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After the recent horsemeat fiasco I'm sure I wasn't alone in re-thinking how I sourced my meat. I tend to avoid frozen, processed meals anyway, but there are several dishes I like that include mince.
Sadly there are few old fashioned, independent butchers around these days, so I find myself buying most of my meat from the supermarkets. I'm sure that most of the fresh mince comes from the right animals, but there are other issues as well, for instance the fat content and the quality of the meat that was minced in the first place.
I was loitering around the meat counter in Morrison's when a sudden thought popped into my head; a memory of long ago and my mother standing at the kitchen table, cranking the handle of a big iron contraption. Of course! A mincer! I hadn't seen one of these things for years, never mind using one. It was another indicator of how we take for granted how our food is produced these days. If we knew more about some of the processes, I'm sure many more of us would be vegetarians.
I'm still happy to eat meat, but I certainly want to know as precisely as I can what it is I am eating and how it has got to my table. I don't kid myself that I can always achieve that, but I saw the meat mincer as one way that I could be a little more certain. This isn't about ethics as far as I'm concerned. If I was that bothered about food ethics I wouldn't be eating meat at all, although using the mincer does give me some degree of control back, and if that means I can make more ethically guided choices, then all to the good.
The one I bought was the ProCook Number 8 Mincer.
What It Is and What It Does
The main body is made of cast iron that has been hot-dipped in tin and clamps to the edge of your worktop or table. There's a funnel at the top into which you put the meat to be minced, and then a barrel which is open at the other end. Into the barrel fits a large screw, the turning of which will carry the meat along the barrel towards the stainless steel cutting blade, which is held in place by an end piece that screws onto the barrel and which also holds the mesh plate that will separate out the strands of meat. At the other end of the barrel, a handle fits onto the central screw. I suppose it's a little like one of those old Gatling guns, except that, in this case, the victims are already deceased. The meat goes into the top, you turn the handle and the mince comes out at the other end.
Tips on Using It
You will need to assemble it first, but that isn't too difficult. The handle, screw, end piece, mesh and blade are all removable, which is desirable for packing, but also necessary for cleaning afterwards.
Take care handling the blade, which is sharp.
Make sure it is securely clamped. You will need to protect your work surface with some sort of material on both sides where the clamp fits.
Place a plate, or tray under the end of the mincer where the mince will emerge.
It's up to you what you decide to mince. I tend to look out for good cuts of meat that are well priced, perhaps in the reduced section, then I can mince them and freeze portions. I will trim the fat first (although remember that some fat will help to provide taste), get rid of any gristle and OF COURSE remove any bone. Please don't try to mince bone. It's probably not good for the mincer and could result in grittier mince than you've been used to.
Cut the meat into chunks before you feed it into the mincer.
Don't push your fingers too far in. The screw is very efficient, so don't worry that it might take quite a few turns to get everything down and through the blade and the mesh.
Care and Maintenance
Disassemble the mincer and wash all the parts thoroughly, but NOT IN THE DISHWASHER, then dry thoroughly and put away until next time.
Make sure that you keep the blade safely and separately wrapped.
Take the trouble to lightly oil the unit from time to prevent rusting.
Try not to bash it about. Don't throw it at hubby, for instance, as that's hard to defend in court and worse still might damage the tin coating which helps to give corrosion resistance.
A Good Buy?
Yes. This is a very well-made, solid, heavy duty piece of equipment that should outlive you and possibly several generations to come. It's hard to see what could go wrong if you take care of it, or even if you don't.
Originally priced at £28.00, I bought mine in the shop for £16.00 and I see that ProCook are still selling online at that price.
Hope I haven't minced my words on this one.