Corned Beef

Scottish Corned Beef

In relation to each other, Ireland and Scotland have always seemed to be like sisters: two countries with a people cut of the same cloth (tweed, of course). In both, bagpipes abound and worldly ambition is abandoned for the simple life (I wonder if J.R.R. Tolkien thought of them when giving us Hobbiton of Middle Earth).

It seemed quite natural, then, to create a corned beef dish for St. Patrick’s Day using Scottish Highland beef brisket and an Alton Brown recipe as the base. In a nod to Scotland, it uses coriander–a prominent spice in Scotland’s national dish of haggis–in place of the traditional juniper berries. Coriander will lend subtle nutty and citrus characteristics to the classic Irish meal.

With the feast of St. Patrick drawing close–and since the brining of beef brisket is a 10-day process–it’s high time to secure your meat. If you begin brining on Saturday, March 7, it will be done on St. Patrick’s Day and ready after just a few hours of slow cooking.

 
The Ingredients
Highland beef brisket, 3 – 4 pounds
Water, 2 quarts
Kosher salt, 1 C.
Brown sugar, 1/2 C.
Saltpeter, 2 T.
Cinnamon stick, 1 (crushed)
Black peppercorns, 1 t.
Coriander, 1 t.
Mustard seeds, 1 t.
Cloves (whole), 8
Allspice (whole), 8
Bay leaves (crushed), 2
Ginger (ground), 1/2 t.
Ice, 2 pounds
Onion, 1 small (quartered)
Carrot, 1 large (coarsely chopped)

Holding Container
2 gallon plastic zip-lock bag

The Preparation
1. In a large pot, combine water, kosher salt, brown sugar, saltpeter, cinnamon, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, coriander, cloves, all spice, bay leaves, and ginger. Heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved.

2. Remove from heat and add ice until the temperature reaches 40 F. You may need to cool brine in refrigerator to bring down the temperature.

3. Place brisket in a 2 gallon plastic zip lock bag and cover with brine. Close bag and place in refrigeration.

4. Brine brisket for 10 days, stirring the brine daily.

5. After 10 days, remove corned beef from brine, rinse in cold water and place in a neatly fitting pot. Cover with an inch of water and bring to boil with onion and carrot. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer for about 2 hours or until meat is nice and tender.

6. Cut across the grain and serve with stewed carrots, potatoes, and cabbage or use to make one killer Reuben Sandwich!

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-brown-cow-eating-leafes-image13605216

A Late Harvest Carnivorous Treat

The longer an animal lives and the more work it does, the more flavorful its meat becomes. (Adam Danforth, author of Butchering, and as quoted in Modern Farmer, 20 January 2015)

LOW-BROW SENSIBILITIES

In our work with heritage meats–every bit as distinctive as a fine wine or craft ale–it is ironic that we have come to adore (even revere) the burger. Given the choice between an 8-ounce steak and a half-pound ground beef patty on a dignified bun–cooked at most to a medium temperature–it’s the later, hands down. No ketchup, no mayonnaise, no mustard. Just generously seasoned with salt and pepper.

Danforth’s above insight justifies my “low-brow” sensibilities. What parts of a beef become ground beef? It’s the gritty, tough muscles like the chuck or the round. Those are the muscles getting the work-out: “The longer an animal lives and the more work it does, the more flavorful its meat becomes,” (ibid.). But what about the other side of the equation, the question of maturity?

LANGUAGE OF THE FRONTIER

Since our inception as a company, we’ve been looking to the language of viticulture to describe the re-discovered territory of heritage meats. Terroir is one such term borrowed from wine country. When used in conjunction with meat, it describes the reality of a geographic taste in pasture-raised beef, lamb, turkey, or pork.

This week, meet another borrowed term, ripe with meaning: Late Harvest. This verbiage is used by baccharians to denote a wine made from grapes–long past their prime–whose intensified sugar content yields deliciously sweet desert wines, such as a Late Harvest Riesling. The same phenomena occurs in the flesh of a mature animal: the sweet intensification of flavors yielding beef that is deeply rich, with layer upon layer of complexities.

LATE HARVEST DEXTER BEEF

Next week, with Dreamcatcher Farm, we bring to slaughter 10-year-old Dexter beef, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Dexter is an Irish cattle breed (Europe’s smallest, in fact). It’s 100% pasture-raised, feeding on clover grasses. We are pleased to begin using the language of “Late Harvest” in conjunction with what I hope will be some fabulously tasting beef to enrich your celebrations of the Saint of Ireland on March 17.

The beef will begin making its way to West Michigan’s finest restaurants toward the end of this month and in the first part of March. A very limited amount will be offered for sale first to our Pioneer Members and then to the general public though our website. And if you want a fighting Irish’s chance for this Late Harvest Irish Dexter beef, become a Pioneer Member today by clicking here.

 

winter dream on cross-country skis

Lady Winter

A winter storm exactly three weeks ago created extraordinary weekend skiing conditions for us in West Michigan. With temperatures holding between 28 and 30 degrees, I took to the cross-country ski trails at Seidman Park in the sequestered woodlands of Ada, MI.

