Everything But the Moo?

Read all about how people back in the day would use every part of the cows they butchered.

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Courtesy Library of Congress
A cow carcass after skinning and cleaning is being split into halves with a meat saw.

I’ve often heard that when our ancestors butchered a hog that they used everything but the squeal. But how about a cow? The following instructions to the housewife explain how to use the offal [organ meats] of a beef, and were published in an 1864 Country Gentleman magazine.

The gall should be emptied into a clean bottle. It is a good application for bruises cuts or sores.

The rennet [the beef’s fourth stomach] should be emptied, washed clean in cold water, wiped dry, salted heavily, rolled up tightly, sewed up in a thick cloth and hung in a dark, dry, cool place, ready for cheese making.

The liver and kidneys are used for broiling, stewing or frying. Slice the liver and use it as desired. The kidneys should be split and soaked in water for an hour or so before cooking.

The heart, after the ventricles are removed, should be soaked in clean water overnight. It may then be stewed, or stuffed and roasted as a fowl, or prepared with the tongue as mince-meat, or smoked and used as a relish.

The tongue should be washed clean and wiped dry, then rubbed with a mixture of nutmeg, all-spice, cloves, salt-petre, brown sugar and salt, mixed together. Rub the tongue with this mixture every morning for ten days, hang up and smoke until tolerably dry, then wrap in coarse paper and lay in a cool, dry place.

Tripe. [The muscular inner lining of the first and second, and sometimes third, stomachs of a ruminant animal] The tripe should be cut open while warm, emptied, washed well, and spread out so the inner surface may be covered over thickly with strong lime. The slimy inner coating may then be scraped off with the back of a knife. It should then be washed repeatedly and put into moderate salt water until wanted for cooking, before which it must be soaked some hours in fresh water.

The feet can be prepared two ways. If to be used for jelly, it will make a much larger yield if scalded and scraped clean of hair. The easier way is to have them skinned perfectly, soak for awhile and scrub as clean as possible, and soak them for a night or until you wish to use them. Boil until the hoof will slip off and every bone drop out. Chop up the meat and mold in dishes about two inches deep with no seasoning but salt. When cold keep these cakes in strong vinegar until used. Sliced one-half inch thick, dipped in a nice butter and fried, we know of no better breakfast dish. If you wish to use the gelatin from the feet, do not use salt in the water in which they are boiled.

Suet. [the hard white fat on the kidneys and loins of cattle] Reserve as much as you wish to keep for scuffles [scuffles are crescent shaped, rolled up thin dough cookies coated with sugar and cinnamon]–wrap it in clean paper and bury it in your meal tub [I’m not sure what is meant by ‘your meal tub,’ unless it was a container of corn meal]. When to be used it is sliced fine and freed from strings. The housewives of a Shaker society, in whose houses I have been received hospitably, use beef suet for all purposes that usually require lard, as their religious scruples prevent them the use of swine in any form. It is rendered up just like lard, and their exquisite breads, nice pies, etc. are all prepared with beef suet. [and you thought only birds ate suet; I recall when I was a kid my mother would, whenever Dad butchered a beef, make a steamed suet pudding and serve it with hot lemon sauce–mmm, delicious!]

Bologna Sausage may be made of any good lean parts of beef. Chop 4 pounds of beef, 2 lbs. Of fresh lean pork, and two pounds of suet free from strings. Mix thoroughly and season with two ounces of salt and as much powdered pepper and cloves as suits your taste. Stuff mixture into sausage skins nicely prepared. Boil and then smoke well.

Tallow. The strippings from the intestines and any suet not wanted for cooking should be cut up small and put into a kettle in which some tallow has been first melted to prevent burning. Stew moderately until the cracklings are brown and crisp. Strain it off into vessels to mold, or into a keg for market.

When Dad butchered a cow back in the 1940s, the gall, rennet, tripe and feet were never saved, nor was there any use for the tallow. I don’t recall that the heart, liver, kidneys or tongue were used either, although they may have been, perhaps in ground beef. Mom was a city girl and there were some things she balked at, although Dad probably had eaten that stuff growing up on the farm. Unlike many folks, I like liver, and I’ve eaten both heart and tongue, although it didn’t much impress me.

Today’s housewives have it easy, as trip to the supermarket meat case yields just about any cut of meat they might require, neatly packaged and ready to use without a lot of preparatory work.

And some folks say “those were the good old days!”

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
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