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May 13, 2005 11:25 AM

Beef parts - the unusual bits...and raisin pie

  • c

So, having nearly finished off my portion of the 1/4 cow my friends and I bought back in January, I now have to talk to the cow man about the cuts for the 1/2 cow we'll be getting in July. Last time, I asked specifically for the bones, which he provided us for free, thoguh the standard order doesn't include them. The standard order does include the liver, but I'm wondering if there are other parts of the cow I should ask for. This is not a calf; I don't know if there are parts like the tongue or the heart that are only worth eating when taken from a very young animal. But my friends have the Ferguson book, and we are all interested in learning more about cooking the "whole beast."

On a totally unrelated note, I found a very old recipe for raisin pie while going through my mother's recipe cards. Has anyone made something like this? I've never heard of such a thing, but I'm assuming it will make something like mincemeat. I was thinking of making one over the weekend, but I'm tempted to add piles of walnuts. Anyone have any thoughts?

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  1. Well, raisin pie was one way of having grape pie if you lived too far away from fresh grapes. Like making raisin wine. Raisins have a long history as a subsitute for fresh grapes, because they could travel over distances and climates fresh grapes could not.

    1. Raisin pie is an old standard among the mennonites and amish...because raisins keep over the winter. Just make sure you cook them, just don't dump a bunch of raisins in a pie shell - I did that when I was about 10 :-) It's a great pie...and toasted walnuts would be a tasty addition, as would some spices. Normally raisin pie is not nearly as spiced as mincemeat, but you could jazz it up - and a bit of orange zest would be tasty as well.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Cyndy

        CB-- I have a couple Amish cookbooks plus a dozen Menno ones at home if you'd like me to look for an actual recipe.

        1. re: Jess

          If you don't mind, I would love a recipe for raisin pie.

          1. re: Blackbird

            All paraphrased from Favorite Amish Family Recipes, publisher Pathway Publishing Corporation

            raisin filling:
            1 3/4 qt water
            15 oz raisins
            2 c sugar
            1/2 t salt
            3/4 cup clear jell (?)

            Boil first 4 ingredients slowly, covered, for an hour. Take off heat. Mix the jell with a bit of water, and add. Enough for 4 pies (8 cups).

            I think this one sounds better:
            Raisin Crumb Pie
            Stew: 15 oz raisins in 2 c. water. When nearly done, add 2 c sugar and 1 T flour, mixed together. Boil 2-3 minutes. Cool.

            Combine 3 cups flour, 1/2 cup shortening and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Reserve one cup of this mixture. Add to the rest: 2 eggs, 1 c milk, 2 T baking powder.

            That's all the directions there are-- I assume this is enough for several pies, and you put the raisins in, then the above mix, then sprinkle the crumbs on top. Bake 45 minutes or so? I love how these old cookbooks just list ingredients; no one needed directions on how to put them together.

      2. I am so curious: where do you live, where do you get your cow, and how much does 1/4 or 1/2 cost? Do you have a special freezer? I want to know it all! I would totally go in with a few friends for 1/2 a cow, but do people end up fighting over the chociest cuts?

        As for what parts, I personally love the tail bones for stewing. Use a minestrone recipe, but boil the tail bones first. It makes a great, hearty soup, and the meat off the bones is very tender.

        And I have to say, I've seen some pretty big cow tongues at the butcher's. I know cows are huge, but I will say that I've never noticed a difference in texture between a small tongue and a large one. They all taste great after being in the crock pot for 18 hours with some salt and garlic. Just remember to peel off the outer layer, then shred the rest for use in burritos. Mmm.

