Friday, January 21, 2011

Buttercup the Magical Cow

In the late 90's, my parents moved from Alaska to a tree farm in Oregon.  They live in a greenbelt surrounded by other farms.  When I moved out to Oregon, I spent a few months living with them while looking for my own place.  That is where I learned of Buttercup the Magical Cow....

The setting:  My dad and I are sitting out on the front porch as the sun sets one fall evening.  Dad's in his overalls chewing on a blade of wheat gently rocking in his favorite chair.  A banjo plays quietly in the background.  Ok... that's completely made up.  I think he was wearing one of his many loud Hawaiian shirts and sandals with socks pulled up to his knees.  But I digress.  The air is still and somewhere to the south, I can hear a cow mooing.

Me: Dad, I hear a cow mooing. I didn't think there were any cows near here.

Dad: That's Buttercup. And that's an interesting story...

It turns out that my parents lived next to a magical cow. Unlike most cows, Buttercup was a pet. The neighbor's son had a sweet spot for a cow that was being... "ahem".. put out to pasture if you know what I mean. Buttercup was rescued to live out her days frolicking on their farm.

It wasn't too long after moving to the farm that my dad met Buttercup as she grazed along the fence that bordered their properties.  She seemed to be a gentle and domesticated cow but nothing special.

One day as he was in the field, he noticed cow pies and tracks weaving in and out of his Christmas trees like a nimble ballerina with a massive digestive system.    When he looked over to the neighbor's property, he saw a gentle, domesticated, pretty plain looking cow looking back at him.  He checked the fence and it was still in tact; Buttercup just looked at him as if to say "Prove it". 

As time went on, the tracks continued to wind through the rows and my dad was concerned that Buttercup may be wandering out into the road to enter his farm from the front.  He told the neighbor who assured him that was impossible and the neighbor fortified his fence to insure that Buttercup was not getting out and stayed safe.

The mysterious tracks stopped for a short while and then showed up again one morning.  But this time, my Dad caught Buttercup on our side of the fence.  He looked at the gentle being with curiosity.  She looked at him like a magician who's famous act had just been discovered.  The rabbit was just about to leap out of the hat.

Buttercup promptly exited the stage by tiptoeing over to a section of fence near a massive blackberry bush.  She had found the one area where she could literally slip through the wires with her delicate frame.  She looked back at my Dad with questioning eyes.  He gave her a nod that said her secret was safe with him.

Me: That's amazing but I haven't noticed a cow over there before.  Is she still alive?

Dad: That's another story entirely....

And so begin the tales of Buttercup the Magical Cow.

Because of Buttercup, I have learned to respect every bit of the animal you are eating.  So what else was I to do with the leftover bones and bits of meat from a prime rib than make vegetable beef soup.  But since there was plenty of leftover beef, I decided to find a way to can the soup with a pressure canner instead of packing my freezer with it.  I got my inspiration and courage from the Ball Canning website and Doris and Jilly Cook.  It wasn't as difficult as I imagined.

For the beef stock, I didn't have a huge amount of time to wait for it to simmer so I took a page from Doris and Jilly by using my pressure canner to cook the stock in a shorter amount of time.  I usually roast my bones for about an hour in the oven to get the juices flowing but by using the pressure canner it seemed to achieve the same goal.  I'll post the soup recipe in a couple days with continuing tales of Buttercup the Magical Cow.

Pressure Cooker Beef stock

  • 3 LB beef bones and bits (if you are using this stock for a soup then make sure you have meat on the bones - we'll use it in the next step)
  • 2 onions, halved
  • 2 - 3 large carrots or 1 small bag of baby carrots, cut large carrots into 2 or 3 pieces
  • 2 ribs of celery, cut in 2 or 3 pieces.
  • a small bundle of parsley, rosemary, and thyme 
  • 5 cloves of garlic, smashed but not peeled
  • 1 Tbs of salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 6 quarts of water

  1. Put all the ingredients in a large pressure canner and cook under 15 lb of pressure for 30 minutes.  Allow the canner to release the pressure on it's own.
  2. Strain the stock and reserve the carrots, celery, and bits of meat if you are making soup.
  3. If you are particular about your stock looking pretty, strain it several more times through cheesecloth.  If you are like me and think it all ends up in my belly anyhow.. then forgettaboutit.
  4. Put the stock into a bowl and chill several hours to allow the fat to solidify on the top then scoop the fat off the top.
  5. The stock can be kept in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for several months.
If you decide to can the stock:
  1. Clean and sterilize 6 quart-sized canning jars and rims.  I prefer to keep my jars hot to prevent cracking when I pour my hot stock into them.  I keep them either filled with hot water or I keep them warm in the dishwasher on the drying cycle.
  2. Bring the stock to a boil and in another pot bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.
  3. Place 6 canning lids into a shallow pan and cover with hot water.  Bring to a simmer and maintain that heat.  Do not boil the water that the lids are in.
  4. Pour the stock into the hot jars leaving 1" of headspace.  Wipe the edges of the jar and place a lid on top.  Firmly screw a rim onto the jar.  You want the rim to be very tight.
  5. Place the jars into the pressure canner and pour in the boiling water.  The cans will not be covered.
  6. Secure the lid of the canner and bring the pressure up to 11 lb.  Cook at 11 lb for 25 minutes.  Click here for Presto's website for Altitude adjustments - I'm at sea level.
  7. Allow the canner to release it's pressure on it's own - do not use any quick cooling methods.
  8. Place the jars onto a flat surface and don't disturb them until the next day.  Their under alot of pressure to perform!
This post can be found over at Simple Lives Thursday.

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  1. I made pressure cooker beef stock just this afternoon, in preparation for a batch of chili for tomorrow, with almost the same recipe. I also added some tomato paste, roasted corn, roasted chicken bones, and a piece of smoked pork rind (since I knew it was going into chili). Such a great time saver to use the pressure cooker, and I find I make stock more often, and fewer bones pile up in the freezer! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for visiting Scott! I like the idea of adding the tomato paste. I just grab whatever is in my fridge for the stock but I did have a 1/2 empty jar of paste in the back of my fridge I should have used up.

    Do you can your stock or freeze it?




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