Wednesday, April 17, 2013

DIY: Make Your Own Ground Beef Using an Old Fashioned Hand Grinder

My Aunt Kathy  makes this amazingly yummy cranberry salad during the holidays. She's made it for decades, I believe. I know when I was little I always looked forward to the white covered dish with the blue square design, because that (usually) meant Cranberry Salad lay hidden within. Sometimes she would put something else in there instead...a crushing disappointment. I remember one time she shared that the secret is using one of those old fashioned hand grinders, not a food processor, because the texture is better...more "rustic" I'd call it. Food processors make everything uniform in shape, this puppy cranks out wonderfully random chunks of texture. I love it!

My husband's grandmother has one, and I borrowed it one year to make Aunt Kathy's Cranberry Salad and never gave it back. Not because I'm a thief though, I'm just forgetful! One day, my mom surprised me and gave me one she picked up at an auction, for something like $2. I couldn't believe it, it was in excellent shape and she only paid a couple of bucks for it. Awesome bargain shopping mom!

I've wanted to try grinding my own hamburger for a while, but a couple of things kept me from it...I wasn't really sure how to do it, I feared it would be a humongous pain to clean the grinder, and flashbacks from years ago when I used an electric meat grinder to grind venison. Blech. I don't want to talk about that. At ALL. 

I wanted to make something with hamburger for supper, and didn't want to go to the butcher shop and spend money. So, I got a chuck roast out of the freezer this morning to thaw. I was blessed to receive a bunch of good quality meat (as in local, grass fed) from a friend who was cleaning out her freezer to make room for the annual meat order she does. I searched online for "how to grind your own hamburger with an old fashioned grinder"...turns out it's pretty straight forward. Cut the meat into chunks, freeze it a bit, then grind it. What was I worried about then? Ok right...

So, here is how you use that cool antique grinder your Great Aunt Tilly left you...

The Players: Antique Grinder, 2# (or so) Grassfed Beef Chuck Roast,
and the ultimate kitchen tool...a VERY sharp Knife!
Cut mostly dethawed meat into chunks. Mine were about an inch square.
If your meat is fresh, cut into chunks and put into the freezer for a bit to
harden them up. Be sure to spread them out so they don't freeze together
into a big clump. They'll also begin freezing sooner if there is space for
air to circulate between the chunks.
I got about eight cups of chunks and a couple nice meaty bones for
broth out of my chuck roast. I'm just guessing at the weight, seemed
like a couple pounds or so by the feel of it.
You'll want to attach your grinder to the edge of your kitchen counter with
the clamp that is on the grinder. If your counter edge is nonexistent, or too big,
you can use the edge of a table. I always put a towel or newspaper underneath the
clamp, because any juices in whatever you grind will leak out as you grind. If
you're doing cranberries, I highly recommend a bucket. Seriously...those guys are
JUICY. And STICKY.  And I should have taken a better picture of this. Sorry!!
Put a few chunks of meat into the hopper. I think I put about five or six chunks in
there. Start turning the handle. One piece of advice, if the handle doesn't want to turn
away from you, check the nut on the front of the grinding plate. If it's too tight, it will
only turn backwards, which of course will not work. Just loosen it up a bit. You'll have
to push down the meat some, I always get horrible visions of my fingers getting
caught in there, but I still use my fingers. You are probably more safety conscious
than I am and would think to use a wooden spoon or something. I thought about
getting the wood thing that goes with my food sieve, but I was too lazy to get it.
Hey, I'm human...what can I say? Anyway, keep adding chunks of meat and
grinding until you get it all ground.
I was really pleased with the result. Looks nothing like the stuff you buy
at the grocery store, or even like what I buy at my local butcher shop.
I love my butcher shop, local meats and amazingly friendly service. I'm
going to really, really miss that place when we move!

I couldn't remember if I read you should grind it more than one time or not,
so I ground a tiny bit twice. The piece on the left was ground twice, it looks
less "chunky" than the only-one-time-through piece.

Since I wanted to make hamburgers for supper, I decided to try out
the two different grinds to see which texture I liked better. I made the cutest
itsy bitsy burgers I've ever seen! I seasoned them with salt and pepper
and cooked them. I actually like the coarser ground burger better. It was
amazingly tender, which is what I've read about grinding your own burger.

This is Chloe, "the quicker picker-upper". She is always ready to lend a
tongue in the kitchen and knows right where to station herself when I'm
cooking. She was a big help today with helping me clean up ground beef mess.

This was a bit labor-intensive, but worth the effort. I couldn't believe how tender this meat was! We've been wanting to try the Mythbusters method of tenderizing meat with high explosives, but grinding it ourselves is probably a much more legal and safe way to do it. Some day, though...

I ended up making some really delicious hamburgers for supper and have decided that when I want to make hamburgers, I'm going to grind the meat myself. It was seriously that good! Next time, I will add a bit more seasoning. The test burgers were terrific, and I didn't think they needed anything but salt and pepper. The full sized burgers needed a bit more salt...but I've been over-salting stuff lately so I didn't want to overdo it. Easier to add salt than take it out!

Check out my delicious Home Ground Hamburgers with Caramelized Onions here...and have fun grinding stuff! I'd love to hear about your own grinder stories (where did you get yours? What do you use it for?) and recipes so please comment below!


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  5. Though old fashioned, I will say pretty effective. Me also using a traditional hand meat grinder. :)