Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Feeding the Family: Cattle, Part II

My door was closed and the windows were shut tight. Lying on my bed, I put the pillow over my head and pushed it into my ears with my fists. But I still heard it. Bang! It only took one shot and the job was done. I knew a young steer had just met it's fate and would be in our freezer before the end of the day. It was when I saw the steer, with a rope around its neck, being led to the ditch down by the chicken house, that I realized what was going to happen. I didn't want to have anything to do with this project! That evening, however, I found myself sitting on the basement steps, watching the process. Dad knew what he was doing; he knew exactly how to cut every piece of meat. There were steaks, roasts and ribs being cut up with knives and saws. I watched as chunks of meat went in the grinder and came out in long strings of bright red ground beef. Mom and some of my brothers were busy wrapping each piece in freezer paper, taping and labeling. Then all the neat packages went into the freezer. What a messy day - but a necessary part of feeding the family over the next year.

I have vague memories of the "rendering of the lard"; mostly I remember the horrible smell. I don't know how it worked, but all the fat, along with some lye (and maybe other things) eventually turned into bars of soap. Every wash day (Mondays), mom would shave off pieces of a bar of homemade soap into the wringer washing machine.

As a child, I never cared much for beef, though I did like meatballs. I still don't care for beef. I've often wondered if it has anything to do with my fondness for the cattle ... and the unavoidable butchering day.

1 comment:

  1. From your brother, Tom ,,,
    "The day we killed a steer, we skinned it out, gutted it (I took the heart, tongue, liver and kidneys to the house to be wrapped or cooked), salter down the hide and rolled it up to be sold (for leather), and quartered the carcass. It was then hung in the well house, covered by clean white sheets, to age for several days before it was processed and frozen. This was possible because we killed the steer in the fall when the weather was cool.

    Also, there is no lard in beef to be rendered. It is tallow and was used (as you said) to make soap."