        3 Replies
        1. re: nooodles

          I live in Massachusetts, and the cow is from River Rock Farm. It's grass-fed, organic meat, and the flavor is amazing. My boyfriend got a burger the other day at what was once one of his favorite pubs for burgers, and after dinner he said that the beef at home had ruined him for other beef, "the regular stuff doesn't really have any flavor of its own, it's all the condiments." I did buy a special freezer ($130 at Sears), and you will probably need to, because it's a lot of beef. I went in with four other people on 1/4 cow, which gave each of us about 25-30 pounds. That wasn't enough, really. My friend with the big family were through it in two months. I don't eat a lot of meat, and it's just me, with my boyfriend on weekends, so I've still got a few packs of stew meat, a steak and the shanks in the freezer. This time, though, we're going for the half-cow.

          You get about 1/3 ground, 1/3 roasts, and the rest is a mix - steaks, stew, shanks, and so forth. The way it works with this farmer is that I go over the cow with him, section by section, and tell him whether I want steaks or a roast or what have you. You have to order in advance, and then the cow is slaughtered, hangs for 4 weeks, then is cut according to your instructions, and this gentleman even delivers, though I believe usually you have to go to the farm to pick it up. The cost comes out to $5.00/pound, which is great. As I mentioned, he threw in the bones for free, which gave each of the five purchasers enough bones to fill two stockpots.

          I highly recommend this way of buying meat. We also found a woman who grows lamb, and we bought three lamb. Also excellent meat at a very good price. Not many choices on the lamb, you get shoulder, leg, chops, heart and ground. (Shank? I can't remember if I have a shank in there). We've been researching pigs, and I think I've found a provider - not organic, but pastured and naturally fed (not animal by-products), raised without antibiotics or hormones, so that's good enough for me. I like getting to know the people who raise my food (I also have a veg CSA), and I like geting to know the flavor of a particular animal. That probably sound weird, but it's true - it felt a bit like drinking the same wine for a while nutil you really knew the flavor.

          The splitting up wasn't too difficult, but it helped that the people I was doing this with are lovely, every one the sort that would be more likely to err on the side of giving everyone else too much. The ground and stew are obviously easy to split up. The steaks and roasts are a big more difficult, but we just assumed that there were a few ultra-desirable cuts (Porterhouse steaks, tenderloin, prime rib) and tried to distribute those as evenly as possible. I don't have access to a grill, so I took the prime rib, and got lesser cuts on the steaks. Also, in a moment of generosity I hope my recording angel didn't miss, I let the other four split the tenderloin into four pieces. The word was that it was excellent. I have mentioned my dibs on the first piece of the next tenderloin surely no less than twenty times.

          There's a lot of good information on pastured beef on the Eat Wild website ( including a link to a site about buying freezer beef, info of the health benefits of grass-fed meat and lists of farms by state.

          Thanks for the advice on the tongue and tail - I will definitely ask for them.

          1. re: curiousbaker

            Thanks so much for your elaboration, curiousbaker! Really helpful and appreciate the link too. When I lived in Missouri, I knew people who would go in on a pig together. At that time when I was more squeamish about animal parts, I thought it was rather barbaric and strange, but now it sounds very sensible and appealing. Great when you can find a farm and butcher that you trust.

            I can't quite see myself doing it since I have an aversion to buying and storing alot of anything in bulk. I just hate buying in bulk and cluttering up my pantry or freezer. I think I have the most barren freezer of anyone I know...

            Question: How do you store all those parts so they stay fresh and don't suffer from freezer burn over time? Any tips or tricks? Thanks.

            1. re: Carb Lover

              I buy lamb that way, and it comes (from the butcher) wrapped in plastic and then in really good freezer paper. I've never had a problem with freezer burn, and I've kept some pieces way way longer than recommended. The friend I buy from has had similar experience. We both have manual defrost chest freezers--less drying than self-defrost.

        2. Beef checks and tail are excellent for braising.

          1. yum, raisin pie. my mom the pie queen used to make it, flavored with cinnamon, allspice, lemon juice and lemon zest. well-suited for those who like to eat leftover pie for breakfast. actually, they used to have it at marie callendar's (along with sour cream raisin pie). in my house, baking pie, eating pie and "going out for a piece of pie" were all favored activities.