Cow Hide, how to tan?? : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

On Friday we are having our steer butchered. This is the first one here in Flagstaff, and they do it a bit different than in Florida. There is only one guy in town who does the killing and skinning/gutting. None of the 4 meat processors do this part! Well, so the killing guy comes to my home, and does his part, then I have to get rid of the entrails and the hide!! Good thing we live on a mountain, cause there is gonna be a feast for the critters up there this weekend!! Anyway, my question is...what do I do with the hide? Has anyone ever tanned a cow hide, successfully? Thanks, Sissy

-- Sissy (, April 17, 2002


If you ask around, you should be able to get someone to tan the hide in exchange for the entrails (sweet meat, kidneys, head, tripe, heart, tongue, liver and etc.) that you don't want. Or have a real old fashion bar-b-que and cook it all up.

-- BC (, April 17, 2002.

Did you check the back issues of Countryside. I used the techniques they profiled to successfully tan cowhide, rabbit and goat hides.

-- Jay Blair in N. AL (, April 17, 2002.

OOh, yuck BC!! Nope, no entrail barbeques out here! No sirree.....yikes! Thanks Jay, I will start looking tomorrow morning! Sissy

-- Sissy (, April 17, 2002.

Hmmmm, no Haggus for Sissy!

-- Dennis Enyart (, April 18, 2002.

Try this site for a good overview of hide tanning:

-- Joe (, April 18, 2002.

I have never done a cow hide but sheep, rabbit, mink, and deer. I am not greatat it but I understand the process and can look up recipes in my book and so on for you. What are you going to do with it? Do you want hair on or off? (probably off for leather unless you have a really cool pattern or shaggy one)

Unless you are going to do a braintan/buckskin do this: As soon as the hide is off lay it out flat in a cool area for a little bit to cool off. Next, a simple fleshing, that means get the meat and fat off. Then rub salt into the flesh side(the no hair side), lots of it to every corner and rub in pretty good. I just use feed salt. Then fold it in half, salty sides together (don't fold the fur to the salt). Roll it loosely(or fold it) kind of like a sleeping bag. The salt will draw out the natural moisture from the hide so you want to lay this roll somewhere cool, and where it can drain without making a mess or sitting in that small puddle. Check it in a few days to be sure it is drying ok (not rock hard but enough to kepp it from getting moldy). This will hold for some time and give you a chance to find your recipe/technique for the tanning and make a block of time to work it later.


-- Novina in ND (, April 18, 2002.


I'm sorry, but my back issues are on loan this week or I would have found it for you. I believe the article ran during 2000. It is in the end of year index in the Jan/Feb issue following its run as "tanning and tawing".

-- Jay Blair in N. AL (, April 18, 2002.

I found the article Jay, thankyou for your kind thoughts! Joe, I printed out that article, thankyou! And I even want to know what Haggus is?!?! Sissy

-- Sissy (, April 18, 2002.

Haggis isn't too bad, once you forget about the "package" :>)

-- Jay Blair in N. AL (, April 18, 2002.

Hair On: First flesh the hide. Remove as much meat and fat as you can. Next completely cover the flesh side with non-iodized salt. This may take two or three salt canisters that you buy in the grocery store. Usually sells for something like .39 cents each. Fold the hide in half and then roll it up and place it in a cool place for about 3 or 4 days. After the 4 days are up you will need to flesh it again. Stretch it out across a table and use something like hoe, big spoon, bell scraper, etc. and remove all salt and tissue that you can, it will come off easier since it was salted. After fleshing put 1/2 cup borax soap to 5 gallons of water and rinse the hide in the solution. You may have to double this quantity. This rinsing will draw all the blood and fatty oil out of the hide. Rinse the hide and you are now ready to pickle it.

Pickleing solution: 1# non-iodized salt to 1# aluminum sulfate to 1 Gallon water. Make enough solution to cover the hide.

Place the hide in the solution and stir solution twice a day for three weeks. After 3 weeks remove the hide and rinse. Next tack the hide up to a wall, sheet of plywood, etc. and let dry but not completely. When hide is still damp remove and tout the hide.

Touting a hide is to break the fibors in the hide. You will have to stretch and pull the hide in every direction that you can. This will be tough. I usually do mine over a corner table. When properly done the hide will turn white. Next oil the flesh side of the hide with Neats foot oil and let dry to the touch. You can now place the hide inside you clothes dryer and tumble for and hour or two. Before doing this you must disconnect one side of your double pole breaker so the heating elements will not heat up the hide. Repeat oiling and tumbling untill desired softness.

Hair Off: Scrape and remove all meat and fat as possible. Do not salt the hide afterwards. After scrapeing place the hide in a lime solution.

Lime solution: Two shovel full to 5-8 gallons of water. Leave hide in solution until the hair will slip. Remove hide from solution and scrape off all hair and remaining meat and fat. Next rinse hide and place in borax solution as directed above and you can now continue as with the hair on method.

You can use a 80 grit sand paper to sand the hides down for a smoother and cleaner appearance. Do this in one of the dry stages.

-- r.h. in okla. (, April 19, 2002.

Sissy, The first time you are confronted with a DIY steer's hide tanning or rawhiding project, the first surprise is the size. Even more amazing is the sheer WEIGHT of the thing!

I'm afraid that some of the recipes suggested are for far smaller pelts (tumble-dry something that would carpet your guest bedroom?). If it has exceptional colour, patterning or sentimental value, salt it and make arrangements ahead to have it professionally done.

-- Griff (, April 20, 2002.

Sissy and Jay, Wrong animal - haggis is a ewe's offal (all of it, including lungs!), ground, mixed with oatmeal, seasoning (lots) and stuffed into it's own stomach.

It is eaten on Burn's Night and if preceded by a significant amount of scotch, tastes surprisingly good. Honestly!

-- Griff in OR (, April 20, 2002.

WAIT!! YOU HAVE TO BOIL IT FIRST! Cooking blends the flavours.

Hope I was in time and that everyone resisted the urge to rush out and whip up a haggis on the spot.

P.S. Haggis is especially good leftover. It lasts for ages in our house.

-- Griff (, April 20, 2002.

Well, the big butchering day has come and gone! It was the most amazing site I have seen in a long time. This 'butcher' came to the house in the early hours with his little bronco pulling this "box of stainless steel" behind it. He and his wife, both of which are up in their 60's, hopped out and proceeded to open up this box. He had an electronic winch on the top, and meat hooks on the insides that slid out; and his shotgun......once that was taken cared of, he carefully wrapped a large chain around that ole steers leg, and started the electronic pull and dragged that ole steer to the ground. I had laid a large sheet of plastic in the area that he was gonna be working and covered it with sand. This was to catch the blood to mix into my garden. He then proceeded to butcher that cow with a marvelous quality and skill. He never got dirt on the meat, nor did he waste any meat by leaving it on the hide. While he was doing this, his wife and I traded gardening hints, cooking hints, recipes for the tongue and the heart, cooking on a wood stove and the designs of their cistern setup. I was also awarded the opportunity to share mine and my oldest sons testimony about his living through the majority of his life with cancer, and all that the Lord has done throught that time. Took him all of an hour to quarter the cow out and hang in the back and then off to the processors. I am totally amazed! It was fascinating to watch him. Oh, and the haggis.....the coyotes and mountain cats had that for dinner last night. Thankyou everyone for your letters... Ps....Grif, your a hoot!! In His Grace, Sissy

-- Sissy (, April 20, 2002.

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