Making Ground Beef

Several years ago, when I read the newspaper about the latest E.Coli outbreak in hamburger, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands.  During my investigation I found that the E.Coli is a common bacteria found in the intestines of healthy beef (and humans, by the way).  It is during the butchering process that the E. Coli can get spread throughout the beef.

E. coli O157:H7 and E. coli O104:H4 are two strains of the deadly bacteria that belong to a family of bacteria that’s evolved since the 1960s.  Scientists believe E. coli and another bacteria, shigella, swapped genes, creating a form of E. coli that puts off the dangerous shiga toxin.  This toxin is what can kill you. 🙁

How to grind beef

My freshly ground beef being browned.

However, one way to protect yourself against E. Coli is to grind your own hamburger!  Of course, it’s impossible to know if the meat you are grinding has or has not been contaminated by the bacterium.  However, if you simply rinse the piece of meat very well in cold water BEFORE you grind it into hamburger, the likelihood that you will contaminate the ground beef with the E.Coli is much less! Once your beef has been ground, it should be used immediately, frozen or canned, to prevent any of the possible bacteria that may have slipped through from reproducing.

Making your own hamburger

This meat cost less than $2.09 a pound.

When I grind beef, I like to use cuts that are leaner, but really any cut of beef that is on sale is good. Sometimes I even buy the ones that are marked down because their expiration date is getting close!  It’s okay – the beef is still perfectly sound, though it may have lost it’s blood red “bloom” because of the packaging.  Bring the meat home and immediately put it in the refrigerator, still in it’s package, and then prepare your equipment.  I like to bleach my cutting board and rinse with hot water before I put meat on it, and I have a specific cutting board that I use only for meat!  Make sure your knives and bowls are squeeky clean also!

Making your own hamburger

This roast was on sale for $2.49 a pound. I save the fat and eventually I will have enough to melt down into tallow for soap making.

First, wash the meat with cold water and wash it well. This will remove quite a few of the bacteria that may be clinging to the surface of the meat. Next, cut off any fat, gristle or icky things you don’t want in your hamburger. I just hate seeing those big blood vessels and cut them out.  I know they are perfectly edible, but it’s just a thing with me! 🙂  Of course, you have to leave a little fat if you are making hamburgers, but if you are going to just brown the meat or make a meatloaf, you can put in as little or as much fat as you want!  I go very lean with mine.  Then, cut the meat into strips.  Since I am using my KitchenAid with the handy-dandy meat grinder, I cut the meat into a size that will fit easily into the chute.  At this point, if I am not ready to devote my time to making hamburger and then cooking, freezing, or canning it (someday) right away, I will take a clean cookie sheet and line up the meat strips on it and flash freeze.  Then I can store the meat strips in a freezer bag or container for a day when I have more time to process the meat.  If I am dealing with several packages of meat at a time (which I usually do), I only cut up and process one at a time, leaving the others to stay cold in the refrigerator.

Making hamburger

My newest invention to keep the meat from spattering all over everything!

Now comes the messy part!

Fair warning:   To prevent blood from spattering out, I have devised a wonderful shield that protects my clothes, the countertop, the ceiling and the floor – a paper towel secured with a rubber band! 🙂  Seriously!  if you are using a KitchenAid meat grinder such as mine, the blood has a tendency to spatter everywhere, so take heed! The first time I did this I had on a white blouse.  Believe me, you don’t want to do this in a white blouse.  Put the dog and cat outside, secure the children and wear your least favorite clothing!  Oh, and if you really push hard on the meat going into the hopper with the plunger, it can splatter at least 10 feet!  No kidding!  So, either use my great invention or drape something (CLEAN kitchen towel) over the grinder end.

Push the meat into the chute with the plunger thingy (I don’t remember what the official name is, but you know what I mean) and not your fingers!  The meat will come out of the grinder part spitting and splattering, then down into your bowl.

Making your own hamburger

This is the part that needs to be cleaned every 4 or 5 pounds of grinding – especially for beef!

If you are processing a lot of meat, have another clean bowl waiting.  It doesn’t take long at all to grind the hamburger.  I can grind five pounds of beef into hamburger in less than five minutes!  But, if you are grinding more than five pounds, beware of the gristle/tendon/icky trap on the cutter blade – especially if you are using a Kitchen Aid with the grinder attachment!  This thing gets all clogged up and you will need to clean it about every 4 or 5 pounds of meat that you are grinding.

