The instigator of most of our learning curve out here is Shannon and as usual it started with him wandering over and letting us know something was about to happen.
This time it was, “I’m giving T-bone some anesthetic and then hanging him. Want to learn how to skin an animal?”
Now we knew this was coming, it had been coming for the last 18 months.
It had to happen soon as Shannon had picked up another 15 cows and weaners from his father and as these were all very quiet and placid he didn’t want to put them anywhere near the psychotic T-bone. Cows apparently are impressionable and can pick up habits from other cows in the same paddock.
Anesthetic out here is a bullet to the head, after which the throat is cut to bleed the animal.
Jason, one of the farm hands, had come over to give Shannon a hand as Chris and I watched, fascinated. Shannon used the hydraulic crane on his truck to hang Tbone as they skinned and gutted him.
They then used a chain saw to quarter him up so he would fit into the cold room.
That was a sight, Shannon standing on the back of his truck with his determined half smile and his chainsaw with pieces of meat and bone flying in all directions splattering anything within 10 metres – especially Shannon.
T-bone was no light weight and it took 3 men to lift and hang his hind quarters into the cold room.
He would hang for approx. 3 weeks to tenderise the meat. This is done to stretch the sinew, the longer you hang the meat the better it is.
Now you need a good cold room, one that doesn’t produce moisture. The cold rooms out here on Koramba, we’ve been told, are the best in the area. The meat needs to have air circulating around the carcass to form a crust over the meat.
Woohoo our first skinning, now it was our turn!
Jason had purchased 10 sheep from a farm outside of Gundy and we had bought 1 from him. This was going to be the first animal that we killed and butchered ourselves.
Now killing a sheep is a bit different from Tbone as you need to physically catch it, slit it’s throat and then break it’s neck, all without causing the animal stress.
We went down to Jason’s house further down the farm to watch him with the first one (there were 6 in total to be done that afternoon) and then we did ours.
Of course Chris didn’t come out unscathed from this exercise – it normal happens with most of his endeavors that he ends up bleeding from somewhere.
He banged his head on a bar getting into the pen – bleeding from the left side of the head. Then he nearly fell over a barrier inside the pen – bleeding from the right side of the head. Then he smashed his head again on the shed roof – bleeding from the face. As he was wrestling the sheep he fell against some barbed wire – bleeding from the arm. He did however manage to catch the animal, slit it’s throat and he nearly pulled the whole head off while snapping the neck, but he got it done!
Now to skin it!
We’d taken Chris’s kitchen knives but found that we needed a finer pointed skinning knife which we borrowed some of Jason.
Jason had his own meat hanger set up to hang the sheep from his hind legs to make it easier to skin. Luckily for us Shannon arrived and we used his crane mounted on his Land-cruiser to do ours.
Now Chris was doing the skinning and I was giving directions, hmm sound familiar?
“Jason did it this way”. “Put the leg that way.” So when Chris said, “Do you want to have a go?” I jumped at the chance.
It’s surprisingly easy.
Just don’t put the knife into the meat which I did straight away. It’s just a careful process of separating the skin away from the muscle. Most of the time it will just pull away, well you’ve gotta get ya shoulder and fist into it, but it’s not as messy as I thought it would be.
The gutting process follows and again as long as you’ve cut around the bum hole and sliced down the stomach carefully so you don’t nick the bowel or stomach and allow the contents to pour over the meat, it seems to just fall out rather easily with gravity, after a little persuasion from your hand inserted behind the guts.
We were a lot slower than Jason and ended up doing two sheep while he did the other four.
We hung these in the cold room at Trefusas, the group of houses on the property where most of the permanent staff live, to be butchered in a few days.
Now Koramba has its own meat room which was once heavily used as were most of the meat rooms on farms a few years ago.
A local Boomi resident called Freddy who is a butcher came out to prepare Tbone and he told us how he would come out to Koramba farm along with other butchers and cut up sheep and cattle for the quarters.
This was when 50 + men lived at the quarters (unlike our maximum of 28).
What a time that would have been.
Freddy said that one day alone they did 250kg of sausages – In one day!
The meat room is equipped with a band saw, mincer and sausage maker as well as the large cool room with rails set up to allow a beast to be pulled straight from the cool room around to the butchering section.
The sausage maker and mincer need new blades and a few other bits to get them in working order again so in the mean time we’ve purchased a mincer and sausage maker to fit our beloved Kitchen Aid.
Unfortunately we took our Kitchen Aid back to the storage shed in Brisbane on the last visit so we’ll have to wait until we head back to Brisbane to retrieve it and make some gourmet sausages.
A couple of days later we headed down to the Meat shed to learn to butcher our sheep. We did OK, though a real butcher probably wouldn’t agree.
Now we have chops and roasts all bagged up and frozen and we are looking forward to our first meal of “self killed and butchered” lamb.