×

Some Thoughts On Death

When school groups come to the farm for field trips, I’ve noticed that, among the parents and teachers, there exists one of two ideologies about the kids’ farm education. When we take the youngsters up to see the baby chicks or the calves and piglets, the question of longevity inevitably comes up. “What happens to them when they grow up?”, “Where are all the mommy pigs?”, “Why do you keep them inside pens?”… When these sorts of investigations arise, I always take a glance at the parents to see how graphic I need to be. Can I use the word slaughter? That is only for the most extreme (often those alternative outdoor experimental schools). Can I talk about hamburgers and bacon? Sometimes the parents react more strongly to this than the kids.

On other occasions, the teachers are gung-ho about delving into the steak-ness of a cow. The other day I was leading a group of third graders through the farm tour and their teacher wouldn’t let up. During our visit to each of the animal pens he pressed the kids about what meat that creature was good for. By the end of the field trip I was surprised that the kids weren’t looking at each other and trying to figure out what the most tender cut of human would be.

Truth is, I don’t really appreciate either of these mentalities in the chaperones. I think that an over exuberance about the end product misses the point just as completely as an inability to talk about the difference between a beef cow and a dairy cow. I think the parents can learn just as much as their kids from a trip to the farm. What I know about small scale farming is that all the details have to be intimately connected in order to sustain a healthy system. Whenever Jamie leads a farm tour, he talks a lot about biodiversity. We are trying to mimic a kind of natural biodiversity in which plants, animals, fungi, lichen, bacteria… all work together. If we focus too much on one part of the system then we blind ourselves to the beauty and intricacy of the whole.

We don’t raise animals just for meat. That is a part of what we do. But we also manage our cows on pasture in such a way as to increase the nutrient density in the soils, prevent erosion, protect from drought, and encourage other pasture critters to thrive. We put our hogs on land overgrown with multiflora rose and scrubby trees that we hope to turn into pasture after a time. We keep our goats out on poison ivy and privet control. A local bee-keeper has several hives around the farm to help pollinate our fruit trees and pasture flowers. While it’s important to acknowledge that the animals do die and that they provide us with delicious, fresh meat, it’s equally important to understand that the animals are an imperative part of the farm ecosystem. Not just in their death, but in the way that they live and interact with all the other forces that are in the constant flux of birth, growth, and death.

I know that’s a lot to take in for a third grader. It’s a lot to take in for an adult! That is what agri-tourism is all about, though. I hope that at least some of that will make it through to the folks who come visit this place, or any farm for that matter.

Sweetbread

Germans, Brazilians, Farviewians, and Pirates

Last summer we had a fellow working with us from northern Germany named Thies Winkelmann. Thies was a great worker and unfailingly cheerful. He loved to work hard and he loved to drink beer. He also loved to grill. Not just any kind of grilling, though, he loved Churasco. Churasco is a Brazilian style barbeque for which the meat must be brined at least a day in a tub filled with salt, onion, garlic, lemon, rosemary, bay leaves and assorted ground spices. Thies made Churasco for the farm crew several times during his summer here and would get excited just thinking about the succulent grilled meat. He gave us the recipe, but all the measurements were for 20lbs of meat, enough to feed 40 people! Of course, on our first attempt, we decided to double it.

The Fairview Feast is an event that we hold every summer here on the farm. Originally it was conceived because we’d joked about how much fun it would be to attend a medieval feast. Drinking from goblets, ripping into crusty loaves of bread and tender drumsticks, cheering loudly and making enthusiastic toasts and huzzahs, what more could you want from a meal? Our first year, we held the feast in August on a hill overlooking the farm. We slaughtered a goat the day before and spent all day roasting the meat, baking bread, and apple pies, and setting up tables and benches in our spot. After that The Feast became a tradition, each successive event more boisterous than the last. Each Feast also has a theme: medieval, roman, barbarian… This year we went with pirates. The Buccaneer Banquet.

Because it was such a busy summer for the crew, we decided to make The Feast a more low key event. It went down this past weekend without too much fanfare, but plenty of rousing cheers.  We stocked up meat from the employee boxes for several months and, on Thursday night, made enough Churasco brine for 40 lbs of meat. It sat in a big cooler in the fridge for two days and when we took it out to put on the grill, the aroma of rosemary and garlic were wonderfully strong.

I’m not an expert at the grill. I always seem to run the thing too hot and burn the meat, or else I keep too few coals and it takes forever. On Saturday though, it all came out perfectly. The meat had soaked for so long that it was tender and bursting with flavor. I’ve never been good at planning far enough ahead to marinate meat that I’m cooking for myself, but after tasting that Churasco, I know I’ll start. Even though it rained all day Saturday, we had a good crowd come out in their swashbuckling garb and we devoured all but a few pieces of the meat we prepared plus a variety of vegetable dishes that people brought and some good home brews. Folks from Fairview certainly know how to have a good time, even in the rain.

Here’s the recipe, though you may have to scale it down based on how many people you’re trying to feed. Truth is, I don’t think you’ll have any trouble getting rid of any leftovers!

Shiver me timbers!

Sweetbread

Tongue Tacos

We all got a lot of tongue at the last crew dinner…beef tongue, that is. Ann, queen of the crockpot, whipped up some amazing tongue tacos for us all last week and, even though it looked like she’d crammed some strange alien into her slow cooker, it tasted delicious.

