If you are new to real food cooking, then you may or may not be aware of the fact that we practice nose to tail eating; meaning eating the entire animal.
Two reasons: 1) it makes grass fed meat affordable and 2) waste not want not.
Just like anything else, you will get economies of scale when you purchase in bulk and that means buying a whole or a half cow, lamb, or hog. We bought a half cow and a whole lamb for the first time a year ago. I ended up with a whole chest freezer full of beef (veal actually – see my post on why veal isn’t as bad as you might think). Everything I could ever want was included from steaks to roasts and stew meat to ground beef. I even got to choose how I wanted it cut!
On top of all of the usual cuts, these items were also included:
- 5 lb bags of fat
- Bags of knuckle, marrow and other bones of all sizes
I wasn’t sure what to do with many of these items. There was one thing I did know…I couldn’t very well give them away! So I did what any real foodie would do, I challenged myself to figure out the best way to prepare them. Thankfully I have an adventurous husband and daughter. What I have learned and made in the past year amazes me and I simply cannot believe that I never did this before! Just look at all of the really great things you can make when using the entire animal nose to tail.
Starting off Easy
Who knew you could do so many amazing things with beef fat? First I learned to render the beef fat into tallow (what is beef tallow?). I have used the tallow to make some pretty amazing french fries, tallow lotion bars (using a recipe from Mommypotamus’ DIY Organic Beauty ebook) and this healing skin balm. You can even make candles with tallow! This has turned out to be one awesome commodity in my kitchen.
I had made chicken stock many times before and decided to try my hand at veal stock. Veal stock is the most amazing stock you will ever make. Chefs prize veal for making their best stock. Veal stock is actually nothing like beef stock. It is much more mild and velvety and it doesn’t stink up your house like beef stock does. It is a white stock like chicken broth in that the bones are not roasted prior to making the stock. A reduced version of veal stock is called veal glace and it is used to make all kinds of amazing sauces. There are no issues getting a veal stock to gel due to the large amount of collagen in the veal bones! Get my recipe for veal stock in my eBook, The Homemade Mommy Handbook.
I am very comfortable preparing and making chicken livers because I make sauteed livers and chopped liver quite often. Until this year, I had never made calf’s or beef liver. Marinating the liver in whey for a few hours prior to cooking yields a more mild result. Beef liver is a lot stronger in flavor than calf’s liver. You can use calf’s liver and chicken liver interchangeably in recipes. You can also add liver to beef chili.
The key to cheek is braising it low and slow for a nice tender shred-able meat. You can keep this very simple and braise it in some veal stock. You will never doubt cheek again after trying this!
The easiest way to make oxtail is to throw it in a slow cooker along with something else you are cooking and that is just what with an Asian spin in my Slow Cooker Korean BBQ Short Ribs and Oxtail. Delicious! Another great way to make oxtail is to cook it with soup like Courtney does in this Oxtail Pho recipe.
A Little More Complicated
The first time I made beef tongue I figured the easiest way to get my family to eat this would be to fry it. My recipe for beef tongue flautas is truly divine and a great way to get folks to try tongue. You do have to think ahead with tongue because it needs to be cooked low and slow and then peeled.
I read that with heart, which is a muscle, you can either cook it quickly at high heat (such as on the grill) or cook it low and slow. I chose to marinate the heart and then briefly grill it. I am sure I did something wrong because the final dish was rubbery. I really didn’t like the texture at all and I figured I would never make or eat heart again.
The Easiest Way to Cook Heart and Tongue
It was frankly out of desperation and laziness that I happened upon the easiest way to cook beef heart and tongue. I needed to get through a bunch of items in my chest freezer to make way for this year’s half cow. I had a ton of bones left and I also spotted another beef heart and tongue staring up at me.
I really didn’t like the heart the first time. I didn’t want to be bothered with it. But I just couldn’t toss it in the trash. So I tossed it along with the beef tongue into my stock pot instead. After about 4-5 hours, I removed the heart and tongue, peeled the tongue and simply sliced them up. The meat from both was tender and absolutely delicious!
I can’t think of anything easier! You can store the diced meat in the fridge and then use for tacos or simply fried up with eggs in the morning!
Waste Not, Want Not
Eating nose to tail is about respecting the entire animal and using every odd bit. If you purchase a steak at the grocery store, you rarely think about where it came from. I have now worked my way through an entire half an animal and deeply appreciate the food this animal has provided to my family for the past year.