Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The bull in the kitchen

No, not the guy with the beard. It's on the table.

If you have ever wondered what almost 700 pounds of beef look like, wonder no more. This is a photo of most of what remained (at this point there was still another section of rib on the delivery truck) of a Aryshire bull that Trent had slaughtered as he begins the process of interbreeding his herd with a line of animals that do a better job of converting grass into milk. Shortly after the butcher dropped this off at the farm this past Saturday, another truck pulled in with the Devon bulls that will replace this once noble beast as the herd's pater familias.

Taking this much meat apart is a pretty big task. The first thing we did was break the legs and loins into primal cuts and put them in the cooler to dry age. Then I took apart the ribs and forequarters and boxed the meat for grinding. The tenderloins will be "wet aged" and sold as steaks. I'm planning to grind 90-100 pounds and turn most of the loins and some of the rounds into Bresaola (cured and air dried beef) when I return to work tomorrow (Thursday).

Now that I look at this picture again, I realize that it does not do a very good job of conveying how big this thing was. The rib cage was big enough to turn into an office chair. The hind legs and loins were easily 140 pounds each. Suffice it to say that I have never butchered anything this big. By comparison, cutting up a hog is child's play.

I'm not complaining, mind you -I love this stuff. It's what I live for. (Wow, that sounds wrong.)


boberica said...

Wow, talk about commitment!
From what I've learned about what you do there "down on the farm", you've got a busy couple of days ahead of you.
Would you say this is one small part of what you do in the kitchen/shop with the Hendricks, or does it pretty much all center
around charcuterie and butchery?
I'm thinking maintenace of the hanging meats would be enough to keep you tied down.
I guess what I'm getting back to really is...WOW
the other bob

Bob del Grosso said...


Nowadays all of my fabrication time is taken up with butchering, charcuterie and stocks. Previously I had been making all kinds of stuff, but we made a business decision to add retail cuts and something had to go.

If I wasn't learning so much about animals and their post mortem restructuring, I'd miss the other stuff. But I don't ! Plus, the charcuterie is a great technical and intellectual challenge and I'm very happy to have more time to meet this.

John said...

Admit - you're just trying to one-up Mr. Ruhlman and his hog butchering :-o

Looks delicious.

Bob said...

Are you going to make french fries with the rendered fat? That's supposed to make the best fries, though some prefer horse (according to Jeffrey Steingarten.)

boberica said...

On the subject of retail cuts...
I'm a big fan of alternative, or "butcher cuts" for grilling. Hangers and skirt, flatirons and culotte. Are there any other rewarding grill steaks that can be derived from your experience, either with this breakdown, or others?
the other bob

MadFud said...

Looks like something out of The Flintstones -- YABBA DABBA DELICIOUS!

Bob del Grosso said...

I'll never admit that in print.

No plans to make fries with this fat because I'm not wanting to eat fries. But be assured that I have many pounds of rendered kidney fat to do with what I wish (See my earlier post about cooking guinea fowl that are browned in rendered veal fat).


The muscle that runs along the bones in the neck are fabulous sauteed to rare and sliced thinly. For that matter, anything that runs along the spine can be cooked and served that way.

IdahoRocks said...

Just out of curiousity, Bob, do you just do "American" cuts of beef, hog, etc., or are you also familiar with the different European cuts, e.g., the French, Spanish, Italian, and German? And have you ever thought of giving any classes, you know, a week of learning to cut a hog, or a lamb, or a hind end of cow? I'm working like a dog now but would love to know more about butchering.

Bob del Grosso said...



I'm doing American cuts now because that's what my market expects (I don't have any chefs buying my work now. All of my clients are "home" cooks.) and I'm not comfortable enough with French and Italian butchery to push anything new on my client base. I know nothing about Spanish and German butchery and, honestly, even if I did my customers need so much help just understanding how to deal with American cuts that doing that would create a wildly unmanageable problem for all of us.

The bottom line is that I'm going to concentrate on honoring the animals I sell to my clients by presenting their flesh in a form that is recognizable and sensible.

Trent and I talk a lot about offering classes . But we always end up realizing that we are so much in over our heads already, that the idea keeps getting pushed onto a back burner.

I'm sure you can imagine...