Thatcher Farms Trip and Chinese Braised Oxtail

新年快乐 (Happy New Year) everyone! Today will be my first post of my second semester, 2017 and a new Lunar New Year! This past week I had the amazing privilege of going to Guelph and visiting Thatcher Farms; a local, family owned farm providing beef, pork, lamb and turkey. They were nice enough to take me and my fellow classmates in for a tour of their facilities and a quick butchery demo.

IMPORTANT: I’m warning you right now, this is a meat farm, and I know a lot of people are uncomfortable with seeing dead animals. The images proceeding this will have graphic images of animals slaughtered for meat. I understand it may be uncomfortable to see but it’s the reality that you should face if you are going to make the conscious decision to consume meat.

…moving on.

This is Jim. Jim is the head butcher at Thatcher farms and he went through a brief explanation of how to break down a pig.

He broke the whole thing down in like 10 minutes which is crazy. The pigs here are bigger than I’m used to seeing. Back the the butcher shop I used to work at, we usually got boxed meat, and the full pigs we did get were only babies. These guys must have weighed 500 pounds!

Next we broke down a lamb. Again, he did the whole thing in 10 minutes.img_1083

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So cute 😉

After our tour, we got to go shopping! Fresh local meat! I was in dreamland. Seriously, if I had the money, I would take one of everything. I went a little wild and picked up a huge bag of food. Free range eggs, lamb summer sausage, bacon, some baked goods and…

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THESE BAD BOYS!

Oxtail is probably my favorite cut of meat. Its name is pretty much self-explanatory…it’s the tail…of…an ox (or steer, or castrated male cow). Filled in inter-muscular fat, connective tissue, and gelatin it is probably the worst cut of meat to grill. HOWEVER, if you take 2-4 hours out of your busy day and braise or stew this baby…OHHHHHHHHHHHHH BOY. OHHHHHHHHHHH MAN. OHHHHHHHHH LORD. This will turn into the most amazing, melt in your mouth, stick to your ribs, piece of meat you will ever taste.

Today, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing.

I got this (about a half) an oxtail for $12.95 or $19.99 a kilogram, which is slightly more expensive than what you might find in a grocery store. Generally these guys go for about $12-$15 a kilogram. My dad used to tell me that oxtail were generally not eaten by Western people in his hometown of London, Ontario, so the butcher used to give them to my grandmother for free! What a time to be alive!

While this oxtail was far from free, I’ll be using my grandmother own recipe to prepare them today. This is the first and only recipe my grandmother has ever given to me so I’m super excited. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ll know how much I can attest to my grandmothers cooking. I’m pretty sure everyone thinks their grandma’s cooking is the best, but seriously I’m not just saying this.

Alright, lets get cooking!
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For this recipe, you’ll need a few simple ingredients. Soy sauce, fermented bean paste (miso), sugar, star anise and dried orange peel.

I have my girlfriend to thank for the orange peels. She eats oranges by the bag and leaves orange peels all over the place. One day I just started saving them and drying them out to use for cooking.

It’s important to note that I am not using any salt or pepper. The soy is salty enough to season the dish. As for pepper, add it if you like, but my grandmother cannot digest pepper so she always omits it in her recipes. I mean, you could add it, but I’m looking for that GRANDMA FLAVOR.

As for method, this really doesn’t get easier.

Brown your meat.
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At this point I set off my extremely sensitive smoke alarm…so…don’t do that…

Fill your pot with water until it’s about halfway up the oxtail.

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Then add everything. SO EASY!
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Boil, cover and simmer for as long as you can wait. Alternatively, you can put this in the oven, but I live in a dorm so I have this ghetto hot plate that I cook everything on. My cousin Kate was making fun of me for it yesterday and said that I should mention that everything on this blog is cooked on the ghetto hotplate.

NOW IS THE HARD PART. 

You’re going to wait.

A.

Long.

Time.

You have to let all that connective tissue, and tendon SLOWLY break down. And dont EVEN THINK about turning that heat up. Your meat is going to get really dry if you do.

Alright, it’s been about an hour, you’re smelling all that star anise, and soy and beef and you open that pot to get a nice cloud of steam in your face. Your mouth begins to water and your grab the tongs to take the….

STOP. DON’T YOU DARE.

2-3 hours minimum. Don’t rush it. Go read a book or something you impatient fool. Or go clean your damn room. It’s a mess and you really should put your clothes in the basket instead of your floor.

While you wait, just go chop some green onion to make your dish look fancy. Trust me, you aren’t going to want to do this when your meat is ready.

TA-DA! All done. If you want, you can share some with your friends and family, but really…what have they done for you lately? Do they REALLY deserve it? Just eat the whole damn thing by yourself. Trust me.

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