How It’s Done
Our Whiskey-Aging Process
Hello again, VG-tarians! Happy springtime (for real this time, we think).
We talked about our whiskey-aged beef on the blog last week, but today we’re going to share a bit more detail about our aging process. There are a lot of things you can do with beef, but for everyday sales in our Simcoe and Stoney Creek stores, we tend to go one of two ways: traditional dry-aged or whiskey-aged by our team. Here’s how we do it – and how you can customize an order to get exactly what you’re after.
How to dry age beef
When we want to dry-age a piece of beef, we typically look at prime cuts like a short loin or prime rib. These cuts generally have good bone structure and excellent fat cover, which make them perfect for the aging process.
Once we have the right cuts, we look at which field they came from. Some cattle feed primarily on local grass while others are in an area that has higher amounts of clover, or even small amounts of brewer’s grains. While all of our cattle are well-fed, the different organics they consume do contribute to flavour. We’ve gotten pretty good at selecting cattle based on their specific diet in order to produce the best aged beef product. In a lot of ways, beef production is like creating a fine wine – the terroir or “flavours of the earth” (environmental factors such as soil and climate) affect flavour in the same way grain consumption does. When it comes down to it, choosing the right cattle is a science!
The actual aging process involves putting the beef into a aging cooler that is largely left closed while in use. We only open the cooler doors to put product in or out, or to clean it – otherwise, we leave the meat uninterrupted so it can do its thing in peace. This is primarily because the beef ages best when the temperature is consistent – something we take very seriously in order to achieve a high quality product. We want airflow around the meat on all sides, but not a wind tunnel from activity in the cooler! For this reason, it’ a very controlled process with minimal in and out.
When you look at a piece of aging beef, it’s like a fine cheese. The outside will darken but should not be moist (another reason not to mess with the temperature in the cooler). In most cases, a piece of beef will lose 16-20% in weight as it ages (for example, a 30 lb prime rib may end up at 24 lbs). This is not because it’s losing beef or because the meat is drying out, as some may assume. It’s the fat around the meat that dries out and loses weight, while the actual beef remains moist, flavourful and tender. Most people like a 60 day age on their beef (this is what many fine dining restaurants serve) but we can start with a less intense 40 days or go all out with a 90 day age. Whatever you want, we can make it happen! Talk to our butchers to get a recommend based on your preferences.
What is different about aging beef with whiskey?
Well, we talked about the unique flavour and tenderness of whiskey-aged beef in our last blog post, but in terms of the actual aging process, the differences are all in the early stages. We choose the same type of cut and prepare it, but before putting it the aging cooler, there’s a bit of whiskey-related magic. We pour a healthy amount of 40 Creek Barrel Aged over the meat and then wrap it in a whiskey-soaked cheesecloth. This sterilizes the meat and adds subtle flavour. (You actually lose less weight with whiskey-aged beef, too!) The meat is then aged in the cooler with our traditional dry-aged meat. We re-apply whiskey at the 20 day mark, but aside from that, it hangs out with the rest of the beef until it’s ready to serve. (Fun fact: though whiskey is a liquid, the cheesecloth dries within the first few days and the whiskey-aging process is in fact a dry-age.)
Questions, comments, or ready to order your own traditional or whiskey-aged beef from VG Meats? Give us a call or come see us in store – we’d love to help you out!
We are offering 10% off all orders of aged beef from now until May 31, 2018. Use the code #SocialBeef to get your discount!