Sunday, October 26, 2008

insert meat/chopper jokes here

Hazel's father's job means that he has contacts in the farming community, and occasionally the opportunity of getting hold of some locally-produced meat. So when we were offered the chance of a load of top-quality beef for the freezer, we naturally said, as you would, yes please.

Certain practical considerations presented themselves when we got it all home, however. Firstly that there was a hell of a lot of it (over 20 kilos in various forms, mince, stewing steak, joints etc.), though this wasn't such a problem as we have a biggish chest freezer that it just about all fitted in. Secondly, most of the big joints were frozen, and also they were, well, big. Far too big for two people, even when one of them is as greedy as me.

So we had a problem. How to separate a frozen joint of beef into two or more pieces, without having to thaw it out first (which would have precluded freezing it again afterwards). It turns out it can be done, though not without a certain amount of time and effort.

First, get some suitable tools together. This is (from left to right) my Dartmoor axe, a tenon saw, a hacksaw and a meat cleaver. It's the axe and the hacksaw that you'll find most useful. The other useful tool which I haven't pictured is a rubber-headed tent peg mallet.

It soon became clear that the hacksaw was the way to go - the cleaver (lethal with un-frozen meat) wasn't making much impression. So I grabbed a 2.4-kilo bit of silverside and away we went:

Be wary of stopping with the hacksaw in the meat like this - once you stop moving the blade the surrounding meat can re-freeze and you can find yourself with a hell of a job to try and free it without snapping the blade.

Turn the joint over and then have a go from the other side as well. Now you can (assuming it's not too thick) saw through the whole thing this way, but it's hard work. A better approach is probably to get about halfway through from a couple of directions and then put the joint on a hard surface (like, for instance, the ground), work the axe blade into the cut and then bash the back of the axe head in with the tent peg mallet.

The natural wedge shape of the axe head will force the two sides apart and eventually you'll be left with two smaller joints, ready to be bagged up and put back in the freezer.

Repeat for all the other joints and you'll be laughing. Eventually you'll be left with a big pile of sensibly-sized bagged up joints, as below.

You'll also be left with lots of tiny shredded bits of beef all over everything, which will rapidly thaw out. This is why it's a good idea to do this outside, and you'll need to clear up after yourself or it's very likely that you'll wake up the next day to a garden full of hyenas or vultures or something. At the very least it won't smell very nice.

Christ knows what the neighbours thought I was up to, though. I fully expect to be arrested for being some sort of cannibalistic serial killer any day now. And I seemed so normal!

I'm off to wash the mince out of my hair now. I've rewarded myself for my efforts by thawing out the rib joint that was in the box, so that will be granted the briefest acquaintance with the oven later before I gnaw its bloody flesh off the bone. Yum.

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