Wednesday, 18 October 2006

Z the butcher

Well, you won't guess what I've been doing this morning. Unless you've read the title of this post, which is a bit of a giveaway. I'll rephrase that....You might well guess what I've been doing this morning, but it's still a bit startling. And I suggest that all vegetarians or those who don't like to think where their food comes from stop reading right now.

I'll leave an extra line or two so that your eye doesn't stray. Goodbye, see you later I hope.

We have a field. A few of them in fact. One is for grazing dairy cows, two are used for grazing dairy cows in the later stages of pregnancy, when they don't need to be near to the farm for twice-daily milking, one is, at present, cut twice-yearly for hay and one, a little distant from the house, is lent to a friend to keep a few sheep on. It is a favour to both parties, as the grass needs to be eaten and, being by the river and prone to flooding, cows cut it up too much. It is a rather ancient piece of grassland and once, years ago, the Sage saw a bittern there, which was tremendously exciting (they are awfully rare) and I so wish I'd been with him.

The lambs from the sheep are there to be eaten. And, having been naturally raised - no supplementary feeding (the ewes have some in the winter), they grow at their natural pace and taste wonderful. We buy one each year. The local butcher would cut them up for a tenner, but does that sound like us? The Sage and I got going with cleaver, saw and knife and now the freezer contains neatly parcelled joints and chops. Not that neatly butchered, admittedly, but I wrap a mean joint.

It does make me feel a bit of a brute, but on the other hand I really don't care for the parcelled pieces in the supermarket that try to make you forget that you are actually going to eat a piece of an animal and that was its purpose, in living and in dying (I sense I am losing readers with every word here). I'd rather face it, once in a while, and remind myself that I'm an animal with no more sense than any other. Killing is a bit different however. Though I'm afraid I have a fondness for mussels...fortunately the Sage doesn't, so I only have to scrub enough for myself.

12 comments:

jen said...

i can hear you roar from all the way over here..you fierce earth goddess, you.

Z said...

A sheep in wolf's clothing - most of the time...

Anonymous said...

I didn't know what a bittern was..I thought it may be an antique piece of furniture..well really..being the people you are that WOULD excite you a lot...no? Anyway - then I thought surely not. Not even the Sage would not get excited over something that sounds like people washed in or did other body functions in..so then I thought maybe a type of deer....anyway I Googled it...and it's just a bird. *sigh*..nothing exciting then.

Is naturally-reared lamb tougher than the mass bred stuff?

Z said...

You are such a tease. It is awfully rare and how many birds do you know which boom? That is its call. "Boom" it cries, hoping to attract a mate, "Boom, boom." Now that Basil Brush rarely appears in public, maybe it has a hope of surviving (being a South African who has lived in Argentina and France, this may not mean much to you).

It looks a bit like a heron but with short legs and it stands in the reedbeds with its long, pointed bill sticking upwards, hoping not to be seen except by another bittern.

Actually, lamb has more hope of being fairly naturally raised than most other meats, as sheep are suitable for pastures where nothing else will thrive, like the Yorkshire moors and Welsh fells. If you get it at the right age, before it's halfway to mutton, it is tender. We're having the chops that I cut particularly askew tonight, so I'll report back.

jen said...

you know, i think we should get to here the entire menu.

and if you actually offer wine parings per course, consider this my notice - i'll be there this weekend.

Z said...

Hey, it's open house here. Welcome, and the spare room is ready.

The lamb was extremely delicious and tender. More fatty, it must be said, than would be acceptable to a supermarket, but it does add flavour and you don't have to eat it. Roast potatoes, cooked in the lamb fat which I had rendered down; locally grown, though not by me, cauliflower and beetroot, mushrooms from our field cooked with shallots, white wine and a dash of cream.
The last, probably, of the local raspberries. There may be a few more at the weekend, but the rain may spoil them. We ate most of them last night, but there are a few left.
Wine - nothing exciting, a reasonable Cabernet Sauvignon. But there's plenty left, and always champagne in the fridge....

Anonymous said...

I admire you for doing your own butchering, I'm afraid that the icky bits, stomach and bowels and such would make me feel queasy.

I'm a dap hand at picking mint though!

Z said...

I don't mind icky, but I draw the line at rabbits. In their undefurred state they are not even allowed in the house. They smell like the worst BO. Ooh. Like the Tube in a power cut, except smellier but not so humid.

Jamie said...

My friend J sent me here because she knew I'd appreciate what you'd done. Bravo!

We carved up a half-pig last fall (made our own sausage, ham, and bacon), and we've slaughtered our own turkeys, chickens, and ducks. It's never easy emotionally, but it is SO worth doing for the sake of knowing where it came from. And it's just better!

Next year we hope to get a couple of sheep...

jen said...

we can all assume that when i wrote here, i meant hear, yet freud would say i probably got it right the first time. yum

Z said...

Hello Jamie, you're very welcome. We are quite sentimental about our bantams and keep them until they die of old age - or a fox gets them which happens once in a while. The young male birds have to go, of course, but there really isn't enough meat on them to be worth keeping until they are old enough to be eaten, so an unsentimental friend deals with them as soon as we are sure they are male.
My son Al would like to keep a pig, as he has a lot of waste from his fruit and veg shop. It's made into compost, but would nicely supplement a pig's rations. I am doubtful as I think that one pig would surely turn into a pet and if we couldn't bear to have it slaughtered we would be stuck with it forever.
I do think that ensuring an animal has a good life is the kindest way of being a meat eater. I'm glad that there are a lot more farmers now who think the same way, but still far too many factory farms, especially of chickens.

Jen, why is it that one never spots the typo until you've clicked send? I do it all the time. But yes, there was probably something in the 'here'!

Jamie said...

Our bantams are similarly exempt! So far the only chickens we have managed to kill have been roosters who were bullies, which makes it a little easier.

We have also thought about a pig of our own, but we suspect it would end up living out its life on a dog bed in the foyer instead of going to its, er, rightful purpose. :-)