Since my post last week when we unplugged the fridge I’ve gotten a lot of questions (mainly on my facebook page) about meat. Are we vegetarian? Are we switching to raw foods? How do we plan to keep meat from going bad? What about lunch meat?
Well, it’s pretty simple. No we’re not vegetarian or switching to a raw food diet. And we don’t store meat in the icebox (or the fridge). Rick is a hunter. The majority of our meat is some kind of game meat, mainly elk right now. And we process his annual fall harvest (meaning we butcher and package the meat) ourselves. That means all our meat is in vacuum-sealed packages, appropriately sized for our family.
When meat is on our menu, roughly three days a week in the summer time, I go out to the chest freezer in the garage, retrieve the prescribed package of protein and let it defrost on a plate on the counter, just in time to get cooked up for dinner. If it’s a hot day in the summer and it defrosts quickly (we don’t have AC, I know you’re shocked), I put the plate in the fridge. This is what I’ve always done in the past. I plan to use the exact same method with the new icebox set up.
We generally don’t buy much in the way of meat from the grocery store. It’s difficult to find humanely raised meat sources that don’t cost an arm and a leg. That chicken we ate last week – regardless of it’s toughness, totally made Henry’s night – he loves chicken and we rarely eat it. Lunch meat/deli meat is generally very processed and full of nitrates and preservatives. Not very good for you in other words, and we basically never buy it. The one meat we find ourselves bringing home periodically is bacon or bratwurst (the nitrite free kind on both counts). But these are specific menu items that get used within a day or two of coming home from the store, and are a treat for us. I don’t foresee a problem making half a pound of bacon last a day or two in the icebox.
When I announced this project, my mom, who really does think I’ve lost it completely, asked about the Thanksgiving turkey. Well, luckily for the experiment, Thanksgiving isn’t in May. But if it were and I were in charge of the turkey, I imagine I’d either buy it fresh a day or two ahead and keep it in the icebox (or a cooler with ice packs?) until T-day, use the cold water method to defrost it, or, as a last resort, ask the bachelor neighbor who runs a nearly empty fridge anyway to use his.
The other question a few people asked me (people who admitted they hadn’t been following along from the beginning) was where would we get the ice, since the fridge was unplugged and we were using the freezer compartment as a cooler? The answer to that one is from the freezer in the garage. We have two freezers in the garage, an upright and a chest freezer. They are both full come September/October. By the spring, we can usually consolidate to one and unplug the other.
Sadly, even the old 1980′s chest freezer is running more efficiently than our refrigerator was, and we would be running the freezer regardless of this experiment. Our freezer contains a whole elk and countless pounds of frozen peaches and plums (around 200 pounds of fruit alone went in last September). There are a handful of ducks from the winter, grouse from the fall, and a few fish from the summer time. It holds all our excess farm and garden veggies that weren’t otherwise canned or dehydrated, though we’ve consumed nearly all of those by now. In years past, when hunting’s been slim, we’ve bought whole pigs or a side of beef from local farmers. Basically, we couldn’t eat sustainably on our budget without a freezer. And, there’s room enough in the freezer for a couple of gallon-jugs of ice to use in our experiment.
So far, the switch hasn’t actually been too drastic. I’ve found myself accidentally opening the refrigerator door to reach for the milk, only to find an empty cavern. And I’ve made a conscience effort to collect and return items from the icebox all at once for recipes (let’s see, I need cheese, yogurt and the cucumber) in order to keep it as cool as possible in there. It’s basically like using a cooler, or as CitySister said in the comments last week, it’s like camping!