Saturday, October 24, 2009

It’s No Grind to Grind

In preparation for the recent move, our freezer needed its load lightened. Hubby took some food with him to the new location, leaving me three weeks to consume what I could of the remainder. Fortunately, we'd been reducing our frozen foods over the last few months in anticipation of defrosting and painting the freezer, so little food remained. Certainly, the move came at a fortuitous time.

The situation was paradoxical, though. I wanted the freezer emptied, but the emptier it got, the more stressed I became. There's something very comforting in a freezer filled with meats, fish, bread, stock, and vegetables. It's like a big piggy bank of food in which my mind's eye sees a calendar of meals. The more barren our freezer became, the more my accountant's brain chalked up a growing grocery bill. Having lived through some hard times, a sense of panic gripped me whenever I saw our freezer's diminishing contents.

Now, with the move behind us, one of the first things on our agenda was to start restocking. Our ability to replace all the usual content in one shopping trip was logistically and financially impossible, but we began by buying a few basics. One of which is ground beef. However, we don't buy store-ground meats, for a few reasons.

  1. I was once an accountant for a mall complex including one of its stores, a large grocery market. It was during this employment that I learned what cuts of meat are generally used in ground beef. That knowledge was enough to prompt us to begin grinding our own.
  2. Following close on the heels of that revelation were outbreaks of BSE, e-coli, and salmonella which affirmed our choice to grind meats at home. By grinding a whole hunk of meat, we know it comes from one animal, and we avoid the cross-contamination that is one cause of bacteria and disease spreading. Keeping our equipment clean and sterile assures the ground meats won't be contaminated during processing.
  3. Large, whole pieces of beef (about 25-30 pounds,) usually purchased from a butcher, require a substantial outlay of cash, yet cost per processed pound is ultimately less expensive than store-ground. By choosing a tougher cut of meat (brisket, chuck, etc.,) cost remains low and tougher cuts are perfect for grinding or stewing.
  4. Depending on the butcher, extra aging can sometimes be requested. A well-aged cut will be more expensive, but flavours are intensified and, for dishes in which ground meat is featured, such as grilled hamburgers, the heightened beef flavour may be desired and worth the added cost per pound.

I'm happy to say we found a great butcher shop in the city (Kamloops) and bought a whole beef brisket. It was just over 29 pounds but, by the time we'd trimmed the connective tissue and extraneous fat and ground the meat twice, we ended up with 23 pounds of ground beef and 2-plus pounds of stewing meat. We ended up paying a little less than $3.20 per pound for lean ground beef we feel is safer and tastier. Currently, the cost of lean ground beef at our usual grocery and butcher's markets is $3.99 per pound. The grocer's price for regular grind is $3.69 per pound, and the butcher charges $3.49 per pound. Stewing meat is even more costly. Any way you look at it, we've saved money by expending a little time and energy to grind our own meat.

We're still in the process of moving into our new home, so the connective tissue and fat were grudgingly wasted. Normally, I would've boiled those remnants to render out the suet, which can be then be used as "glue" for seed-balls to feed winter birds. Next time...

Now it's time to restock our stocks. I noticed our new butcher sells marrow bones and stewing hens that look fantastic.