Sunday, August 10, 2014

Freezer Cooking 2014: Meat and Organs

I hope you guys are ready for a slew of posts in the next 7 days. School starts back a week from Monday and I have been cooking up a storm and doing everything I can to get ahead for when things get crazy.

That means that it is the time of year for freezer cooking!! I have done this every year for the last 3 years. You can read about freezer cooking 2012 (Part I, II, III, IIII) and 2013 by clicking on the links. I somehow accidentally erased the second freezer cooking post from last year. Oops. 

As you can tell from those posts, normally I make a lot of sauces, some blanched veggies, and lots of chili and spaghetti. This year I am doing things a little differently. 

Many times, when I am scrambling to figure out what to make for dinner, it is because I haven't defrosted any meat. Generally, with frozen and easy to prepare veggies and starches, meals are easy on the fly, except for the meat portion. Chris can only take so many eggs for dinner, so having an assortment of pre-cooked meat options ranked high on my priority list for this years freezer cooking checklist. 

Also, I am very passionate about the health benefits of eating organ meats. When I am pressed for time, the first thing that I reach for is definitely not tongue or liver. haha!! So, I thought that having it pre-cooked would make it easier to get these nutritious foods into my diet on a more regular basis. 

Quick plug: I get all my beef and pork from a local farm, Indian Creek Angus. They do a wonderful job and all their products are absolutely delicious!

Okay, I did the bulk of the cooking last Monday and prepared the night before by pulling meat out of the freezer to defrost. Here I have 3 lbs. ground beef, 1 lb sausage, one beef tongue, liver, oxtail, beef cheek, rump roast, stew beef, pork shoulder, and 2 packages of ham roast. 

I started with the oxtail. I seared it in a dutch oven to give it some color. 

I followed THIS recipe from the Cooking Coach and added onions, beer, garlic, mustard, bay leaves and some spices and let it simmer on the stove for 3-4 hours. 

Then I separated the meat from the bones, chopped it and put it in a quart freezer bag. 

With the pork shoulder, I put it in a crock pot with salt, pepper and onions and let it cook for six hours on low. 

Then I deboned the meat, shredded it and mixed it back into the onions. 

We ate some for dinner and I bagged the rest up for the freezer. 

For dinner I mixed it with some shredded zucchini, collards and BBQ sauce and simmered it until the veggies wilted. I served it with green beans and rice. I love adding shredded veggies, like carrots, onions, zucchini, etc., to slow cooked meat. Many times you can't even tell it is there and it helps to stretch the meat!

While the meat was cooking I worked on making some beef and liver meatballs. I used 1 lb. of liver to 2 lbs. of ground beef. I blended the liver with 2 onions and 4 cloves of garlic in the food processor. 

I poured the liver blend into the bowl with the ground meat and added 1 tsp each of salt, pepper, basil, oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes and mixed it really well. 

Then I used a mini cookie scoop to make meatballs and baked them in a 350 F oven for 30 minutes. I think they turned out really good! This is the best way I have found so far to hide liver. 

I loosened them on the tray and placed the tray in the freezer. Once they were mostly frozen, I put them in a plastic gallon ziplock. I can use these in a lot of dishes. Meatball subs, spaghetti, chopped up and put onto pizza, served with pesto over rice, etc... 

Then I cooked and prepped tongue. I am not going to lie about the weirdness. It is like you would expect a tongue that is 2 1/2 pounds to look like. haha! I followed THIS tutorial from the Curious Coconut. 

She recommends cooking it for 1 hour for every pound of tongue. So I simmered it for 2 1/2 hours in a little bit of water on the stove. 

Then I had to peel off the outer coating. I read that it is harder to do once it cools, so I put on a glove and peeled it while it was hot. I think the dark spots on the tongue are the taste buds. How cool is that? Then I sliced it thinly and froze it in 6 oz portions. I think I will use it for toasted sandwhiches or tacos. I didn't know what to expect, but I tried a little piece and it tasted really good. It just tasted really beefy. I think Chris will like it. He said he doesn't mind eating it, he just didn't want to look at it, and he doesn't want me to tell him when he is eating it. haha 

I ended up with 3 bags of tongue, one bag of pulled pork and onions, one bag of oxtail stew,  two 6 oz. bags of cooked sausage, and two 6 oz. bags of cooked plain ground beef. 

I took the beef cheek, rump roast, and stew beef and put it into the dutch oven with some bones and onions and garlic. I let it simmer for 4 hours and then I removed the bones and shredded everything together and bagged it up. 

I also had some ham shoulder that I cooked in the crockpot, shredded and bagged up. 

We don't buy many organic foods because they are expensive. This is why I try to grow as much of my own food as possible (or get it from friends and bartering!). However, I try to prioritize my meat and fat to make sure they are organic or coming from trusted sources. Because we have such a great source for beef and pork, we rarely eat chicken. Probably less than once a month. But on my last trip to Costco when I was stocking up on organic butter, coconut oil and olive oil I picked up 2 organic chickens. 

I placed them on a bed of fresh rosemary, oregano, lovage and thyme and rubbed them with an herb seasoning. 

I baked them at 350 F until the thermometer read 165 F. Then  I let them cool and deboned them, and chopped all the meat. 

I bagged the chicken and froze it in 8 oz portions. 

You know my thoughts about wanting to utilize every part of the animal, so as you can guess, I saved the chicken gizzards. I am planning on cooking the heart and liver with lunch today :).

I also saved the bones and will be making chicken broth. So, stay tuned for tomorrow's update where I talk all about BROTH! 

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