Ground beef

I package the ground beef into packets of about 1-1/2 to 2 cups – just right for one recipe of soup or chili! Or tacos – I love tacos!

Once your hamburger is ground you need to process it further.  I like to take some of the hamburger and brown it in a skillet for future meals – tacos, enchiladas, soup, chili – so once it’s browned and then cooled, I make meal sized packets and freeze it.  It is so much easier to brown your own ground hamburger right out of the bowl because it is – well – fluffy!  I couldn’t think of a better word for it, but you know how the store bought hamburger comes in this chunk that you have to break apart with a fork as it browns?  Well when you grind your own it isn’t packed down, which makes it so much easier to brown in a sauce pan.  In fact, all you have to do is stir it a little bit here and there!

Another use for the hamburger is – duh – hamburgers!  I like to add in the spices and one or two egg whites (I like to make lean hamburger, and the egg white helps the hamburger stick together when cooking) before making them into patties.  I try to touch the ground meat as little as possible, so I really like using my hamburger press for this.  I just spoon it into the press, squish it into a patty, then dump it onto a cookie sheet that is lined with parchment paper. I flash freeze them on the cookie sheet, then vacuum pack them two by two in my sucky machine (aka Food Saver) with a piece of parchment in-between.

Making meatloaf from freshly ground beef

When I make meatloaf, I just add all the spices and what-nots to the freshly ground hamburger and use the kneading attachment to mix it all together! Easy-peasy!

Another favorite use for my ground beef is to make meatloaf!  MMMmmmmmm…………meatloaf!   I take about 1-1/2 pounds of ground beef and use my favorite recipe to make small “just our size” meatloafs for my hubby and I!  These meatloafs are big enough to eat for dinner and then have a meatloaf sandwich the next day!  I form them into mounds, place them on a cookie sheet and flash freeze these also, followed by vacuum sealing.  This size freezes quickly, thaws quickly in the refrigerator, and cooks in less than an hour!  Sometimes, if I have an extra pork chop or chicken breast, I will grind that up with the beef also!

This method has worked well for me.  I have a freezer-full of potential meals that will take less time to prepare since the beef has been already browned, meatloaf that is waiting to be thawed and baked, and hamburgers ready for the grill.  The best part is that I am saving money and making my food as safe as I can for my family.

My next trick with the hamburger is learning how to can it.  I have been reading through the blogosphere on how to can hamburger and it looks fairly easy.  I think.   If you have ever canned hamburger and have written about it, please leave a note in the comments so I can find you!  Thanks!

 

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Windowsill Salad Garden

I have a small winter garden growing on my window sill.  Once the tree in the front of our house looses all it’s leaves, which it did a few months ago, this window sill gets full sun for several hours every day because of it’s wonderful southern exposure.

A salad on my windowsill

This picture was taken a month ago. The lettuce didn’t have any roots yet, the celery just a little root, and the tomato still had green leaves, though they were dying. 🙁 The green onions were doing quite well!

Not only does the sun warm the bedrooms, but it’s a great place to grow a winter garden!

I potted my two stevia plants this last fall and they have done quite well in the window.  In fact, both plants bloomed!  I almost felt sad that we didn’t have any honey bees to pollinate!  They will have to stay in a pot for now until I can plant them in our new garden up on the future homestead.  That’s okay since they are actually very pretty plants and I can set them out on the front patio!

Salad in the window

The stevia seems to be doing well. Oh my – that window is filthy. Please don’t judge me! 🙂

Growing vegetables indoors

The tomato plant looked great when I first put it in the window.

I am also experimenting with the idea of a “perennial” tomato plant!  I read on Kathi’s blog at Oak Hill Homestead that if you snip off a piece of the tomato plant before the first frost and place the stem into water, the hairs on the plant will root and the plant will grow!  Of course, this is actually “cloning” and so the tomato plant is not literally a perennial.  However, the thought of having a tomato plant ready to produce in April or May sounds wonderful!  At first I thought this might work!  The tomato plant looked like it was thriving for the first month or so.  Then, the tomato twig pretty much lost all of it’s leaves, except a very few almost crunchy looking ones on the top.  I thought the plant was doomed.  Oh well, it was worth a try.

