Holidays P&B Sustainability Effort

The Christmas and New Years Holiday period is normally the big time of year that I practice frugal home processing; to produce delicious meat items for family and friends.  Not being one to waste, I try hard to use nearly all purchased meat.  My wife & I are hosting the extended family Christmas party and brisket was decided upon as one of the two meats.  Our traditional “off-the-charts” fresh Polish sausage will be the other meat served there, and at all other Holiday entertaining.  Also, frozen 6 link packs of recently made fresh Polish are nice to give to selected individuals.

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Desirable characteristics of the whole brisket are that it can be skillfully cooked to a sufficiently tender state; while yielding eye-appealing whole muscle slices.  There are only two whole briskets per market beef animal so that fact coupled with the current U.S. smoke-cooked brisket craze is keeping this tough beef cut’s price comparatively high.

I once worked in a specialty meat processing plant where one of the major seasonal (leading up to Saint Patrick’s Day) products was wet-packed corned beef.  Wet-packaging trimmed brisket cuts is lucrative because they are pumped 35% above green weight with a curing brine then vacuum packaged to sell uncooked (the further meat processors add to product weight and take no cooking loss).  Selling water at meat prices is good work whenever you can get it.  Since widespread demand for corned beef was (still is) seasonal a lot of the briskets that we processed had been placed in freezer stockpile throughout the preceding year.  As I recall, the wholesale price of Choice briskets was just under $1.00 per pound it the early 1990s.

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Here we have the whole brisket trimmed and muscle seamed into the point and flat cuts.  Subcutaneous (carcass exterior) fat was trimmed to the 1/4 inch range, but is not showing in this picture.  An unique characteristic of  the brisket carcass region is that it contains the softest/least saturated type of beef fat.  In addition to being softer (more similar to grain-finished pork), grain-finished brisket fat also carries delicious beef flavor.  These attributes make brisket trimmings a good choice as a component of fresh sausage production.  The pictured brisket weighed 12.88 pounds and cost $30.77.  After 3.25 pounds of fat was trimmed off the cost of brisket for smoke-cooking went up to $3.20 per pound ($30.77 divided by 9.63 pounds of trimmed brisket = $3.20 per pound).  In this blog post brisket trim fat was utilized in sausage making; so a salvage value for it existed

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This shows the flat and point cuts heavily pumped with the following water soluble ingredients:

3 3/4 tsp. of sodium phosphate for roasts dissolved in one cup of bourbon.

Soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard and purified salt (all to taste) dissolved in two cups of water.  Brown sugar and/or liquid hot sauce make two other good additions.  The pumping brine should have a moderately salty taste.  Moderately low salt levels not only seasons meat, but also enhances cooked product moisture retention by way of swelling raw meat muscle protein.

Wisk mixtures together then pump all that you easily can into both brisket cuts.

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A spray needle hand-pump is all one really needs for occasional home usage.  Pumping/injecting gets water soluble meat enhancements in to where they can react with meat in the entire cut; not just exposed lean surfaces.  If a real or faux (meat cure induced) finished product smoke-ring is not a priority in injected roast cuts, surface fat can be left to shield meat during long – low temperature cooks

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The center piece for Christmas Day dinner.  Most people prefer rib roast; which is why rib roasts are well over a dollar per pound more expensive, but with a little knowledgeable TLC Choice strip-loin will do a very acceptable job of feeding Holiday guest.

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2 1/2 pounds of thick fat has been removed.  After trimming, the price of ready-to-cook boneless strip-loin went up to $7.82 per pound.  This trim fat will also be used in fresh Polish sausage production.  The trimmed strip-loin weighed 12.07 pounds and therefore called for 4 1/2 tsp. of roast sodium phosphate.  With the exception of the proper amount by meat weight of roast sodium phosphate, the remainder of the pumping solution was formulated the same as for brisket.  I use the above listed marinate, or something very similar to it, for all whole muscle further processed beef items.  However, when it comes to pork roasts I have grown fond of using beer instead of liquor.

