What was I thinking?

"What was I thinking?" was the question that I asked myself about 1/2 way into my processing of the 60lbs of frozen beef hearts that I bought at the restaurant supply company.  It would have been an easy thing to do if they were fresh, but they were frozen.  All glommed together, in a 60lb frozen block. They were $1.38 per lb.

They were unglommed afterter letting them unfreeze a bit to separate them from each other.  This 'key' of course was found after exhausting all other possibilities, one of which involved a Sawzall.  WEll, there is a reason why Dexter (on the series) had poly everywhere and a splatter shield. Mark decided that the Sawszall was getting to gunked up.

I even had the bright idea that perhaps the woodsplitter might be helpful.  Mark disabused me of that notion.  He had some things to do and felt bad about leaving me to the task of processing this meat.  I said, "Hey, this is my bright idea.  I'll take care of it."

We have a wide assortment of tools from house rehab 'stuff'.  My tools were a demo hammer and a brick chisel. I resorted to this when we determined that we did not have the right bit for the hammer drill.  (This will be remedied).   This fall-back worked pretty well once the deep freeze of the meat went to just 'freeze'.  The hearts separated along their contours without my bruising a knuckle.  But a demo hammer is heavy, and I was quite fatigued prior to even wielding a knife.

A beef heart weighs (according to internet sources) up to 5lbs.  I did NOT in my typical fashion weigh them.  I used the defrost setting on my microwave (thank goodness I have a large one) to get each beef heart to a less-frozen point where I could cut it.  Due to the size of these hearts, this was a progressive defrost and slice on the outer areas, that were just frozen enough to get the knife through with some reasonable effort.

I managed to do it all without unfreezing the meat. I didn't bother measuring the yield after I cut out the fat. I just didn't care at that point.  My trusty assistants, Ella and Angel.  I had to continually move Angel from being underfoot.  I could not risk a knife slipping and causing harm, which is a distinct possibility.

Would I do it again?  I don't know the answer to that. I had a very good appreciation for the anatomy of the heart, and for the profession of butchers.  Such a work out:  arms, shoulders and hands.  I am still sore two days later.  Go to the gym or process beef hearts?  I would not wish to scrap with a butcher. This heart is to be a component of my recipes to supply organ meat.  I did call the supply company to ask how I could order fresh heart.  I can, but I have to order 250lbs.  Nope!

I might do this another time if I could assure myself that the hammer drill with the right bit would separate the hearts better.  I would simply put the individual hearts in the freezer, rather than wrangling them all at the same time.  I went to bed exhausted...but a good exhausted.

I have lots of good heart, human grade, so as a cook, I would like to cook it for my family.  Here's a great blog post with how to trim heart, and the nutritional value of organ meat, particularly beef heart.  In fact, it is the complexity of the minerals in organ meat to deepen and widen the nutritional profile of RAW feeding.
Channeling Adam Smith at the Restaurant Depot:
  •  the yield on my last 40lb box of non-jumbo chicken leg quarters was 27.5lbs after pulling off the fat and skin and weighing the retained water. That is shrinkage of about 31.3%.  Something to keep in mind when calculating final price of useable product.
  • I bought 24 lbs of frozen vegetables (in 2lb packs) for .71/lb.  I grind these up with the meat.  They keep the auger freezing cold and the meat cold. Grinding on their own causes the machine to freeze up.  I don't bother freezing the chicken before processing it.  I've never had any problems grinding chicken this way; but I attribute that to also adding the frozen veggies which keeps all of the product very cold.  Cold=safe.
  • In the frozen case, you can buy a 5lb chub of frozen turkey for $2 per lb.  OR you can buy a 10lb chub for .86 per lb.  That's an easy choice. . . now that I have a freezer.  (UPDATE the 5lb is not the same as the 10lb in terms of fat content.  The 10lb has 26% fat v. the 15% fat of the 5lb chub.  I would have noticed this had the sticker not been placed over the analysis on the 10lb!)
I feel that I'm finally at a point where I have optimized my recipes, sources and production and storage methods. To be sure, I'm confident that I'm making it more complicated than it needs to be, but 'to thy own self be true' is at work here.  it was important for me to do the wide scope of resource gathering for both the science, sourcing and processing of this RAW feeding.  I'll provide some costing information on my recipes to provide an honest assessment of the costs of this endeavor (and time requirements).

Regarding production/storage:  I have read where people use and reuse ziploc bags, or use trash bags or other means of storage.  Some even use vacuum bags.  Some weigh out all and store.
Here's a few points
  • Ziploc bags are 
    • hard to handle
    • get icky around where you need to seal them when you fill them
    • don't always close well
    • don't stack well
    • But they do have their place in this process at times..  (Though I did put the beef hearts in these).
  • Vacuum bags:  these have all of the problems of Ziploc bags plus they are expensive.  I don't need long-term storage.
  • Plastic storage containers (Arrow Stor-Keeper for example) which are freezer safe (some plastics get brittle in the freezer) are a great way to both package and store food.  
    • They can be washed in the dishwasher and can be used over and over for YEARS.
      •  I use the 1 qt which holds 2lbs of ground food. These can be purchased for less than $1 each and will last your lifetime. They also make a 1/2 gallon container which can be purchased for about $2 each.
    • They stand open and can be filled easily.
    • Top affixes easily
    • the 1 qt defrosts well on the counter (for less than 4 hours).  Because of its size, nothing gets warm while the rest is frozen.
    • Store easily in the freezer
    • Protects foods
  • Large Cambro or Rubbermaid containers:  Expensive (unless you find a deal at Salvage places, etc), but fill easily; holds 10lbs of food; washes in dishwasher and stores beautifully in the freezer and fridge.  With large dogs, this works.  Not for someone with cats or small dogs.
  • Silicon bakeware:  This is a great way to fill and freeze and then pop out.  Silicon bakeware is expensive; but I found some at thrift store at deep value.
    • loaf pans are great because you can slice them when partially thawed.
  • Regular bakeware:  Same thing, just line with waxed paper, parchment paper, saran etc...fill, freeze, and pop out.
  • Individually frozen:  You can take a 4 oz food service scoop and scoop out food onto a baking sheet and freeze.  Once frozen you can put in a Ziploc without it all glomming together.  I started with this method, but I found it time consuming.  It does have its merits though.
  • Chub Bags:  I am seriously considering getting a 2" stuffing horn and simply grinding into chub bags.  Would also get a bag closing machine.


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