Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

WARNING: This post contains pictures that may not be suitable for all viewers.

But not this - this is just what the Bag Lady saw the other day when she got to the highway. Yes, that IS a snowplow.

The Bag Lady and the Rancher have been busy with a variety of things, not least of which is the laying in of supplies for the winter ahead. (Sounds industrious, doesn't it?)

Actually, they decided to supplement their meat supply with some pork, so the Rancher contacted a friend of his who raises pigs, and arranged to buy a pig from him. The friend agreed to sell him a pig on the understanding that the Rancher and the Bag Lady would assist in the butchering of said pig! The Rancher and the Bag Lady (especially the Bag Lady) have never really been involved in butchering animals, so it was with some trepidation that they approached the task. They needn't have worried, because there were several people there who were much more experienced and willing to teach.

The Rancher did some trimming, and the Bag Lady did some wrapping (and actually spent most of her time trying to improve her taping techniques and penmanship.... it is not easy to write legibly on butcher paper wrapped around an uneven surface!)

The Bag Lady managed to take a few pictures of the process. If you are squeamish, or have a weak stomach................... fear not! The Bag Lady did not take any pictures of anything that you wouldn't see in your local grocery store! Well, except that some of the pieces are much larger than you would see in the grocery store....

Here is half a pig being carried into the butcher shop:
(yes, that is snow on the ground)

The first cuts are made by hand:

And the fat is trimmed with a very sharp knife:

Smaller pieces are cut with an electric meat saw:

Cutting roasts:

Wrapping pork chops:

The Bag Lady also brought some of the fat home and is rendering it into lard for use in pie crusts. When she mentioned that fact to a friend of hers, her friend immediately made a comment regarding the fact that lard is supposed to be bad for you. In actual fact, there is evidence to the contrary. The Bag Lady found an interesting article about the comparison between animal fat and vegetable fat, and the misconceptions about animal fats. If anyone is interested in learning more about the connections between fats and heart disease, here is an interesting article.

The Bag Lady is still in the process of rendering the fat into lard (it takes a really long time!), and will hopefully have pictures to post for you later, if you are interested. If you are interested in seeing the rendering process, please let the Bag Lady know in the comment section!

She apologizes to anyone who may have been offended by the pictures of butchering contained in this post, but for those of us who eat meat, this is all part of life.


carla said...

thank you.

we've been waiting for this post :) and I love how you say it's a fact of life when we choose to eat meat.
it is.
I do choose.

Thank you.

Marianne said...

I think it's important, too. If you're gonna eat it, you have the responsibility to know where it came from. THEN you can pretend that it's just pretty packages from the butcher....

Totally want to know about the lard!

messymimi said...

I have a tremendous amount of respect for people who process their own meat. They know it doesn't come from the store already wrapped in cellophane!

A tremendous amount of work goes into it, doesn't it?

Good for you for tackling it!

messymimi said...

For got to say the first time, of course lard and butter are not worse for you than artificially processed so called vegetable oils! Your body recognizes them and digests them, the other, chemically laced and processed junk is what is bad for you.

If you want to post pictures and instructions on how to render fat into lard, that's fine with me. I believe the Little House books talk about such a process, and it would be interesting to see.

Cheryl Kohan said...

Include me in the requests for lard rendering pics :-) (You have pretty hands, btw.)

Anonymous said...

Lard-rendering photos, please!

And a big AMEN on Carla's comment!

I'm still grinning over the use of a bedsheet to transport the side of pork. ;)

I've given up margarine. It never did taste good anyway and butter is something that my body at least recognizes. I've used lard before and I really ought to give up shortening (I *know* it is an inferior & chemically altered product)... convenience is a siren song...

Charlotte said...

An electric meat saw?! Who knew such a thing existed? And I think that if people choose to eat meat then they should know exactly where it is coming from. Kudos to you and the Rancher for taking an active part in your meals! (Okay I don't know anyone who takes a more active part in their food than you guys - you're my hero!)

PS> I've been hearing good things about lard too - esp. when compared to partially hydrogenated oils like Crisco...

Scrumpy said...

You are always doing something that makes me think I am just a wimp!