I had never had the pleasure of eating tongue before, nor of seeing it prepared, and I’m not sure which one was more exciting. After nearly 12 hours on low heat, the tongue looked, well, a lot like a human tongue except that it was white and weighed about three pounds. Ann peeled the rough outer coating off to reveal a very tender dark meat underneath. (I tried a little bit of the coating just for fun. It wasn’t fun. It made me think of chewing on a slice of a bouncy ball.) Ann cooked the whole tongue in beef broth with onion and garlic so that it would soak up some flavor, but you can also boil it in water for a few hours then strip it and continue cooking the inside part with any kind of spice that you want. The consistency of the tongue reminded me of those giant slabs of meat they have in gyro places that are continuously spinning on an upright spit. It didn’t just fall apart, but it had an almost bread-like quality and was quite flavorful. I was surprised that one tongue provided sufficient meat for five people. It’s one of the least expensive beef items available, yet very few people take the time or effort to learn how to prepare it. Getting over the initial repulsion may take a while, but it’s really no different from cooking any of the other cow muscle except that this one looks a bit strange while it’s in the pot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s an interesting recipe I found for BBQ beef tongue in the NY Times. I think we’ll have to try this one out next time.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/31/dining/31pairrex.html?_r=0

Cheers,

Sweetbread

 

 

Carmelized Cabbage Rolls with Beef and Pork

This recipe, from Heartland The Cookbook, interprets the Turkish version of stuffed cabbage which uses syrup to carmelize the rolls.

Ingredients:
1 medium head green cabbage
3/4 cup plus 1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup short ggrain or arborio rice
4 ounces grassfed ground beef
4 ounces pasture raised ground pork
1 large egg, beaten
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 T Rosy Rhubarb Syrup or any tart red fruit syrup
3 T unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup beef broth

Cut out the core of the cabbage. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and plunge the cabbage head into the water. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, 20 minutes, ,or until the cabbage is tender and wilted.

While the cabbage is cooking, pour 3/4 cup milk into a medium saucepan and brin to a boil. Add the rice, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Grease a rectaingular baking dish. Transfer the cabbage to a draining board or colander until cool enough to handle. Ina  medium bowl, mix together the cooked rice, beef, pork, egg, onion, and the remaining 1/3 cup milk. Separate the cabbage leaves, pat dry, and trim away andy thick parts with a pairing knife. Place about 1 tablespoon of filling on the rounded bottom part of each cabbage leaf. Fold inthe sides adn roll up. Place each cabbage roll in the prepared baking dish. Drizzle the rolls with the syrup and the melted butter.

Bake for 20 minutes, then add the veef vroth. Baste the rolls with the broth every 5 minutes for the next 15 mintes, or until the rolls are browned adn caramelized. Serve hot.

Fertig, J. (2011). Heartland. Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel Publishing LLC.

Stuffed Flank Steak

Want to do something a little different with your Flank Steak? Try stuffing it! Here is what you need:

1 Grassfed Beef Flank Steak (1.3-1.8 lbs)
1 oz. Dry beef rub (I used the Butcher’s Rub from Asheville Spice and Tea Exchange, but a little salt and pepper will also do the trick)
1 cup bread crumbs (I used half leftover cornbread crumbs and half old bread ripped up into cubes as if you were making stuffing)
1 egg
1 T spices (fresh oregano for ex.)
4 cloves Garlic minced
1/4 cup onion finely chopped (carmelize for extra flavor)

Tenderize the Flank Steak either with a meat tenderizer or simply by working the meat with your fingers while its still in the bag. Massage the dry rub onto both sides of the Flank Steak. Mix your stuffing ingredients and lay them out like a log along the center of the Flank Steak (the stuffing “log” should be parallel with the grain of the meat so you cut against the grain when serving). Roll up your Flank Steak, tuck in the ends and tie it up with Butcher’s twine.

Grill on medium High Heat for 10-15 minutes, or Bake at 400 for 10 minutes for medium rare. Let the meat rest for 5 minutes before serving (remember the meat keeps cooking as it rests!)

Enjoy!

Skirt Steak with Watercress Recipe

Watercress is growing all around our creeks and streams right now! Time to do something with it, pair it with a 100% Grassfed Hickory Nut Gap Skirt Steak and some Red Chiles for a delightful spring meal! The Today show has a great recipe for all to try:

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/46978701/ns/today-food/t/try-skirt-steak-watercress-chilies/#.T4VLVkT786U.email

Flat Iron Steak with Simple Red Wine Sauce

The Flat Iron Steak is a wonderfully tender and affordable cut of our 100% grassfed beef. It comes from the shoulder of the cow and is an excellent stand alone steak as well as a stir fy or fajita companion. Giada De Laurentiis has done a great job allowing the flavor of the steak to shine through by cooking it with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. The Red Wine sauce is a perfect addition to fancify the meal a bit and enhance the flavor! Try it out here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/flat-iron-steak-with-red-wine-sauce-recipe/index.html (courtesy of food network).

Cumin-Coriander Sirloin Steak

Sirloin Steak is a tender and flavorful cut of beef. This recipe from Cooking Light uses Cumin, Coriander, and Red Pepper flakes to spice up the steak and Brown Sugar for some sweet carmelization. Try it out with your next 100% Grassfed Sirloin Steak from Hickory Nut Gap Meats! http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/cumin-coriander-sirloin-steak-10000000522139/