Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Bbbeeezzz, and me, vegetarian?

I have no trouble with making, and eating, our bacon.
I have no trouble with looking after, and then deceasing, the pig from which the meat comes from.
The same with all the meat we eat here.
However, we 'did' a hogget at the weekend, 
which is a year old lamb, and so is in between 'lamb' meat and mutton. 
We had to, we need to get the numbers of our animals down, 
because we are not a zoo or a charity
and we don't have the grazing to support the animals to keep them healthy,
especially when the river is full and needs more room to flow, 
so it 'borrows' our Home Field,
not for long,
but for a long enough time to soak the ditches,
so the field entrances become blocked for a couple of weeks,
which reduces our grazing land.

It is the nature of looking after sheep that you do two things to the lambs, 
castrate them, and reduce the lengths of their tails. 
You do this by using an appliance which fits small rubber bands, 
one round the base of the tail, 
and one between the testicles and body.
The tails are supposed to be kept short because of the potential for fly strike
if the sheep or lamb has a runny tummy,
but our sheep came here with long tails,
and upon observance of them during hot summer days
I noticed that they use those tails to keep the flies away from the rear ends,
and since nature gave the tails to these animals for a good reason,
we decided to let the lambs stay with their tails.
As doe the male lambs
twice we have castrated them, once when friends insisted,
and for this hogget which was once a lamb.

It is difficult to put those rubber bands on the lambs, 
because it has to be done as quickly as possible after birth,
when they are tiny and look fragile,
and when they tend to do this heartbreaking whimper afterwards, 
well they would,
it must hurt something awful for a while.

Anyway, for this hogget, we had, for some reason, castrated him,
he was the only one we did,
and I am glad that was the case.
Because during January this year we put  in to the freezer another male hogget,
and while he was waiting for his end,
right up until five minutes before the event,
he was doing boy stuff with the Jacob the ram,
being a young male, doing male activities, living his life to the full.
His meat was lean, healthy, succulent, and tender. 

But for this hogget, this year old male, 
who was not a male and not a female, but between the two,
from the start to the finish of the process,
there was a 'not quite right' feeling about it.
Oh there was still that breathtaking feeling of warm and blessed silence,
which comes into the air just after we have deceased an animal,
which is indescribable, which is 'out of this world',
but after that, well, we just had a feeling that the animal
 was not quite right.

And when it came to be the time of the cutting up of his parts,
we could see that he had led a different life to the other male,
who had had strong body structure because he had lived a full life,
but this one,
this one who had had his hormones tampered with,
well, you could see that his life had been different.
So, no more castrating, ever. 
Males will be left intact.
This we have learnt from this experience,
because if we had to castrate the male lambs in the future
then I would have difficulty in going through the slaughtering process with them,
because this one, as I have said,
did not have a 'happy' feel to him,
and this I did not like.

And another thing,

.....I have had a go at making goat cheese, using cider vinegar and goats milk.
It is easy,
but I need to take the next step now, 
which is to purchase certain products which give more flavouring to the cheese, 
like 'starters' and 'cultures',
no problem,
put up a search on the Internet,
found a company which will ship to France,
started having a look down their list,
and found 'rennet'.
You have to have this product, because the recipes say so
because that is what milk  has to have to make hard cheeses
and I thought I would have a  go at making this type of cheese.

But I found this out about rennet:
1. Cheese has been manufactured using rennet for thousands of years, mostly in Europe.
2. Indeed, rennet is extracted from the lining of the inside of the stomach of mammals, and most commonly from the fourth stomach of young calves.
3. Rennet contains enzymes that cause milk to become cheese, by separating it into the solid curds and the liquid whey.
4. Different animal rennet are used as well to create other types of cheese.
5. Most cheese in the US is NOT manufactured using rennet, mostly due to the availability of cheaper alternatives.
6. Vegetable rennet is made from certain vegetables that have coagulation properties as well. Thistle is the most common form.
7. Microbial rennet is derived from molds. Yum. A side effect is a slightly bitter tasting cheese.
8. Genetically engineered rennet is derived from plants that have been injected with cow genes.
What to do at the supermarket:
9. Companies are not legally required to disclose the source of the rennet, so unless the product specifically states a non-animal source for rennet, you won’t know.
and from http://www.cheesemaking.com/store/pg/244-FAQ-Cheesemaking-and-Rennet.html  calf rennet is considered to be the best choice for longer aged cheeses because some of its residual components help to complete the breakdown of proteins. Some of the more complex proteins in the vegetable rennet can have a slightly bitter taste after 6 months of ageing.