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Ah, something I know a little bit about! I went to a women's camp a couple years ago and one of mini-classes I took was on field dressing wild game. We didn't have any wild game, so we used a pig. We didn't get to the part where we cut actual pork chops and such, but we learned the correct way to take the innards out, skin it, etc.

I'm not disgusted by such things at all. I'm not sure why.

I rarely eat meat but I take no issue with people who do, as long as they're not evangelists about it. I just feel better on a mostly-vegetarian diet. Others don't. To each their own. I do think, though, that it's more ethical to raise or hunt one's own meat than to buy factory-farmed meat at the store.

Leah J. Utas said...

Thanks for the pics. As an old farm girl they were a reminder of my youth and frankly, pretty darned tame.
Love the hog in the bedsheet.

Gives us a post on rendering lard, please. My mom did it and I found the process fascinating. Can't recall why, though.

Anyway, thanks for the trip back in time for me.

Hilary said...

I, for one, am horrified and sickened by the images in this post. Baggie, how could you consider presenting such an inconsiderate and thoughtless display of SNOW? I mean really.. it's only October! ;)

The butchering photos, on the other hand, are very interesting. I totally agree with Marianne about needing to know where it comes from. And taking a part in the process is all the better. Unique post, my friend. :)

the Bag Lady said...

Carla - no, thank YOU! I appreciate your support (as always!) :)

Marianne - I'll try to have the lard post up for tomorrow (and by that, I mean the lard about rendering, not the one about my ass!)

Messymimi - thank you! And yes, there is a lot of work involved in butchering your own meat, but it makes you appreciate it even more!

Cheryl - I'm hoping to have the rendering post put together for tomorrow. Oh, and those were actually my friend's dainty, yet capable hands, but I'll pass the compliment along!

kcinnova - I seldom if ever use shortening (I have, on occasion, many years ago, but not often) and NEVER for my pastry. Lard and butter are much better for you (and lard makes THE best pastry!)

Charlotte - I was afraid this post might offend you - I know you don't eat a lot of meat! And yes, in my opinion, lard is better for you than hydrogenated oil. Animal fat has vit. D in it!!

Scrumpy - On the other hand, YOU are always doing something that makes me feel like a country bumpkin!! :) That's the great thing about blogging, isn't it? We get a peek into someone else's world!

BG - so, between us, we could open a butcher shop..... because I wasn't there for the skinning and innard-removal! :)
I totally agree with you on several points, not least of which is the "to each their own" point! No evangelism here, thankyouverymuch.

dfLeah - glad I could trigger some happy memories for you! I shall post about rendering lard - it was a long process, but successful (at least, the finished product LOOKS like lard....LOL!)

Hilary - I'm sorry (*hanging head in shame*) I just couldn't resist posting the picture of the snow plow so y'all know what's happening around here!

Geosomin said...

All I could think of when I read this was that my dad's jigsaw in the shop looks almost identical to the meat saw!
I like the is interesting the links people have made between fats and cholesterol. I've been involved in a lot of cholesterol studies (rabbits and mice) and it's the cholesterol, not the fat that is the issue, yet people still focus on the fats. It's the cholesterol that clogs up the arteries, and animal VS vegetable lard is sort of a moot argument...saturated fat is saturated fat, and still MUCH better for you than hydrogenated oils and margerines - artificially saturated oils are much worse for you...when they are heated to high temperatures they can form acrylamide...bad stuff. Carcinogenic in large quantities.
The more we study it turns out if you're going to use solid fats for cooking that butter and lard are just fine. I use vegetable lard just because I can't be sure of the quality of the lard I buy in the store (I've gotten rather crazy about wondering where prepackaged foods come from...if it was local or from someone I knew I'd be fine with it...

I think if you're going to eat meat you should know where it comes from and how it's "made". I wasn't bothered at all by the pictures, I find that fascinating. We get all our beef from a friend, and know the animals were well cared for, humanely butchered and the meat was properly packaged.
It was interesting to see a pig butchered...I've never seen a pig before...
I'd be very interested in how to render fat into lard. My grandma did it but I was too young to remember. My mum can't stand the smell so she's never done it...I'm very curious :)

Sagan said...

That is SO COOL that you got to help butcher it! I really really want to go hunting and then butcher and eat whatever I hunt- to be honest, I think that everyone should do that (if they're an omnivore, anyway)... we should be trying to get more involved in the process of our food so that we really understand it.

