As I’ve written before, I’m a fan of eating odd bits. If you’re going to eat meat, and you want to be ethical about it, I think you should make the effort to try and eat all the parts of an animal (or use them in some manner).
I realize this concept is not for everyone. I am one of those people who used to cringe at the thought of eating non-traditional (at least in the current western world) pieces of meat. The disconnect between animals and the plate has become so great that for some, the concept that meat comes from animals is so distant that they won’t eat meat with bones in it. People- meat comes from animals, animals have bones. But I digress…
My family raises cows, so I’m well aware of the importance of “hanging weight”- the weight of an animal’s carcass after it has been killed and eviscerated. If you buy an animal by the whole, half, or any other fraction, it’s likely that the cost is calculated based off of this number. This weight, however, does not include lots of other tasty (and incredibly nutritious) bits that an animal has to offer.
When I buy an animal from a farmer for butchering (or when I send my own animals to slaughter) I make sure I put in a request for lots of odd bits: I want the animal to be fully utilized, I want to get all the tasty bits, I want to get all the nutritious parts, and heck- I want to get my moneys worth! As a result, I sometimes end with a substantial stash of offal in my freezer (especially beef offal, as not everyone who buys beef from us wants the odd bits, though that is changing as we sell more meat to paleo and foodie eaters).
When I came home to my parents this weekend, I thought I’d have a go at eating some of odd bits… My photography is definitely not up to par with many food blogs, but hopefully I do these tasty bits justice (though it takes a better artist/photographer than me to make a raw beef tongue look anything other than kinda weird).
It all started on Friday night, when I decided it was time to experiment with some of the pork skin that I requested from the Berkshire pig I purchased this fall from a local farmer. I found this page and gave their method a try. The result was tasty, though perhaps a danger to my teeth!
This set in motion a bit of a personal challenge to see how much offal I could put to good use this weekend. Next on the block was a beautiful smoked jowl from the same Berkshire pig as above. Jowl is a really fatty piece of the animal that makes BEAUTIFUL (albeit very fatty) bacon. It can also be cured in other styles such as the Italian Guanciale (which reminds me, I have a piece of jowl from another pig in my freezer that a friend cured into Guanciale at home (<– Worth checking out, if only for the pic of a curing pork jowl hanging from the ceiling). If you don’t request that the butcher save the jowl, I expect it ends up being ground into sausage- a shame for such a delicacy to end in anonymity.
I initially tried to slice this by hand, but quickly realized this was a job for my little deli-slicer.
As its winter, I’ve been using quite a bit of stock out of my freezer for soups and stews. It seemed like this weekend was a good time replenish my stores by making some collagen rich pork stock from pork trotters and neck bones.
I shared this pic on my personal facebook page and the general consensus there was “gross”. Although trotters don’t have the same panache as a standing rib roast, they do have a certain je ne sais quoi (and I wouldn’t call them gross).
A number of years ago my parents were visiting Paris. At a restaurant, they were offered a menu in French and English. My father’s grammar school French led him to believe that an item on the menu was “foot of pork”, but the English menu said “leg of pork”. When he inquired, the waiter assured him that it was leg of pork (I think you see where this if going…). When a trotter was brought to the table, my father was less than amused. It is worth noting that my parents are from England, bringing up theories of potential remnants of French-anglo animosity!
As I write this, the trotters have been simmering for almost 24hrs and have made three lovely batches of stock. I have some omnivorous scrap-disposal units that are looking forward to the remnants!
I used some of the stock to make a hearty soup for lunch today, which I paired with a luxurious beef marrowbone.
I’m one of the few med students on my current rotation who consistently brings lunch. In preparation for this week, and in keeping with the offal theme, I decided to cook up a cow tongue. After it has simmered for a number of hours I’ll shred it and sauté it with an onion and some spices, eventually portioning it out with some mashed sweet potato.
The final offal of the day is a meaty shinbone that I will stew up with a beef kidney, making the old British standby Steak and Kidney (minus the pudding). Kidneys were one of the last odd bits to make their way into my diet. As a child I would hear of this traditional British meal and cringe- funny how things can change (and how long it can take to get over childhood aversions!).
I realize offal isn’t for everyone, but I hope this might inspire someone to give offal a chance. There are other great things to do with odd bits (imagine a post on offal that doesn’t talk about liver!), and with the help of the internet you can get all kinds of tips and recipes (or you can buy a book). Even if offal isn’t for you, I hope you can recognize that nose-to-tail eating is a responsible decision when thinking about the ethics of eating meat (even if you do find it a little gross).
(Here’s guessing that a number of my friends won’t be looking for dinner invites anytime soon!)