Goat. It’s What’s for Dinner

It’s hard to believe I never in my life ate goat meat before we had our own farm. In many parts of the world, goat is still a staple. But it’s easy for an American to go his or her entire life without coming across it. When was the last time you saw goat in the meat section of your local grocery store? (Assuming your local grocery store is not a Whole Foods Market.)

We still don’t eat goat all that often, but it gives a nice variety from time to time. Our goats are from dairy breeds, so their kids don’t get to be a really large size — and we don’t have too terribly many kids each year, anyway. Virtually every goat we butcher is a male, and at least close to a year old. Older than that, they can get a pretty strong flavor. That kind of meat is great in chili, or in tacos or curry — any kind of dish where you’re going to be using strong seasonings anyway.

This past week, we finally got the opportunity to sample goat meat at its most mild and tender. It wasn’t an opportunity we welcomed, but something we tried to make the best of.

On Easter night, we came home to discover a new goat kid had been born. He wasn’t doing well at first, so he spent some time in my office and we bottle-fed him. We were able to get him strong enough to nurse on his own, and he had been doing well. He was thriving, and growing as nicely as any other goat kid.

Then, about a week and a half ago, Homeschooled Farm Girl noticed a problem: the kid had a strange bulge in his abdomen. She brought the kid to me, and I immediately diagnosed the problem: a hernia. I tried pressing on the bulge, but there was no way to push it back in.

Theoretically, a hernia could be fixed with surgery by the vet. If this had happened to one of our mature dairy goats, we wouldn’t have hesitated to take her in. Given what we’d been through, with saving this little kid on Easter night, we obviously felt a bond with him — but we couldn’t let that bond override what’s reasonable. There is no reason to take a surplus male goat kid to the vet for surgery, just so he can get to a somewhat larger butchering size. The number of dollars per pound of meat makes no sense at all. And besides, butchering him now would free up (over time) an enormous amount of milk for our family.

I was extremely busy with work, and didn’t have time to butcher the kid right then, so told HFG we could let him go a couple of days and see what happened. Unfortunately, it only got worse. Much worse. By last Monday, he looked like he had a small volleyball sticking out of his abdomen. He was still getting around, and still nursing, and didn’t seem in pain — but I knew that wasn’t going to last much longer. And yet, I was still so crazy busy, preparing for my trip to NYC, I couldn’t butcher him.

HFG reminded me that she’s watched me butcher quite a bit. And that, a while back, she and her older brother once cut up a large goat buck that I’d killed, skinned, and eviscerated. How hard could it be, she asked, for her to do a little goat kid all by herself? No matter how badly it turned out, it’d be better than just shooting him or letting him die.

I agreed. So, last Tuesday, she set up the butchering table in the driveway and dragged the garden hose out. We caught the “herniated goat,” and I put a 9mm slug into the back of his head before cutting his throat wide open. We let the blood drain, and then I tried to start skinning the carcass. And then I quickly learned a lesson: even with a very small animal, it’s a lot easier to pull a hide off if you hang the thing up on hooks by its rear legs.

I had to get back to work, so HFG took it from there. Some time later, she came to my office carrying several large Ziploc freezer bags of meat triumphantly. I told her what a great job she’d done, and we stashed the meat in my office fridge. I then went back to work again, and she cleaned up the butchering table.

We didn’t weigh the meat, but there was basically enough for two meals. We threw all four legs in the Crock Pot for Sunday dinner this weekend. The rest of the small carcass is now in the freezer, and we’ll probably make soup from it. She also saved the heart and liver, so I guess that’ll be an additional meal for somebody.

How did the meat turn out? It was absolutely delicious. Sunday morning, I let the four legs marinate for a while in apple cider vinegar. I seasoned it with basil, thyme, sea salt, and peppermint, and added a little olive oil. We then let the Crock Pot go on Low all day, occasionally stirring it. By late afternoon, the meat was falling off the bone. It turned out very tender, and reminded me a lot of chicken.

Young Goat

As the Easter season comes to a close, I never imagined we’d be eating a goat kid that’d been born on Easter night. It really was sad that he couldn’t have grown to maturity. But I’m very glad HFG stepped up to the plate, and took the initiative to make the best of an unfortunate situation. It would’ve been a far bigger tragedy if the kid had died for nothing.

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