Nobody knows the odor.
But seriously. A couple weeks ago, I had just made a monster batch of chicken stock. We are talking 4 gallons of liquid gold. It was glorious. And rich, and gelatinous, and all of the things you want chicken stock to be. And after it had simmered all night, I got up to vacuum seal and freeze it. As the vacuum sealed baggies of stock set out on the counter to cool down to room temp, I decided to construct a flat spot in the chest freezer to set the baggies to chill and freeze. So I went into our laundry room and flung open the door to the freezer, only to be greeted with the unholy stench of rotting flesh. The freezer was not cold. Based on the state of things, it hadn’t been in quite some time. I checked the outlet to verify that it was working (it was), and the little light on the front was still blinking, but for some reason, the compressor must have bit the dust.
It was upsetting. Not only because the chest freezer was only like 4 years old, and we would have to buy another one (I like to horde food projects like gyoza, cakes, and bread, also, we have some meat to replace, and our current fridge is 14 years old, making it essentially a ticking time bomb), but also because we had a pretty soul crushing combination of meat in there. The ducks that I raised from ducklings and then slaughtered? One of them was in there. My favorite one. The portion of the steer that we bought and split with friends? The first deer that Craig shot? Portions of them were all in the chest freezer. So in addition to the putrid odor of weeks-old death, animals that I felt personally responsible for, and was doing my best to honor every time I cooked had gone to waste. And not even in the “oops, I made this dish and it was icky” sort of way. In the “we literally let this animal die and then just sit there and rot” kind of way. So in addition to feeling somehow responsible for the freezer dying (I was not at all responsible for that), feeling upset at realizing that the freezer had died 20 minutes before I needed to leave for work, and trying to process that I’d have to do something different with the huge volume of chicken stock I had just made, I also began a sort of mourning for those animals who had lost their lives so that we could eat them, and that apparently wasn’t going to be happening either.
And with that, the freezer was closed back up, and I figured out where the heck to jam all of the chicken stock I had just made before heading off to work, knowing full well what awaited me when I returned. While at work, I found out that the trash collection company that we are switching over to after the first of the year, and we’d have to hold onto the freezer til then. That meant that it needed to be cleaned out. It was not something that I was looking forward to. But when I got home, I rolled the trash can into the garage (near the laundry room door) got out a few trash bags, and went to town. I filled 3 kitchen-sized trash bags to the point that they were difficult to lift. And then I had to suck about 2 quarts of rotten blood liquid out of the bottom of the freezer with a turkey baster because the drain in the bottom clogged almost immediately. I dry heaved multiple times while trying to accomplish this task. After I got most of the liquid out, I soaked and wiped up everything I could with paper towels and sprayed the inside with bleach. Then I put the lid back on, and it is STILL in the laundry room, waiting to get picked up by the new garbage company.
And now that I am done being negative, let’s discuss what we lost, and what we didn’t.
I had been meaning to reorganize the freezer situation for a few weeks. The fridge-freezer was packed full, and I wanted to rotate things out to the chest freezer, but I just hadn’t gotten around to it. (Thank GOD!)
What we lost:
~10lbs of ground venison mixture
2lbs thinly sliced and ready to be marinated venison jerky cuts
~20lbs of beef soup/dog bones
9lbs of beef heart
3lbs of beef tongue
2lbs pork liver
2lbs beef liver
6lbs of gorgeous beef marrow bones
2 lbs beef shanks
1.6lbs t-bone steak
.75lb filet mignon
3-5lbs ground beef
2 duck breasts from my favorite duck
2 duck legs from my favorite duck
back, neck, wings, from my favorite duck (stock!)
2 dozen meyer lemon cupcakes
2 loaves homemade bread
2 gallon sized ziploc baggies full of falafel patties (probably 65-70 patties)
Other misc freezer items that I have blocked out
What we did not lose, because I am too lazy to organize my freezer space:
ALL of the really high quality deer parts. This includes:
2 gallons grassfed beef stock (this stuff is like gold)
2 duck breasts from the scrawnier duck
1 dozen chocolate stout cupcakes
I am pretty bummed. We have taken so many steps this last year to make better decisions about our food sources. We have switched over almost entirely to purchasing ethically raised and slaughtered animals, or doing the hard work ourselves in a responsible and respectful manner. We go to the effort of making even convenience/junk foods from scratch most of the time (falafel, cupcakes, etc) in bulk in order to know what is going into what we are eating, and all of our hard work, money, and emotional investment has been rewarded with such a devastating loss.
And to try to bring this back to something a little positive: Planning for the future! We will get a new chest freezer, probably the next size up. This will allow for us to get 1/4 cow ourselves, and still have enough room to store that and the next deer that Craig harvests. In order to prevent losing all of everything in the eventuality that this freezer dies, I am going to get a thermometer with a probe that sits in the freezer, that has an alarm that sounds when it hits a certain temperature. If I set it to something like 10 or 15 degrees Fahrenheit, that should give us enough time to either figure out what’s wrong with the freezer and fix it, or get things moved around, or buy a new freezer and transfer stuff over before it thaws. So now to keep my eye out for appliance sales!