Perennial Tomato plants

The poor thing lost almost all it’s leaves, but look – it finally developed roots! Hooray! 🙂

Then, last week, as I was thinking I would just go ahead the throw the plant into the compost heap, I saw something small and white protruding out of the stem.  Holy cannoli – it was a root!  I thought the plant was dead, but it was developing a root!  My mommy always told me patience was a virtue.  When I checked today, it now has three roots – still very small – but they are there!

I am also toying with the process of not having to buy green onions but once a year!  I read from various sources that all you have to do is put the very bottom of the onion (the root part) in a sunny window in a jar of water.

Growing a salad in your window

This was the growth after about 10 days of being in the water! These things grow fast!

They will re-root and grow and you will be able to harvest them over and over again.  Research on this subject, however reveals that after more than 6 harvests they pretty much poop out and there isn’t any flavor left.  We will see.  So far, however, this looks really promising!  I already harvested one a couple of nights ago for some Pad Thai.  Yumm!  However, when I cut the root off I think I cut it too short and so it never rooted but instead turned into mush!  So –

Growing Green Onions

Here are the roots of the green onion today! I have to give them about 1/2 cup of water every day!

word to the wise – leave at least 1 inch of the base of the onion or it won’t be able to re-grow!    I will know better for the next harvest!   Why am I doing this?  Yeah, I know – green onions are cheap.  But it was kinda cool being able to just walk over to the window sill and cut off some green onion in January, rather than have to put it on a shopping list!

I am also doing the same with celery and lo and behold, it looks like it’s working!  Who knew? (obviously not me)

Growing a salad in your window

The celery has been growing for a couple of weeks in this picture.

I’m not sure how long it will take the celery to grow to a size that will be harvestable (spell check says this isn’t a word, but I certainly think it should be), but I suppose if I had three or four going at a time, at different stages, I would never want for celery!  So far, however, I would say this is pretty slow going.  I guess if I had several growing at a time, it would be okay.  But, seriously, I think the celery stalks are growing about 1 inch a month.  If I had to depend on it for food, I would have starved by now.  However, if I had a dozen or so…………

Growing vegetables indoors

This is a recent picture of the roots of the celery. The celery stalks seem to be growing about 1 inch per month.

The jury is still out on the leaf lettuce.

Growing leaf lettuce on a window sill indoors

The leaf lettuce has developed a pretty good root system and the leaves are nice dark green and perky. It’s just growing soooooooo slooooow!

I just started that one about a month ago. It hasn’t wilted or anything yet and the leaves are now a really deep green color, so I think that’s a good sign. It has also developed a pretty good root system already, but the leaves are growing at a pretty slow rate, just like the celery.  Again, if I had several of these going at different stages, I think this would be pretty cool!  I would essentially have a small salad bar on my window sill!

I am hoping to be able to harvest a green onion (no problem) a stalk of celery (probably a pretty small one) and a few leaves of lettuce (ummm….maybe) within the next month or two, so I can say I had a window sill salad.  I would add some of the pickled beets I canned this past summer, along with some boiled black beans that I grew and dried.  Maybe even some of the sun dried tomatoes.

Hmmm.   That actually sounds pretty good!  When (if) I can pull this off, I will post a picture!

To help things along, I am going to make a weak worm tea, instead of just plain water, for the plants.  The stevia was planted in worm soil and I think that is why the plants are doing so well.  For the worm tea, I will just harvest a cup of worm farm soil, pour about two cups of water into it and let it sit for a day, then strain the water out – worm tea!  I will dilute this with more water before adding it to the vegetables, however.  I figure this will give the vegetables more nutrients so they will grow better and carry more nutrients for me too!  For more information on the worm farm and worm tea – see this post HERE

I understand you can also take the top of carrots and beets and let them grow for salad greens!  That is going to be my next experiment! I would love to hear if you are growing vegetables and/or herbs on your windowsill  through the winter!

Indoor window sill garden

Here is what everything looks like today. It all looks healthy and delicious -except the tomato plant.  But, that will change soon as the tomato now has 3 roots and little leaf budlets along the stem!

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