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Goodbye Hay

That’s a bad pun and one that’s not entirely appropriate as we haven’t grown or cut hay at Hickory Nut Gap for several years now. For some reason I can’t seem to begin these blog posts without some sort of joke or catchphrase, even if they’re terrible.

When most cattle farmers find out that we don’t cut hay, they are incredulous. “What, how do you feed the cows during the winter? You must spend a lot of money buying bales”, is a pretty common response when someone finds out we don’t raise our own hay or make corn silage. The fact is though, we don’t need to. What’s the secret?

Strip grazing.

Though you may begin to fantasize of shirtless young farm hands moving cows through languid green pastures, this is not an ag. version of strip poker . Strip grazing and related terms like mob or intensive grazing are gaining ground among agricultural as well as foodie communities around the country. If it’s new to you, strip grazing is a simple idea with extraordinary consequences in the pasture. Basically, our cows are not permitted to graze on an entire pasture all at once. If they were, they would eat only the choicest morsels of grass, leaving or trampling everything that is less desirable. This is not only an inefficient system in terms of food availability, it also depletes pastures of vital nutrients and encourages the growth of those plants and grasses that the animals don’t find particularly pleasant.

The cows run out of food faster, and when things grow back, there is less good stuff to eat.

Instead, we divide our fields into narrow strips with plastic posts and wire reels. The cows are permitted to graze on one strip of pasture for an allotted amount of time depending on the time of year, number of cows, and size of the pasture. When they have consumed all the grass in one strip, we remove the reel and posts separating them from the next strip, and then put up a back fence to keep them off the part of the pasture that has already been grazed.

This method forces the cows to do several things. First, it gives the animals less choice of grasses to eat, thereby forcing them to consume all of the existing forage rather than just the best parts. The hungry animals also eat more of the available grass before needing to move to a new strip. Finally, the manure, which is a vital part of the cow-pasture relationship, is evenly distributed throughout the pasture instead of being concentrated around the richest parts of the pasture with the best grass: fertility distribution made easy.

Strip grazing allows us to utilize pasture space more effectively and draw out our forage through the winter. We stockpile grass instead of cutting it all down and stockpiling hay.  Strip grazing also helps to maintain healthy pastures and keeps us from needing to feed hay, even in the winter when the grass is no longer growing.

This is a long post, but I hope that the material is at least interesting, if not revelatory. Explaining the things I learn on the farm helps me to better understand the concepts myself and see the gaps in my own understanding.

best,

Sweetbread

Whole Milk From Grassfed Cows at the Farmstore!

We have started selling North Carolina grassfed cows milk for the first time since Hickory Nut Gap Farm was a dairy! We aren’t the ones producing this milk, though. Wholesome Country Creamery is a new dairy outside of Hamptonville, NC. Their cows are 100% grassfed and humanely treated. We now sell both half gallons (available for $6.00) and 12oz bottles ($2.50) of the non-homogenized whole milk in our farmstore in Fairview.

Drinking the cream from milk is a treat that not many people get to enjoy anymore. Non-homogenized milk is pasteurized but it has not been through the pressurization process which evenly distributes the fat from the cream throughout the nonfat milk. This means that the cream will rise to the top of the whole milk and must be either shaken to disperse it, or enjoyed skimmed from the top of the bottle! Our farmstore is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm. Besides fresh whole milk, we sell a variety of other local products including: Roots hummus, 5th Sun Chips and Salsa, Haw Creek Honey, Buchi Kombucha, Roots and Branches crackers, and much more. Our grassfed beef, pastured pork, poultry, and eggs are also available for purchase at the farmstore.

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!

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/