"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Butchering Season (the Breakdown)

Fall is butchering season. The grass is dying back and losing nutrition, and the meat animals are as fat as they are going to get. We've been keeping two goats alive, Polly's last kids, for quite a bit longer than we ever intended to. They are a year and a few months old, older than meat kids usually ever get.

The last time we bred the goats, I had such a hard time finding a buck that we eventually had to borrow my sister's buck. Blueberry is a beautiful animal, a terrific buck... but he's an Angora. That's a fiber goat. I have Nubians, dairy goats. So Polly's kids, all three of them, were half Angora, half Nubian. That's not a useful cross. They end up being no good for either fiber or milk, and not even really good meat goats, because they grow slowly and are small, like an Angora. They do have excellent flavor, but they take twice as long to grow a carcass only about two thirds as meaty. I only resorted to using Blueberry because I really needed the mama goat bred, so she would produce milk. I simply decided ahead of time that her offspring from that year would be meat animals.

Polly threw triplets, as a first freshener. That's good, she's a good goat. She's going to be an excellent milker, as well. She raised those triplet without losing any noticeable condition. Before we left for Oaxaca, we gave away the single buckling to a friend of ours who was similarly in need of a buck. We explained that any resulting kids would not be prime quality, but he simply wanted his does freshened, so it didn't matter to him. That buck is now living the life of Riley down in the skagit valley, lucky fellow. The two doelings stayed on the farm while we were gone. One of them was given to our neighbor, I forget exactly why. The other was traded to another neighbor for four turkeys, after we got back.

Then, neither neighbor wanted to come get their goats. Time passed, summer passed. It started to rain. We called the turkey trade neighbor several times, and he always said the same thing: "Yeah, I'll be up there this week." Our other neighbor said he'd take the goat as soon as he got a pen built. Meanwhile, they are eating the grass and mashing down fences. The rest of our goats are older nannies; they don't jump anymore. But these little doelings were jumpers. One morning they jumped the fence and ate up half of the neighbor's fruit tree. I began badgering my husband to do something, either to the fences or to the goats.

One day my neighbor's wife was out working in the garden and we had a conversation across the fence. I told her that we'd bring over the goat anytime, or we'd be happy to do the butchering ourselves and give her the meat, but that we needed the goat gone. She told me to nevermind about the meat, her husband shouldn't have fatty goat meat anyway, he had a triple bypass just a few months ago, and that she would take the blame. So we went ahead and butchered the goats.

Or, I should say, Homero did. He is still a pretty fledgling butcher, having only once done the job entirely by himself before. It took him far too long to skin the first animal - nearly an hour. By the time he was ready to start on the second goat, the other neighbor had answered our phone calls and shown up to help. He knew what he was doing, and so the second goat went much quicker than the first. We have learned the fastest way to dispatch the goats is with a .22 bullet to the back of the head (never the front - a goat has a thick shelf of bone over the forehead and a bullet between the eyes would ricochet and be dangerous) and then immediately cut the throat. The little guys hit the ground and are dead before they know it. Then we hang them by the tendons in their hocks from the swingset and gut them into a kiddie pool that we keep around for that purpose. The kids are far too big for kiddie pools anymore.

When the goats were broken down into about eight pieces - shoulder and foreleg, haunch and back leg, ribs and belly, neck and back - the men brought them inside and I did the rest of the butchering on the kitchen table. I'm getting better. It's easy to separate the shanks from the haunch, but much harder on the front end. I need to read up on that. I had to use a heavy cleaver to cut through the bone, and it made sharp splinters that had to be carefully washed out of the meat. I cut away the loin from the spine and cut it up for stew meat. I cut the belly meat (the flank) from the ribs and packaged it separately. That will probably be marinated, pounded, and grilled as steaks. The ribs are not very meaty on these goats and probably it would take all of them to make a meal for the family, big as our family is these days. The biggest, meatiest part is of course the haunch, or the upper part of the hind leg. Each of those will make a big, fat roast.

The chart at the top of this page shows the cuts as they would be made by a professional butcher. Bully for the professional butcher - I really ought to study and practice a lot more. I wish I could make neat sections like that. But it's virtually impossible to learn how to do that from a book. You need - or at least, I need - someone to actually show me, someone to put my hand in the right place at the right angle and say "feel that?" In the absence of such hands-on mentoring, I do the best I can. I did okay, probably about as well as I did on the King salmons a few weeks ago (Fish Tale (Canning Salmon)).
Could somebody else do better? Sure. Did I do okay? Yup. I have a freezer full of neat packages wrapped in white paper and tucked into ziploc bags. As my mom always says, "good enough for government work."

I used all four shanks of our goat for the butchering day dinner. I seared them in a hot skillet and then braised them in a mixture of orange juice, chilpotle peppers, tomato, garlic, and cumin. They were very good, but they need to braise all day to reach that falling-off-the-bone consistency. I find that is the best way to cook goat. Again, according to the chart, there are fine chops and filets on a goat, but personally I haven't had much luck with cooking goat as though it were beef, fast and rare. Lamb works well that way, but not goat. Luckily, the falling-apart melt in your mouth meat was delicious, wrapped in fresh hot tortillas and dipped in the spicy sauce.

I am going to bring a package of the meat over to my neighbor, the one whose wife told me not to. Again, according to the chart, goat is actually very lean and has an excellent lipid profile.


Laura said...

I just did 7 rabbits last week. Yay for you doing your own butchering. If you want cuts like a "real" butcher, you need a saw, a band saw, preferably. Thats how they cut things so cleanly. I used limb loppers (no pun intended) to cut off the feet of the rabbits. It worked really well. I have a pair of racheting pruners that I use for that on chickens, and just couldn't locate them when I was doing the buns. I love goat. It's lean, slightly sweet, and very fine-grained. I've marinated it in an Avgolemeno-type sauce and it was awesome. Barbequed is great, too.

Aimee said...

Laura - ive only eaten rabbit in a fine retaurant (delicious) and wild rabbit from our property - once. It was not delicious. We thought about raising rabbits for meat but havent gotten around to trying it. How do you cook yours? What breed are they?