I don't want to be a misery about this,
and I love hard cheeses,
but I can't 'do' calf rennet,
because I can 'see' those young calves in my head,
especially after a recent conversation with a friend of mine,
who used to work at an abbatoir
and who described to me in graphic detail what happens to those calves,
often of a day or so old,
and who often were so young they could hardly walk.
But then, cheese comes from milk,
milk which is produced from a cow who has had a calf,
and if that calf stays with her,
then that calf will take that milk,
and there would be none left to make cheese with,
so that calf has to come away,
to be made use of,
to turn the milk of the cow
into cheese.


So, what to do.
Buy vegetable rennet, that is what I shall do,
and 'age' the cheese for only six months,
and perhaps then freeze it to stop the ageing process.
Or perhaps I shall stick to making soft cheese for the moment!

Lester was in a panic yesterday
Was filling in his French tax form, 
but on the Internet could not find the correct form.
Off we went to Tax Office in Tarbes,
only to be told that they were not available yet,
even though the tax deadline is seven weeks time. 
But it was not a wasted trip,
because the French countryside was beautiful,
the sun was shining,
and the mountains were glowing, 
in a moment of inspiration,
I got Lester to stop at a place
which sells

So, now have a brand new hive,
and bees on the way.

This is our second attempt at keeping bees,
but this time they will not arrive by post and be put into an old hive,
but instead, 
they will have a spanking brand new hive,
and it will be filled with ten frames of bees,
after we have taken the hive back to the shop,
so the bees can be put inside it for us.

And thanking the Universe for giving us this opportunity to keep learning...
and to say, 
that if ever we were not able to be here on this petite ferme
that I would be a vegetarian.


Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Interesting reading. You do have such fun LOL.

We are also complaining there are no tax forms, but we have not got 7 weeks! We are off on holiday 13 May and it has yo be done before we go!! At the moment we are not quite panicking but by the end of the week we will be!!
Take care, Diane

rusty duck said...

That was fascinating Vera. I'd always wondered about non-vegetarian cheese. Now I know.

Shall look forward to hearing more about the bees!

Denise said...

Hello Vera!

As a vegetarian, I find it a real source of annoyance that eating out places sell so-called vegetarian options that contain Parmesan. And as Parmesan is not Parmesan unless it is made with calf rennet it is NOT vegetarian! Aaarghhhh...

And the looks you get from people when you point this out, like 'Does it really matter? It's only cheese?'

Well, yes, it DOES matter, as you quite rightly highlight in your very informative post.Hurrah!

Luckily, Sainsbugs sells a hard-cheese Parmesan-type alternative which is suitable for vegetarians, and it tastes just as good. So, just this once, I shall go 'Hurrah! for Sainsbugs, too.And keep looking for that little green leaf label on ALL the cheeses I buy.

When we visited a small cheesemaking place on holiday last year I had to exercise massive self-control at the free sample counter because there was not an artisan cheese on offer that hadn't been made without animal rennet, and it all smelled soooo delicious.

I was a grumpy vegetarian that day!

Vera said...

Diane, hope you get those tax forms sorted out before you go on holiday, or rather, lets hope the French Tax Office get themselves into gear!

Jessica, I shall most surely give updates when the bees arrive, and I hope we do better with them than what we did last time we tried bees!

Denise, that 'picture' of those calves in my head was quite painful, and if I can't get vegetarian rennet then I shall not make the cheese which needs rennet, even though that reduces the range of cheese down to not a lot. By the way, it is possible to make DIY rennet from nettles, thistles, etc. Will look into that at a later date.

Hooray for us persons who have a care about what happens during the process of producing our food! And hooray for Sainsbugs!

rosaria williams said...

What a treasure trove of information! Glad to know that animals who have had a great life have great meat to offer us.

Niall & Antoinette said...

Looking forward to hearing about the bees :-).
PS hear on the news yesterday that the tax forms should be dropping into letter boxes as of today. You get more time to complete them if you do it online.

John Gray said...

Chris won't eat our pork
He says he hates the taste.... I cannot catch any taint to the meat but he can
Hay ho x