a small one plus some stew meat.

4. You can make the rest of the leg into stew bones or trim the meat away from the bone for hamburger.

5. With the meat saw, separate the ribs from the backbone and its accompanying muscle bundles—the tenderloin and backstrap. Saw about 8 inches from where the ribs connect with the backbone.

6. You can see what your steaks are going to look like now. Cut off the steaks. You waste less if you saw each one out, but that requires tremendous time and effort. If you're not up to that you can bone out the 2 muscle bundles and make rib eyes of the larger muscle and tips from the smaller backstrap.

7. The neck end, which you can identify because it curves a little upwards, can be made into roasts and stew meat.

8. The remaining rib area is a vast ordeal of spareribs and soup bones. Here you have the most work for the least desirable cuts. Starting from the rear, cut between one rib and the next all the way until they are completely separated. Then between the next and the next all the way and so on. Then saw across the individual ribs at 6-inch intervals or as your cook likes them. You'll end up probably sawing each rib thus into thirds.

Beef Recipes

<l> DRIED BEEF Use the jerky recipes in Chapter 8.

W> MOCK TURTLE SOUP (CALF'S HEAD SOUP) Boil a beef or veal head (and feet, if you want) until the meat separates from the bones. Remove bones. Cut meat into I -inch pieces. Boil an hour more (until tender) with an onion and bay leaf Add 8 sliced small onions and I T. parsley, and season to taste with mace, cloves, and salt

& BASIC BEEF STEW Cut 4-5 lb. of beef stew meat into I 'A-inch cubes and brown them in a small amount of fat Add 2 qt small carrots (or 8 chunked large ones); 3 c. onions, quartered; and 3 qt peeled potatoes, quartered. To this very basic stew, add your own favorite seasonings, cover with boiling water and simmer until all the meat and vegetables are tender.

CANNED BEEF BONE SOUP Saw or crack fresh, trimmed beef bones to release their flavor. Rinse bones and place in a large stockpot or kettle. Cover bones with water. Cover pot Simmer 3-4 hours. Remove bones. Cool broth. Pick off meat Skim off fat. Add meat removed from bones to broth. Reheat to boiling. Fill jars, leaving I inch headspace. Adjust lids. Process in pressure canner only: pints 75 minutes, quarts 90 minutes. If using a weighted-gauge canner, set at 10 lb. pressure at 0-1,000 feet above sea level; at higher altitudes, set at 15 lb. If using a dial-gauge canner, set at 11 lb. pressure at 0-2,000 feet above sea level; 12 lb. at 2,001-4,000 feet 13 lb. at 4,001-6,000 feet; 14 lb. at 6,001-8,000 feet; or 15 lb. above 8,000 feet.

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