Sunday, September 30, 2012

Of meat, frost and heat.

 The 'annee de poisse' continues: herewith the 'nth' part. Somehow the freezer compartment door of the fridge/freezer in the Farmhouse managed to get solidly frozen. Odd.

Only three weeks ago I had spent four hours at the Farmhouse kitchen table processing a partially butchered lamb carcass. Or to be more honest, I had been refining a butchered lamb carcass as I am getting very pernickety about my meat. This meant I was removing what I considered to be unnecessary fat, de-boning some cutlets to make lamb noisettes – no point in freezing bones after all. In fact, chops are a pain for domestic freezing as the bones tend to poke through the freezer bags.
Odd bits of meat were put through my cheap but effective Lidl mincer so that I would have lamb mince for winter moussaka.

Actually I do not like processing meat: I am perfectly capable of taking the necks plus heads off chickens and ducks, fishing out the liver and gizzards with my bare fingers but I would much rather not. I can joint a fowl, untie a 'roast' and remove the inedible (to me) bits, ditto with meat for blanquette de veau or just beef stew. I have a wonderful array of very sharp knives. But it puts one (me) off eating the result. Cook dines off the smell of that which s/he has cooked....

I have an obsession with what I call 'clean' meat which mostly means fatless meat cooked by someone else – mostly quality cooked ham, sometimes jambon cru if I can peel the fat off the rim. But especially viande des grisons, which is the Swiss name for bresaola, the Italian dried beef. Even then, I turn over every packet in the supermarket chill cabinet to look at the back and inspect for fat. If the packet is not see-through, the product is rejected. Obviously there are no cameras on the chill cabinets otherwise I would have been hauled away a long time ago.

(Actually I am even worse with smoked salmon, especially the farmed salmon -is there any other now?- which I regard with great suspicion and sometimes a mental tape measure to make sure the fish has not been force fed. The flesh between the fat lines has to be narrow and tight, rather like rings one sees in tree stumps.)

However, reverting to the processed lamb: the point of doing it in the Farmhouse was that I needed the freezer compartment because my freezer was full. I carefully packed up the processed, labelled meat, put it in the freezer compartment and closed (I thought) the door. I thought no more about it.

Until today, Sunday 30th Sept, because next Thursday I have guests coming to stay in the Farmhouse. So I went to check on its equipment. Apart from the fact that 9 of the 12 egg cups had disappeared, also two out of the three coffee filter jugs, and the vacuum cleaner bag was full, everything seemed fine. Until I tried to open the freezer door. Frozen solid. What to do?

What I did was to take down to the Farmhouse my kitchen step ladder, on top of which I put an upside down, large pan, on top of which I put a fan heater directed at the freezer door. Then I went to have a drink. About an hour later I was able to open the freezer door. The meat was still frozen, thank goodness. But the door was deformed and would not shut again, not even when I got all the ice out of the cabinet.

Now is this my fault? Same as the time I melted the back end of the vacuum cleaner when using its exhaust to rekindle the embers of a fire? Or was the door deformed when I put the meat in and I just did not notice? Fingers crossed that I can get a new door via another one of my heroes – Fred Rouchier of 'Electrochoc' my supplier of all domestic, electric appliances. Of course, as always amongst French artisans, it is his wife who does the research and admin, so hommage to her also.

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