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Pumped strip-loin & brisket roasts in oven bags for easy storage and heading into refrigeration until their respective Holiday cooking times.

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Fun fact: this case of retail trimmed butts costs just a few dollars more than the pictured strip-loin roast.  Due to modern mainstream pork’s lean nature, fat beef trimmings are a good choice to enhance sausage palatability characteristics.  Whenever I process a whole case of these retail-trimmed butts, and don’t have any additional fat to incorporate into sausage, I remove some lean for either Goetta or smoke-cooked pulled-pork production in order to get my sausage batch’s fat percentage up to around the 25% range.

These butts are labeled Natural, minimally processed so we know that they have been meat plant pumped up to 10% with a salt-water and microbial inhibitor solution.  This information is important to know so finished sausage is not over salted or too watery.  Truly natural meat sausage formulations will require more water & purified salt than what is listed below.

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Boneless butt meat.  Fatter trimmings were separated out during boning.  Outdoor temperatures were in the 30F range during sausage making so my garage doubled as a walk-in cooler.  In the past I have boiled all 10 blade bones in salt-water to make pork broth to freezer store in plastic bags, but this time I got lazy and threw bones out.

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Once the starting raw meat weight was discovered non-meat ingredients were adjusted for this 85 meat pounds sausage batch.  This batch called-for 24 1/3 TBSP leaf marjoram, 12 1/2 TBSP coarse ground black pepper, 50 cloves of blender chopped garlic, 28 TBSP of salt, 7 3/4 cups of water and 10 TBSP sausage sodium phosphate.  Recall that we started with “minimally processed” butts.  Marjoram, pepper, garlic and 5 cups of water were boiled together; then salt was mixed in.   I have found that boiling pasteurizes bulk retail spices plus takes some of the “bite” off the garlic.  The hydrated/pasteurized seasoning blend was then chilled prior to adding to ground meat.

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Lean butt meat after two passes through a 3/4 inch hole size grinding plate.  Coarse grinding lean makes for an old-style fresh Polish sausage that when properly cooked develops some pulled-pork characteristics.  Fine grinding the fat components better distributes fat and eliminates any objectionably large globs.

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Very chilled beef fat went twice through a 3/16 inch plate.  Molded plastic lug lines were used to place nearly equal amounts of each grind type into each lug/tote.

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Well chilled fat pork went once through the 3/16 inch plate and is shown here on top of all other ground pork and beef.

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Batch was well blended by fisting, throwing back and forth between two lugs and by using a 17 pound capacity hand-crank meat mixer, a little at a time.  Entire batch is shown here in one lug; after being mixed to somewhat sticky consistency.

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32 – 35 mm natural hog casing coil.

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I’m able to sit the stuffer pictured here on our kitchen island and turn the crank with one hand while working the stuffing horn with the other.  Stuffer cranking is paused whenever the emerging coil needs winding.  When stuffing was completed I made a little coarse-ground pepper topped loaf from what was leftover.  The little loaf was covered, oven-cooked, chilled then sliced as lunch-meat.

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The gallon bag on the left was use to measure link length.  A knot was tied in both ends of six link chains.  Six link chains went into gallon bags; which were rolled tightly to help occlude air prior to being zip-lock sealed. Two bags of sausage then went into another gallon bag in order to achieve a tight double wrap for freezer storage.  Salt lowers the amount of time that sausage can be maintained in high quality during freezer storage, but sodium phosphate significantly reduces fat oxidation (inhibits warmed- over flavor development) plus aids in finished product moisture retention.

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These two packs of long links are out of freezer storage and still partially frozen.  Sausage is sitting on steaming racks with water under it.  Product is not touching the roasting pan bottom full of water so there will not be a lot of water-soluble meat nutrients (minerals, some vitamins, or some meat proteins) washed-out during cooking.