Thanks for linking to that article, looks interesting.

the Bag Lady said...

Geo - yes, they are essentially the same saws! (Bet you'll never look at your dad's the same way, though! LOL)
I'm glad to have your input on the cholesterol debate - thanks!
As far as using veg. shortening, I still prefer lard for pie crust, simply because it tastes better.
And your mom is right - rendering lard does not smell very good. But I'm glad I did it, because I was curious.

Sagan - Kudos to you for wanting to go hunting and following through on the entire process. I confess, I cannot bring myself to go hunting - I simply could not shoot something (well, okay, I've never been hungry enough to HAVE to shoot something) but I absolutely agree that we should all be aware of the process of how food gets from hoof to table, so to speak.

Reb said...

Very informative post Sis. I have to check out the link now.

Yes I want to see the lard rendering too.

the Bag Lady said...

Thanks, sis! It was an experience!

Melissa said...

Yes, I want to know about the lard rendering, though likely I will never do any.

And I agree, as I also commented on FB, lard is better for you than margarine or shortening. It even has some unsaturated fat in it.

I read an interesting article in the food section of the NYTimes several year ago, about superrefined lard, that looks kind of like shortening except creamier. They were raving about it. You have to go all the way Downtown somewhere to buy it, though, and I'm not that much of a foodie. It supposedly makes AWESOME piecrust, though...

the Bag Lady said...

Melissa - I am hoping that my (not super-refined, just all natural) lard will make good pastry! I'll post about the lard rendering tomorrow (and I promise to try to make it much more exciting than it actually was!)

The Fifth Sparrow said...

Oh MY this took me back! Years ago, my step father bought us a half venison from the Sarcee Indians and we had to go help with the cutting and wrapping. I was labelling and the Nameless City Slicker was delivering the cuts from the saw out on the porch.
I kept holding up cuts for my mom to identify and at one point held up two venison blade steaks saying, "Mom? What are these called again?"
Nameless Man proudly shouted over the din of the saw, "Even I know thaaaat! Those are PORK chops!"

the Bag Lady said...

Sparrow - that cracks me up! One of the packages that I labeled for one of the other women there was blade steaks. When I asked her what was in the package (she handed it to me all wrapped up and I hadn't seen what was in it) She said "Shoulder. Err, blade.... You know!" So that's what I wrote on the package. *snort* A few months from now, when she digs that out of her deep-freeze, she'll get a laugh (I hope!)

solarity said...

I second Hilary! It's Cruel, Cruel, to show us a snow plow in October. We're sorry for you, of course, but still. (I really honestly thought, for the first paragraph, that that's what the warning was about.) Just to rub it in, my heat is still turned off and the temperature indoors is staying about 65F. [smug]

Rendering lard. I never did it, but I hung around while my best-friend-the-doctor's mother did. Send me some virtual crackling, please!

When the whole "animal fats Aren't Healthy" thing got started, I was still allergic to almost all the vegetable oils, and I spent a lot of time saying "Vegetable oils healthier? Not for me they're not!" My local grocery sells lard in five gallon buckets. (As well as smaller quantities.)

Mary Anne in Kentucky

the Bag Lady said...

Mary Anne in Kentucky - I just wanted to give you something to feel smug about!! :)
Our temperatures are supposed to rise to normal tomorrow - my fingers are crossed!

I think the cracklin's would be better if there had been rind on the fat....

Clare2e said...


If it's not a moral issue for someone, NOTHING, but NOTHING is better for pastry baking than lard. Your pie crusts will crumble into golden ecstasies of flaky goodness, and if you're socked in starting in October!-- you'll need some high-quality comfort food. Now, where's my recipe for bacon pie to get all the yummy food groups in?

the Bag Lady said...

Clare - bacon pie is one of my favourites!!!! (I actually do make a quiche with bacon and cheese that is delish!)
And you're right - for wonderful, flaky pie crust, nothing beats lard!

Sarah Anne said...

I'm a horrible City Girl. I'll eat it, but I tend to repress the knowledge of where it actually comes from. Don't shoot me.

the Bag Lady said...

Don't worry, Georgie! I would never shoot you! And now you know a little bit more about where your food comes from, right? :)