07 April 2012

Making efficient use of meat

This past week, I had the chance to buy a turkey from a local farmer, and I jumped at the offer. I will not eat industrial meat, so I don’t have poultry very often.

The bird was HUGE. I didn’t weigh him, but probably more than 15 lbs all told. He rested in the unplugged but still cold freezer for a couple of nights, and today was ‘deal with the turkey’ day.

There’s no way we would eat a bird that large at one sitting, and having all that cooked meat leftover would just be asking for trouble. I’m also not quite sure that I have a roaster large enough … Anyway, I decided that the best thing to do was to break it down into manageable parts.

I got out my trusty knives and sat at the table to begin processing. I removed all the skin and then took off meat as best I could – I’m not particularly skilled at this, but it’s much like carving a cooked bird, only it’s not cooked. I removed the silverskin and cartilage whenever I could and put big pieces in one bowl and small pieces in another. In the end, the two huge turkey breast pieces were frozen in separate bags, as one will be enough to feed all five of us no problem, and the other nice large pieces I got were put in a separate bag to be ‘turkey stir fry’ or meat for a casserole. The rest went through the trusty meat grinder (a big metal one, just like my grandma used, purchased at Princess Auto for under twenty bucks if I remember rightly). Three packages that are probably about a pound each were wrapped in waxed paper and put in the freezer to be the basis for some kind of ground meat meal, and the rest was mixed with a pound of bacon (also ground) and some seasonings to make sausage patties. Those are in the freezer now stacked on a cookie sheet between pieces of waxed paper, when they are frozen through I’ll package them up in meal sized batches.

The whole job took me about three hours, and although I could have made stock from the bones and the leftover meat, I chose to just let the dogs have what was left. I generally prefer vegetable stocks, as my old vegetarian meat aversions do come back and catch me unawares sometimes, and poultry broth can really trigger my “eww, no, can’t eat meat” reflex. The dogs and cats will clean off the bones, and since they weren’t cooked, it’s safe to let them have the carcass. (The dogs drag home bits and pieces of quite a lot of things so they are quite accustomed to raw meat … at least this stuff is clean, which is more than can be said for much of what I find them chewing on.)

All in all, I think this was a good use of three hours. The meat is now ready to use and it’ll hold us for quite awhile, as we still eat vegetarian a lot of the time. It’ll be nice to have roasted turkey this coming week, though, I’m looking forward to it!


  1. It's always very satisfying to split up meat like that. I always find I'm counting the final packages as I fill the freezer, and constantly doing the math ($x/person/meal vs. eating out). We eat meat daily, so it adds up so fast. I love knowing what's in there too - sometimes adding the seasoning in a marinade so some of the work is already done for later.

  2. I read about that - freezing the meat in a baggie with marinade, so that as it thaws, it soaks up the flavour. That sounds like a good idea.

    When I was at your house I was inspired by your re-use of the coffee bag, and, thinking of you as I did it, I put my turkey meat into Doritos bags! I know the junk food is bad for us, but it's so good and once in awhile ... ya just have to. I figure reusing the bag to freeze healthy meat must count as some kind of compensation. :)


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