Mincing your own meat saves money, ensures quality and produces fresh tasting dishes. Like so many other aspects of cooking, we’ve turned the simple task of grinding our own meat over to commercial interests. They produce ground meat, of course, to use up the scraps left over from preparing steaks and chops and they tend to throw in a great deal of fat and gristle. You can buy the lean ground beef, but commercially grown beef without some fat tends to be pretty tasteless.
Mincing meat to use up scraps required sharp mincing knives and a great deal of patience before the invention of the meat grinder. Try it some time. The result is exceptional. The meat is cut into tiny pieces that retain their structural integrity. They haven’t been mashed together through a grinder. But fanatic for authenticity that I am, mincing meat by hand is too time consuming.
Meat grinders were invented by Karl Drais in the 19th Century. Drais is famous for an early version of the bicycle (it lacked pedals), but he also invented the earliest known typewriter (it had 25 keys), a stenograph machine, a wood-saving cooker, a railroad handcart and the meat grinder, which (in almost identical form) is used in kitchens and butcher shops around the world today.
Our Koch family family patriarch, George Schneider, undoubtedly knew Drais. They both took part in the creation of the German Republic in 1848 and were from the same part of Germany. When the Prussians suppressed the revolution, George Schneider fled to the United States. Karl Drais stayed in Germany. The Prussians seized his pension to pay for the “costs of revolution”. He had publicly renounced his noble title in 1848 and adopted the name “Citizen Karl Drais.” He died penniless in 1851. George Schneider became one of the founders of the Republican Party.
Hand grinders like Drais’ do a great job, and you can find used models on the internet for almost nothing. New ones are only about $26.00. meat grinder They are an essential kitchen utensil, with several other uses. If you have en electric mixer, you can find a attachment and avoid the hand labor.
I use a KitchenAid. KitchenAid FGA Food Grinder Attachment for Stand Mixers
Preparing meat for grinding. Buy pasture raised meat. Select inexpensive cuts. Trim the meat from the bone. Cut off most of the fat, but don’t get neurotic about it. Save the bones and fat for soup stock if it’s beef, chicken or veal. Push the scraps through the grinder. That’s it! The hardest part of grinding is cleaning the grinder after use. Do it immediately before the meat dries on various grinder surfaces to save a lot of time later. Or at least put the grinder parts in water to soak.
Lamb bones are another issue. There is a vigorous debate in the “food blog nation” about lamb stock. Lamb’s problem is its smell. It’s too strong for me. But I do feel guilty throwing away lamb bones in hard times. One blogger wrote that roasting lamb bones before making the stock removes the smell. I’ll try that next time I grind lamb and report.
Ground meat recipes
Ground Lamb Kebab(Adapted from a fabulous Persian Cookbook, New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies, by Najmieh Batmanglij).
I have changed Batmanglij’s recipe considerably. I use all lamb instead of half lamb and half beef, and shape the mixed lamb into five inch cylinders and broil them on aluminum foil, instead of authentically grilling them on large, flat skewers. Not quite as good, but fast and reliable.
- 2 pounds finely ground lamb. (Grind it twice if need be).
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 large onion, finely grated
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
Mix the ingredients thoroughly and then knead for five minutes to make a thick paste. Let the paste stand 15 minutes.
Have a bowl of water handy to keep your hands moist, and shape the paste into five inch long oblongs. Place them on a piece of aluminum on a broiling pan
Broil as quickly as possible to keep the inside tender and moist. Baste with melted butter and lime juice.
Meat Loaf (Serves 8 generously)
(Adapted from Wolfgang Puck’s Live, Love, Eat cookbook).Live, Love, Eat!: The Best of Wolfgang Puck
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and diced
- ½ pound mushrooms, trimmed and finely chopped
- 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and diced
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 ½ teaspoons oregano
- 1 ½ teaspoons thyme
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 pound lean ground pork
- 1 pound ground veal
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 pound sliced, smoked bacon.
Saute the diced onions in the olive oil in a large skillet until translucent, about eight to ten minutes. Add the mushroom and garlic and cook until they begin to brown, about three to five minutes. Stir in the cream, herbs, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook until tender, another five minutes or so. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and let cool.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Add the meat to the vegetables and mix well. Then stir in the egg and mix thoroughly.
Line by nine by three inch loaf pan with bacon slices, leaving enough bacon overhanging one side to cover the top. (I use a nine by four and it works fine). Add the meat mixture, pushing the meat into the corners and smoothing the top. Cover with the overhanging bacon. [NOTE: You can make this meat loaf without bacon, but you lose the rich, smokey flavor. And remember, you are using very lean meats).
It’s best to bake the meat loaf in a water bath. Put a larger pan in the oven with the meat loaf in the center. Pour in boiling water to about half way up the meat loaf pan, and cover the whole thing with aluminum foil. Bake for one hour. Remove the foil and continue baking until done, about thirty minutes. Test with a meat thermometer. The center of the meat loaf should be 165 degrees.
Let the meat loaf rest about ten minutes and then carefully remove from the pan. The juices make a nice gravy. Slice as desired and serve.
For a delicious ground chicken meat dish, see blog #1 and Chicken Garlic Balls.