In which the previously slaughtered cows complete their transformation into hamburgers, roast, strip loin and the like.....emphasis on LIKE.
Oh, and yes, this one has lots of raw meat in it too, in case you are squeamish about that!
So.... a couple of weeks ago a bunch of us got together for the "jijiglex" (a.k.a. butchering) party. It was a lot of work - amazing how much meat there is in two cows...but everyone pitched in and by 2:30 or so it was all in the bag. Literally.
It was a wonderful cross- cultural event. Our neighbours at the ger were very very interested in watching ( and helping!!) the "western" way of smallifying the meat ... and yes, that is the verb in Mongolian for butcher..."to make small" I like it.
The first order of business was to check out the meat where it was hanging and sharpen the knives....
And then get the meat out of the shed and onto the heinig cart. It was a big job. Some of the guys really put their back into it........
...and some of them supervised!
Once the beef had been loaded onto the heinig ( cross between a yak and a cow) cart, it was time to move it 500 meters or so across the steppe. Heinigs are big and strong and can pull the cart with ease...but they are a touch cantankerous and it seemed like a lot of work to hook one up for such a small job....so we just made do...
....and really, at the end of the day, a heinig by any other name....Once we had the meat at the butchering station, the fun began. Our friend Scott, a butcher in his previous life, very graciously spent the day labouring on all of our behalf. It is soooooo wonderful to have beautiful steaks, roasts, etc. etc. all labelled and recognizable. You have to understand that in Mongolia, not only do they not hang the meat ( making it very tough and gamey!) they cut the animal apart based on where the joints are. Essentially they just "hunk" it up...making the identifying and cooking of it pretty tough.
...although there was still some "hunking" that needed doing - getting the ribs to an appropriate size required something a little less subtle than the butchering knives our friends had brought along with them.
The knives, and the precise way they were being deployed really intrigued our neighbours.
However, in true Mongolian fashion, whenever and however they could, they jumped in to help us out.
...and really, he was just waiting for more ribs...nothing at all sinister. Promise!The ever- increasing pile of cuts needed to be processed and we had a bevy of willing volunteers who bagged, labelled, and weighed each cut then "filed" it into its own pile so that later each person who had bought some of the meat would be able to assemble their order.
And I had to include this picture for posterity. If you look closely at the knife you can see the name 'Jared Veloo' carved into it. This lovely knife was made for my eldest son by my Dad and, by accident, we brought it with us to Mongolia.... and when they needed another knife for the butchering I knew that my son, a confirmed carnivore, would appreciate having his knife used by our neighbour at the ger to help get the meat to the table, so to speak.
While Jared's knife was warmly welcomed, some of the other knives were so much bigger and sharper than the locals were used to, they appeared to cause some degree of consternation and confusion.
At the end of the day, this is what it was all about. Beautiful, grain fed, free-range beef . Well slaughtered, well aged and, thanks to Scott and Nigel, ( ok ...and the other apprentice butchers we had on sit that day!) tremendously well butchered! A real rarity (read non-existent!) in Mongolia.
So, thanks to the efforts of friends and neighbours, we, and a number of other families, will certainly be eating well for the winter. As a matter of fact, this experience of slaughtering and butchering our own meat has so greatly impressed me that I don't think I will be going back to Safeway and their little white styrofoam trays. I much prefer knowing where the meat came from...and you just can't beat the flavour~
So, another example of change coming from an unexpected direction. I seem to be getting a lot of that...here, at the end of the earth.