Meat is the basis for many meals as
we all know. Your basic meats are beef, pork and chicken. Then from there
Louisiana folks have the wild game such as venison, duck, goose, frog
legs, turtle, alligator, raccoon and squirrel. If you're not from here I'm
sure a few of these wouldn't be on your list of main courses, but us South
La. Cooks most certainly will. Frog legs, turtle and alligator are in the seafood section.
sausages and dressings are some of the favorite
cooking methods in south Louisiana.
Here's a few meat facts.....
Beef is USDA graded as follows (from best downward): Prime, Choice and
Select. (Remember PCS). Choice and Select are normally found in your local
grocery. Prime is sometimes found in specialty meat markets but usually
reserved for restaurants. There are lower grades but you'll not usually find them in
your grocery! Un-graded meat is also available and many stores carry it.
Is it a good grade? Most probably so, but, you must know that up front so
you can modify the way you cook it to compensate for the lower quality!
USDA also says....There are four
basic major (primal) cuts into which beef is separated: chuck, loin, rib,
and round. It is recommended that packages of fresh beef purchased in the
supermarket be labeled with the primal cut as well as the product, such as
"chuck roast" or "round steak." This helps consumers
know what type of heat is best for cooking the product. Generally, chuck
and round are less tender and require moist heat such as braising; loin
and rib can be cooked by dry heat methods such as broiling or grilling.
Unfortunately, names for various cuts can
vary regionally in stores, causing confusion over the choice of cooking
method. For example, a boneless top loin steak is variously called: strip
steak, Kansas City Steak, N.Y. strip steak, hotel cut strip steak,
ambassador steak, or club sirloin steak.
The later two paragraphs courtesy of the USDA
web site. Read more there.
When purchasing beef look for a "sell by" date on the
package. Remember though, it's not mandatory for the grocery to have the
date on the package. To be safe you should cook or freeze the meat within
3 -5 days after the "sell by" date to assure it's highest quality.
Old myth: you can't re-freeze meat after it has been thawed. The
truth: If it has been thawed in the ice box (refrigerator) and has
NEVER reached a temperature ABOVE 40°F you can re-freeze it.
Think about it! How many freezers have gone out (that means "quit
working") and the contents, meat, beef, pork or whatever, never
reached a temperature above 40°F, yet, all was thrown away! Check
Pork is pig and pig is hog! Much of a hog is cured and made into ham,
bacon and sausage. Uncured pork meat is called "fresh pork."
Pork found in supermarkets generally has no grade, but, if it's been
inspected by the USDA it's called "Acceptable" and will be
labeled, "Passed and Inspected by USDA". One way or the other I
would think you're getting good meat.
Now here in South Louisiana the word cracklins make people do a 180 and
head for the source. They move even faster if the cracklins are HOT (heat,
not pepper). To have the best cracklins at your store around here is
something of great pride! Cracklins are 1 " X 1" X 1" (in
general) pieces of pork belly or back (with a little meat on it) and are similar to pork
skins you buy in the grocery but only only 3,000 times better!
also have what we call "Salt
Meat", a-k-a salt pork or pickled pork. It's a salted
pork leg. We can buy this in single packs or
as a loin as shown here. Cajuns use salt
meat to cook beans and other vegetables.
It's a staple to us similar to ham
The refrigeration rules for pork are no different than beef, 40°F is
the key temperature.
Here's a link to the National
Fryer, capon, Cornish hen, roaster hen
and rooster are all varieties of
chicken also known as poultry. Each has great dishes associated to them
and as a rule are less fatty than beef. Chicken is not normally graded but
when it is, it's usually "Grade A, B & C". As with other meats, keep
chicken below 40°F when handling. Chicken should be kept frozen at 0°F.
When thawing either do it in the refrigerator or in water, never left out
in the open air. USDA
site info.. We can't forget eggs here and of course the same rules apply
with the exception of freezing. According to the USDA we consumed 71
billion eggs in 2000.
Sausages are made from all sorts of meats are are usually either
smoked, fresh or dried. Handling sausage is no different in that you
should observe the same refrigeration and freezing rules as the meats
above. Smoked sausage is normally already fully cooked and can be eaten
"as is". Fresh sausage must be cooked. Sausages are not graded.
Deer (venison) sausage is very popular here and is made mostly by the home
cook and is often a big event with friends. Of course you can make your
own sausage at home using pork, beef or a mixture of both. Making sausage
is fun especially if you have kids and want to teach them a little about
where foods come from and how they are made. Another form of sausage here
in Louisiana is Boudin' (BOO-DAN - N is
silent but pronounce the "A" as in
DAN). The ingredients include a
filler such as rice. In reality it's rice dressing packed in sausage
casing, but, it's not that simple! Here in Lafayette, LA. just about every
corner grocery and every meat market has there own "special
recipe" boudin'. It's just about an ongoing contest.
Here is the USDA
site information on sausages....
Other meats mentioned in the beginning of this page should be
handled in a similar manner. Ducks, geese, deer, coon and the others are prized possessions
in many a household and demand a family gathering when they're cooked!
On to Cooking
Cook me something mister......