This past fall, some friends and I bought 2 head of cattle from Shannon and Danny at Nature’s Green Acres [details of the butchering of my quarter are here]. I picked up my quarter after 14 days of dry aging. My friends had theirs cut at the meat shop after roughly 24 days. A recent discussion with the farmer about our experience with each approach led to a taste-test of the two side-by-side. Today was the day for the throw-down. Was 14 day or 24 day better? That was the question.
We did two preparations: a plain meatball and a rib steak. Although there were significant variations between the two meatballs, they were deemed more attributable to a) the grind and b) the fat content. The 14 day was fattier as I included far more fat, and I ground it coarser. The 24 day was ground finer, far leaner, and yielded an extremely juicy meatball. Neither had a perceptibly different complexity of flavor on the nose or palate.
On to the steak. I figured if there was a difference in texture, it’d show up here. But again, our conclusion was that the thickness, and cut [although both rib steak, no two steaks on an animal are perfectly homogeneous] contributed to the differences in experience rather than the age. Did we find one more tender with a greater concentration of flavor? Not really. Certainly not significantly so.
My conclusion: as with the big game calves I hunt, my choice is for less dry aging for the following reasons. 1] the animal’s already tender as a calf, so further tenderization is not needed; 2] concentration of flavor is not a goal of mine in my meats – delicately flavored calf meats is fine with me, and 3] dry aging creates waste via trim loss, something I can’t get behind with such a marginal benefit on the experience end. I’m certain that older animals or different palates would see this differently, but this is how I currently see it. Another important conclusion: both the 14 day and 24 day were both fantastic.
Many thanks to a good friend who hooked us up with the 24 day, and the 1975 Margaux.
Sounds like a wonderful evening… and like the pastry tasting… a very surprising result. 1975 wine, eh? Hmmm… I was in University then. It was a very good year.
kevin, looks good!!! i did some meatballs myself last night from a locally grown cow that some friends and us split up and had butchered. amazing the quality difference in the meat from store bought. and literally half the cost or better. how can you go wrong.
on another note, i have been finishing off my apple wine with some oak and it is coming along fantastically. As you havent updated on your wine progress lately, how are things tasting over there for this years apple vintage????
’75 Margaux huh? I enjoy how casually you tossed that in at the end. Was it any good?
Wine is one of those secret things. If you buy good quality wine (especially reds, I’ve had really good results with mirrasou cabernet sauvignon) and hold it for a few years (or even six months…) you can have some really nice wine for not very much money. Takes planning and self control.
On the beef thing. You focused on grind and cut over aging. My experiances is more on the lines of HOW THE BEEF WAS RAISED. You can have well marbled, very tender, grass fed beef, but it has to be managed well. To FINISH o grass you have to move them at least once a day, sometimes more often to get them to put on the fat at the end. It can be done, but not many people do it yet (except in Argentina, they grow really good grass fed beef…)
Love the test.
Valerie – Not even my older brother was born in 1975!
Jeff – an apple wine update is long overdue – thanks for the reminder! Things are going well. I have yet to taste the oaked batch from our tree.
Mel – heh. Yes, it was good. Fantastic mid palate, and a fine example of how the roughness of cabernet sauvignon gets mellowed out entirely over time.
Alan – great point on the beef, but these two cows were both raised well and can be seen on my video featuring the farm. So that consideration was equal, hence the comparison of simply the aging. But I do appreciate you mentioning it, as I agree with you about the importance of how they’re raised.