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Cutting meat

The lamb carcasses hanged for a week. In a cold temperature the meat doesn't spoil in that time, just becomes more tender. Before cutting the meat I measured their weight; the smallest was only 8 kg, and the other two were 14.5 kg and 15 kg. That small one was tiny already when she was born, and wouldn't have survived without extra care.

I placed a table under the oak, and cut the first carcass there. Removing the hindlegs is always the most difficult part for me, as I find it bit hard to do it nice and clean - I'd like to keep muscles as intact as possible, following the fascias with the point of my knife, and then just disconnecting the hip joint. While I was working, an old story came to my mind. The story is from the book of Zhuang Zhou - a Daoist philosopher who lived in China about 300 BC. There is an extremely good Finnish translation by Pertti Nieminen, and I read the book in my late teenage years. So, the story goes something like this: an inexperienced person cutting meat gets his knife dull in a week, as he just uses brute force and constantly hits his knife against the bones. But a more experienced person only has to sharpen his knife four times a year, as he is more able to follow the natural structure of the carcass. And a grand master has his knife always sharp as he not only follows the natural structure smoothly, but he is also able to carefully run the knifeblade through the small opening in joints, so that the knife gets sharpened in the process. And it is the same with our lives - we can work against the natural flow of The Universe, and our lives will feel troubled - or we can learn to go smoothly with the natural flow. What is special about this story is that it nicely illustrates why you can't learn this by just reading a book - just like you become a grand master in cutting meat only by practicing, and as you gain experience the skill is in your muscles and in the way you perceive the corpse - already seeing how and where the muscles go, being able to easily tell how to use your body so that you can smoothly run your knife in between different muscles, making them apart without using any brute force. This isn't supernatural, it is just a skill which you can't translate into words. So is Daoism; learning to feel and to perceive the flow of The Universe, learning to live smoothly with it.

That day I had time to cut only one of them. The next days I was working indoors. Armed with a knife, an axe and a bottle of dark caribbeam rum I was ready to continue my journey of becoming a grand master in cutting meat =) First I removed all the legs, and then went on harvesting special parts like the backstraps and the tenderloins. Some parts are of lower quality; for example in the flanks it isn't worth the work to separate the meat from the fat. Such parts I put in a bucket, waiting to be minced. The better parts I wrapped in a wax paper and put into the freezer. To remove the ribs from the spine I used the axe. I like the rib cuts, they are easy to cook in oven, and make a tasty winterfood just with some salt and pepper.

Finally I had a lot of meat in the freezer, some juicy bones for the dog to chew, and half a bucket of meat for mincing. It was about midnight when I was done with the mincing. When I was kid I didn't know where does mince come from. Our mother just bought it from the supermarket. I especially remember one day when I realized that the meat we are eating is essentially just the muscles of an animal. That there is no separate stuff called "meat", it is all just muscles, the same kind of muscles as I have. Oh, and only as an adult I have learned to grind mince. And now I realize that there is a huge difference between homemade mince and that stuff you get from a supermarket. I certainly don't want to know what all they grind into the mixture... but, well, luckily I will be totally self-sufficient for meat products for the next 10 - 12 months or so.

Ah, and after that there have been some rather busy days so I haven't had time to sit down to write this entry. But now I finally have a free weekend. Yesterday evening late, or actually at the midnight, I was sitting in front of my house, sipping that rum, watching the sky. There was a gentle wind softly playing a wind chime which hangs in the apple tree. The moon was in a waxing gibbous phase, making the scene dimly lit. There were some shooting stars and I felt peaceful and happy, wishing all the best for all of my dear friends.

Today in the evening I went to my bookshelf and found the book of Zhuang Zhou. I lit a fire in the fireplace and made some tea. Slowly enjoying the tea I browsed the book and found that particular story, it is in the beginning of the chapter III.

Tools for cutting meat: a knife, an axe and a bottle of rum
Tools for cutting meat: a knife, an axe and a bottle of rum
harvesting the backstrap
harvesting the backstrap
mincing meat
mincing meat
Reading Zhuang Zhou
Reading Zhuang Zhou
652 users have voted.


Fresh lamb, yum! So you are a rum person, huh? I am very much into well aged rums as well. Which one is that? What about your partner in crime? Both of you guys enjoy the sweet nectar? :P

This is (or was) Rum Martinique - just a cheapish basic rum to keep one going in the dark, cold wintery evenings =)

If by "partner in crime" you refer to Zhuang Zhou, I belive he was more of a wine drinker! Or, at least, chinese poet Li Bai who lived nearly thousand years after Zhuang Zhou was a keen follower of Daoist philosophy, and often mentions enjoying wine in his poems.

And the same goes for the lamb meat - some parts I already cooked and enjoyed with red wine. Oh, and now this brings to my mind something what happened after I bought a bottle of Port Wine and enjoyed it sitting in the oak on my yard. On the bottle it said that it will stay good for weeks after opening - but it didn't! After three or four days the wine was gone, and nothing stayed for longer!

I was referring to Mr Sami. I am kind of big on rum and have a bit of a collection, so looking at the pic I got an idea of making a special donation, for very special folks, from quite a special reserve :P. So if both of you guys like rum, let me know and I'll try to find a way to do it.

Ah, got it! I was working alone while cutting the meat, and Sami seldom even eats meat, so I failed to get your reference to him.

Well, let's ask Sami himself and see what he says =)

... and he said: two thumbs up!

sent you an email :)


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