The park was pristine: all wrapped in snow, a mid-afternoon sun broke through and danced on the waters of Honey Creek. The surroundings were the flint that ignited the imagination, dormant after the holiday season. A series of images suggested themselves to me: of winter camping on the shores of Lake Superior; of returning home to a fire, beef roast, and red wine; of sailing the Great Lakes (the sun had already begun its trek to the summer solstice and was carrying my thoughts with it).

For about an hour, I allowed my skis to glide through the snow, warmed by the physicality of the activity and exhilarated by the fresh winter air. Each season beguiles, but this was an encounter with Lady Winter.

Heritage Breeds Podcast

The Historical, Flavorful Meats Our Ancestors Enjoyed

Listen to C.S. Wurzberger’s interview last month with Jeff Duba from Duba & Company. Wurzberger’s weekly podcast, Heritage Breeds, airs weekly on Sticher Radio and Heritage Radio Network which reaches over 1,000,000 listeners monthly in 200 countries.

room interior vintage with brown textured wall and Elephant head

The Elephant in the Room is a Pig

Editor’s Note: Strangely enough, I’ve always been moved by PBS’s and NPR’s fund-drives. Sentimentalism, I guess. The author of this piece (Josiah Lockart) is a Virginia farmer of rare and heritage breeds, a Slow Meat Committee member, and a personal acquaintance of mine from the first-ever Slow Meat Symposium in Denver (June 2014). This letter is written for those passionate about the cause for better meats and who don’t mind a good ‘ol fund-raising pitch for a leading non-profit of the cause, Slow Food USA.

–Jeff Duba

 

When it comes to meat in this country, the elephant in the room is a pig.

Industrial pig production is the poster child for the larger issues plaguing our food system. The status quo for pigs today is all about confinement. Pigs are confined in unethical ways. Flavors are confined to very few breeds. Wealth is confined to an agricultural economy that extracts income from rural communities.

This all comes at a cost to our land, animals, health and small farmers. It’s time to start talking about it. It’s time to start doing something about it.

And that’s why I urge you to support Slow Food USA today.

Because Slow Food is doing something about it.

As a pig farmer who raises only heritage breeds, I want to see, and be a part of, a world and community that values biodiversity, resilience, and food access.

Slow Food’s new Slow Meat program is creating that world. It’s founded on the belief that eating better meat, and less of it overall, is the foundation of sustainable meat consumption.

But we need your help to continue Slow Meat into 2015.

It’s not easy to raise heritage animals humanely, without added antibiotics or hormones AND to make a living wage. Running a farm this way is difficult and expensive, but networks like Slow Meat have given my family farm the support to thrive with good, clean and fair values at the heart of our business model.

The question is:  how do we move this type of farming from the sidelines to the mainstream? The answer lies not in what we are all doing individually, but what we do as a movement.

Slow Food is not only creating a space to solve tough questions but it’s also dedicated to building a system where farmers like me can raise animals humanely and support themselves while doing it.

You can help create a world where farmers like me can raise meat with animal welfare, environment and fair wages in mind.

I’m a farmer, not a fundraiser. But I truly believe in the work Slow Food is doing and I’m writing today to ask you to give what you can to ensure a better future for meat.

The truth is, you don’t have to be a farmer to make an impact on food and agriculture. Slow Food USA gives everyday people the opportunity to make a big impact in their community.

By donating today, you can ensure that our culture of confinement is no longer the elephant in the room.

Josiah Lockhart

Josiah Lockhart is the Executive Manager at Lockhart Family Farm, a family owned and operated farm in Caroline County, Virginia. [They] focus on raising high quality rare and heritage breed pigs and poultry in a natural woodland environment. [Their] Animals are free-ranged with supplemental non-gmo grain. [They] sell direct to customer and to a number of restaurants in the Richmond and Williamsburg area.

Christmas Goose

The Goose of Christmas Past

So much of the way we celebrate Christmas actually borrows from the Dickensian Christmas of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. And, at the center of that story is the Christmas goose. Who doesn’t love that scene in A Christmas Carol where Scrooge, animated by the yuletide spirit flings open his bedroom window on a crisp, cold Christmas morning and bids a lad passing by to run to the market, purchase the biggest goose, and bring it back—an act that Scrooge awards handsomely?

If turkeys are for Thanksgiving, geese are for Christmas. Cooked in the manner of a turkey, the meat is darker, richer, and some say “gamier”, a feast for a true gourmand. Paring well with figs, nuts, apples, and other Fall fruits, the goose best accompanies wine like a Burgundy or Cabernet, for example. Also served at New Year’s Eve dinner parties, the goose is beginning to make a comeback; sales are their highest since the goose’s heyday in Victorian England.

The Goose of Christmas Past, it appears, is on its way to becoming the Goose of Christmas Present, and–while we continue our work at finding a source for this water fowl–you can find goose meat for your holiday table this year by visiting Heritage Foods USA. Until then, for us it will remain the Goose of Christmas Future.