After sausage was nearly thawed, aluminum foil was sealed over the roasting pans; then pans were be placed in a 290F oven for 65 to 75 minutes.  After about 30 minutes the oven position of roasting pans (top or bottom) was switched to assure more even cooking.  I check cooking progress at 65 minutes to see if casings are starting to split.  The ends of 6 link chains are tied, so rendering fat does not easily run out of open link ends during cooking.  However, pressure builds up inside cooking links so after casings become tender they will begin to split.  The splitting of casings at does not much affect juiciness, but too much of it detracts from table-ready eye-appeal.

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Fully-cooked Polish long links ready to be cross-cut into shorter serving pieces.

 

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At smoke-cook start up, partially light two chimneys of briquettes in a row then spread them out on smoke-cooker’s fire grate.  Next, spread water soaked chunks of hardwood on top of briquettes just prior to putting the cooker shroud in place.

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Both the Christmas Day strip-loin and the day after Christmas brisket smoke-cooks needed shelter from a steady light rain.

I smoke-cook whole roasts upside-down because the muscle bundle sheaths that prevent supposed gravity fat basting can actually be used as a natural sort of cup to reduce cooking moisture loss.  Further, if fat side up cooking is practiced from the cook start the downward facing exposed lean increases gravity-fed product purge.

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Pumped strip-loin smoke-cooked 3 1/4 hours; at approximately 240F to achieve 135F internal temperature.

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Injected product enhancing ingredients slightly browned the roast’s interior; so using a meat thermometer to determine desired degree of doneness became even more important.  On the plus side: the strip-loin was delicious and if some guest don’t like the pinker appearance of medium-rare they might be more able to enjoy such pumped roasts.

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This pic of the brisket cook start shows water-soaked hardwood chunks that are about to be placed atop barely lit charcoal briquettes.

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The cold-spot of the flat reached 150F after 5 hours of smoke-cooking at approximately 230F.  Brisket cuts were then transferred into a large covered oven roasting pan; the roasts sat on a rack to keep them up of liquid.  Brisket sections were flipped so that fat-side-up cooking was practiced during the 220F, 100% humidity oven cooking phase.  That practice sent gravity-fed roast purge back other direction and theoretically keeps moisture in meat longer.  The exposed lean side of roast pieces were, by then, much better sealed then they were at the beginning of the smoke cooking phase.

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The cold-spot in the flat reached 190F after only 1 1/2 hours of oven cooking; because the consistent low temperature steam-cooking greatly increased heat transfer into cooking meat i.e. speeding the gelling of collagen.  The smaller point-cut did go to a higher finished internal temperature, but higher temperature cooking that fatter brisket portion is a common idea.  Brisket sections were re-covered and rested on top of a warm stove (there was Polish sausage in the oven) for about 2 hours until being sliced and served.  This pic shows that most of the smoke blackened subcutaneous fat layer was trimmed away.

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A small amount of smoked beef fat trim was fine diced to help make this fried cabbage & onion side-dish.  That’s a 14 inch diameter cast iron skillet that we picked up for $16 at an antique mall in Florida; it really comes in handy for Holiday cooking.

 

Contrary to some romantic small-scale farming beliefs, economies of scale normally make more efficient usage of resources, per meat animal unit.  So, the best way to actually further increase sustainable meat production is to develop delicious end-products from underutilized cuts.  By starting with minimally processed meat one can take control of most of what is added to meat products they consume.  Another home meat processing plus in modern societies is to have convenient, high quality meat items on-hand in freezer storage.  Microwave thawing and the often useful practice of knife cutting meat products from a partially frozen state, both reduce final preparation time.  There isn’t anything like good home meat processing and cooking!

 

Written by George Wolfer

George Wolfer

Been associated with the meat industry pretty much since starting at a Vocational High school Meat Processing program in 1974. Like to learn and teach interesting and worthwhile livestock production, meat processing and marketing practices.

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