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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

Go on, eat that bacon.

Summer is a great time for bacon lovers. I think I mainly say that because I LOVE BLTs. I suppose that bacon tastes nice all year round, but nothing beats farm fresh tomatoes, lettuce, and crunchy bacon on good hearty bread. Add a little avocado in there, ooh, you’re set. I know I’m not alone in this desire (we’ll steer clear of the term fetish, even if it is more accurate), because every summer I witness the trends. As soon as the farmers at the tailgate markets start whipping out those luscious ripe tomatoes, people line up at our booth for bacon. I’ve even gotten a few harsh words and angry glares from those customers with heavier addictions who show up too late for our last pack of smoked and sliced pork belly.

But lets be real. Bacon is always enticing. Listening to that popping sizzle and catching the scent of smoky, salty, succulence, your mouth can’t help but start to water. I bet you’re getting a hankering for bacon just reading this post! If that’s you, then you’re in luck. BaconFest, Asheville’s hog celebration, is coming up on August 31st. If you’re into weird bacon themed desserts, bacon flavored drinks, or just the plain unadulterated stuff itself, this is the event for you. Presented by 105.9 the Mountain, and hosted by Highland Brewing Company, the festival will include music, tastings, and lots and lots of bacon! For more info click here. We will have a booth at the festival where you can buy our fresh and smoked bacon as well as some other tasty pork products from the farm.

Of course, if you can’t make it to baconfest, you can still get our bacon, both smoked and fresh, at the farmstore and at our tailgate market locations (North Asheville, Asheville City Market, and West Asheville Market).

Happy Frying!

Sweetbread

Honey Garlic & Lemon Pork Chops

Sweet, sour, savory, and a little spicy, this pork chop marinade/glaze is sure to please all members of the family!

Ingredients:
4 8 oz. HNG pasture rasied pork chops
1/4 cup honey
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T lemon juice
1 T braggs liquid amino acids or soy sauce
1 t cayenne pepper (leave out the cayenne to keep the marinade mild)

Mix the honey, garlic, lemon juice, braggs/soy sauce, and cayenne. Add to pork chops and marinade in the fridge for 4+ hours.

Prepare your grill to medium high heat. Remove chops from marinade and place on the grill, baste chops 2-3 times with extra marinade while cooking. Grill for 15 minutes flipping once or until the internal temperature reaches 145 F.

 

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.

Smoked Boston Butt

Spring has sprung! Time to pull out those smokers and slow cook some pasture raised pulled pork! The Boston Butt, cut from the shoulder of the pig believe it or not, is the most common cut from the hog for classic pulled pork. You can use all different types of wood chips from apple to pecan to give your pork a unique flavor. Barbequelovers.com has a great recipe and explanation of how to smoke a Boston Butt, check it out here: http://barbequelovers.com/recipes/pork-recipes/smoking-a-boston-butt-recipe

Marinated Grilled Pork Tenderloin

Spring is here! Time to pull out the grill and try Charlie Palmer’s Marinated Grilled Pork Tenderloin Recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/saras-secrets/marinated-grilled-pork-tenderloin-recipe/index.html (courtesy of foodnetwork.com). This moist and flavorful cut of pasture raised pork is said to be the most tender piece from the whole hog! Try taking it off the grill just before it hits 155 degrees and let it finish cooking while it rests (5-10 minutes).

Stuffed Boneless Pork Loin

Want to try something a little different with your Boneless Pork Loin? Try stuffing it! This recipe from Simplyrecipes.com incorporates shallots, apples, cranberries, walnuts, and maple syrup to make a delightful loin that will please your family and impress your guests. If you don’t have shallots, substitute onions and try any slightly tart apple you can find (winesaps and pink lady’s are delicious from experience). Enjoy!

http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/cranberry_apple_stuffed_pork_loin/