Setting the Stage
August. A secluded cabin on the craggy shores of mighty Lake Superior, the deepest and most mysterious of the Great Lakes. While my wife and I wound our way to this rustic retreat, we stopped at roadside farm stands collecting all the elements to accent our steak dinner: fresh-cut herbs, seasonal berries, and earthy mushrooms. The meal that is the fruit of such thoughtful, careful preparation allows the stage to be set for something transcendent, something personal, intimate, and deeply communal. And it was…
Unearthing a Buried Treasure
When first discovering heritage meats, it was an experience akin to unearthing a buried treasure and as mythic as our sojourn to Superior. Heritage beef and lamb come from rare breeds of livestock, hundreds of years old. Breeds like Shorthorn or Highland cattle, dating back to the 1200s from the wind-whipped northern reaches of Scotland; or Cheviot lamb, whose ancestry reaches back to the 1300s, originating in the hill country boarding England and southern Scotland. Breeds bearing witness to William Wallace and the War of the Roses.
While the romance of heritage meats was enough to compel me to create a company devoted to them, the greatest discovery was yet to come…
A Startling Paradox
Strangely enough, these breeds–whose very existence teeters at times on the brink of extinction–boast of unparallelled flavor and vigorous health.
Unparallelled Flavor. The great irony is that the very cause for heritage meat’s rarity is the reason for meat flavor second-t0-none. These rare breeds grow slowly, making them anathema to the machinery of factory farming, a model where yield is king. This industry churns out more than 99% of all the meat consumed in the United States. But the maxim is “Age imparts flavor”. Heritage meat breeds take, on average, twice as long to reach harvest age as commercial meats. Recently, Modern Farmer published a compelling piece on the flavor of “late harvest livestock.” It’s conclusion?
“The longer an animal lives…the more flavorful its meat becomes.” (Fox, 1/20/2015)
If that weren’t enough, we purvey heritage beef and lamb breeds that have proven themselves historically as yielding exceptionally flavorful meats, whose quality is only improved by 21 days of dry-aging (for beef) and 5 – 7 days of dry-aging (for lamb). Dry-aging: the process by which meat flavor is enhanced and its texture is tenderized.
Vigorous Health. The heritage breeds are pasture-raised and are, therefore, nutrient-dense. Developing over centuries in the rugged climates of their ancestry, they benefit from the process of natural selection. No prophylactic antibiotics are EVER needed or used (nor growth hormones)!
FOR VALENTINE’S DAY
To set the stage for this Saturday’s dinner, you can do no better than by drawing from the romance of heritage meats. Whether you’re celebrating the love between a man and woman (eros); the love between friends (philia); or the love of family (storge), enhance this weekend’s dinner with the inspiration only found in heritage meats.
Tenderloin Steak of Highland Beef (Dundonald Highlands) $19.99 each
The most tender cut of beef–and arguably the most desirable–a tenderloin steak is also called a filet mignon. Pasture-raised and cracked-corn finished. Dry-aged 21 days.
Shank of Cheviot Lamb (Dundonald Highlands) $18.99 each
Perhaps no other cut looks as appealing on the plate as the shank. Bone-in–and thus flavorful–braise or roast the shank, allowing it to “caramelize” and develop a rich flavor that is best described as savory.
Roast of Shorthorn Beef(Tillers International) $39.99 for 3 – 3 1/4 #
A slow-cooked chuck roast is tender and flavorful. Shorthorn beef beguiles with a deep, rich, and bold flavor. Pair with Burgundy or other full-bodied red wine. 100% grass-fed.