The Great Pyramids

The Great Pyramids Were Built Cheap, Too

With conventional turkeys this Thanksgiving flying off the shelves of supermarkets at a buck and change a pound (it’s the only time these turkeys fly, by the way), I was reflecting on the higher price-point of sustainably-raised meats.
This disparity is most pronounced when one coughs up nigh $8 – $10.50/pound for a heritage turkey. That’s when the following thought came to mind: the Great Pyramids, also, were built inexpensively–thanks to an endless supply of slave labor. Closer to home, it’s the same reason why the American South couldn’t bring itself–without the Civil War–to part with slave labor, aided by the convenient falsehood that Africans were less than human.

Allow me to draw the following parallels, then, between the excesses in conventional agriculture and the building of the Great Pyramids. For starters, both are wonders: vast in their scale and scope, they are technological feats of marvel; we’re talking very advanced science. Both, however, accomplish their feats with the fetters of a false ontology. What I mean by this is that slavery, albeit an efficient means of production, is made possible when one begins to view a being of a higher order (namely a human) as being of a lower order (an animal, for instance). A similar error is made when factory farming views an animal, a being of a higher order, as an inanimate object, an object of the lowest order. The error, of course, allows the producer to become extremely efficient at outputs which is reflected in extremely low prices to the consumer.

A small but growing band of individuals, animated by something akin to the spirit of the American Revolution, have begun to shake off the shackles of this false ontology. Economic sacrifices are made. We’re eating less, but better, and finding that we’re bettered by it.

Heritage Foods USA Logo

A Historic Meeting

When I first discovered heritage meats in the Spring of 2011, it was like unearthing a buried treasure, a total accident (though it felt like it was meant to be found, and that I was meant to find it—and that is an encouraging thought!). Thinking that Duba & Co. would be the first heritage meat merchant in the United States, it wasn’t until August of that year that I stumbled on Heritage Foods, USA, based in Brooklyn, New York. At that time, CEO Patrick Martins and his team had been at it for nearly a decade. The company, run by a small team of dedicated individuals, moves upwards of 60,000 pounds of heritage meats each week and has been named Company of the Year by Bon Appetit, House & Garden, Newsweek, Saveur Magazine and The New York Times Magazine.

While away with my family last month seeking more buried treasure, this time in the form of Belted Galloway beef in the Allegheny mountains of Virginia whose tree-lined summits were awash in golds and reds, we navigated to the northeast where, in the heart of Brooklyn, Mr. Martins hosted my wife and me for a cup of coffee in his headquarters. While our daughter watched Tommy the Train on television, Martins and I became acquainted. Martins launched Slow Foods USA, the national chapter of the international Slow Foods movement based in Italy. After a misprint by the New York Times that Slow Foods USA would be selling heritage turkeys, the company was born to meet the demand for heritage meats.

Heritage Foods is the creator of the Heritage Radio Network, a national radio station that hosts almost 50 programs dedicated to the Slow Foods movement. Its recording studio is in Roberta’s, the rustic Italian restaurant just around the block from the company headquarters. There, guests can watch the recordings live. Martins invited us to attend that morning’s recording session and invited us back to Roberta’s the following day, a Friday, for a heritage foods tasting event. Even now, as I write, I feel the regret of not being able to accept either invitation. We traded pizza at Roberta’s for a sandwich in Grand Central Station, boarded the train which whisked us back to our car, and drove west until a warm October evening closed in on us.

Celtic Thin Places

Thin Places

Halloween is about atmosphere and what the Irish call thin places, those mysterious meeting grounds between two worlds where the veil between the physical and spiritual is palpably thin. Halloween, after all, comes to us from the Celts. And it falls, appropriately enough, at a thin time of the year, at a time when earth itself hangs between life and death, between Autumn’s harvest and Winter’s slumber. Being drawn to thin places explains the inexorable hold that Halloween, ghost stories, forests, the sea, graveyards, ruins, thunderstorms, Edinburgh (Scotland), New England in the Autumn, and heritage meats–especially the ancient Scottish, English, and Irish breeds–have on me. Here’s to all those thin places. Happy Hallowe’en!

Markknödel, Zutaten

Meat Butter!

When I was a child I ate what resembled bony witches’ fingers at Halloween (just a creepy version of pigs in the blanket). Now, I just eat bones or–more precisely–bone marrow, carving out of oven-fired bones the hot, gooey innards and spreading them on crusty bread. With a little sea salt and a garnish of fresh minced parsley, they make a gourmet appetizer. Think of bone marrow as butter: meat butter (!)–only more coagulated and savory. But bone marrow is more than a delicacy.

Eating the marrow of pasture-raised livestock–whether beef, pork, or lamb–has numerous benefits to one’s health. They are a cancer fighter, foster healthy bones and skin, and bolster the immune system. Further, marrow is brain food, it contains stem cells, and it fosters the healing of wounds.

The oven-baked appetizer is not the only delivery system, however, for the benefits of the bone. Using soup bones to make a beef stock will deliver the nutrients in measured doses through the slow sipping of soup broth. The later method is a time-released capsule versus the direct injection method of the former.

For further reading on the health benefits of bone marrow, including a super-simple recipe, try the highly engaging piece “Incredible Health Benefits of Eating Bone Marrow”.