Those who dined at Duba’s Restaurant (circa 1949 – 2005), were well acquainted with the relish tray which accompanied every meal (along with garlic bread and a soup and salad course, all included in the meal price). The relish tray: an assortment of vegetables, served with spinach dip and a liver pate. In all those years dining at the Family restaurant, the liver pate remained untried. Being a member of the third generation of the Family restaurant, I never saw any of our dining companions touch the stuff. My conclusion: liver pate was old people’s food, good only for making a very realistic-looking doggie-doo sandwich.

But that concept is beginning to change. Since we buy and sell whole beeves, hogs, and lambs, our family is becoming more adventurous (and adept) at utilizing the whole animal. This week’s uncharted culinary waters involved creating a recipe for a Scottish Highland liver pate. Employing Highland beef liver and using Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for a chicken liver pate as a template, I created my own, drawing inspiration from the predominate spice of that traditional Scottish dish: haggis. And it was delicious! My very skeptical wife, once with vegetarian leanings, preferred it to humus. Trying to make it more palatable to our 1 year-old daughter Analise, we gave it to her on crackers; she spit out the crackers after consuming the pate.

Scottish Highland Liver Pate

The Ingredients

3/4 – 1 pound livers of Highland beef, soaked in milk then coarsely chopped

1 stick cold, unsalted butter

1 C. onion, chopped

1 C. mushrooms, chopped

2 t. garlic, minced

1 T. whole corriander

2 bay leaves

1 t. fresh thyme, chopped

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. ground black pepper

1/4 C. Scotch (or brandy)

crackers or sliced baguette

The Preparation

1. Soak livers in milk for 6 – 12 hours, then coarsely chop.

2. In a large skillet, melt half of the butter and saute onions, then add the mushrooms until onions are cooked through and translucent.

3. Add the garlic and continue cooking until fragrant.

4. Add the beef liver, coriander, bay leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook until the livers are pink in the middle.

5. Add the Scotch or brandy and cook until the livers are cooked through, then remove from heat.

6. Discard the bay leaves and process the mixture in a food processor, adding chunks of the remaining butter one at a time and pulsing to blend through.

7. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Place pate in a mold or serving dish, cover, and allow to cool in refrigerator for 6 hours before serving.

Who doesn’t remember, with a hint of nostalgia, the story of Charlotte’s Web and Charlotte’s crusade to save the pig Wilbur from slaughter? When it comes to preserving the “Ark of Taste” and biodiversity, the exact opposite is–paradoxically–called for. This is the topic of the following four-minute segment from the July 23rd edition of The Salt on NPR. It features Kentucky farmer Travis Hood who raises heritage Red Wattle pork, a species discovered wandering the woodlands of eastern Texas. In 1999, the breed was down to no fewer than 50 hogs. But with this shift in thinking, Red Wattles–and other heritage breeds–have experienced a substantial recovery. Yet, the breed’s still not “out of the woods”–so to speak.

To read more about the breed and the Michigan farmers who raise them; or to try Red Wattle pork for yourself, visit our Idle River Farms product pages. For now, enjoy the program…

Scenic Drive, aptly named, hugs the sandy shoreline of Lake Michigan, just north of the Muskegon State Park. Parking on the shoulder of the road, my wife–with daughter Analise in tow–spread a blanket on the white sands. They remained behind to catch up with an old friend while I hiked south to the dunes in Sunday clothes and (somewhat stiff) dress shoes. The collared shirt, socks, and leather shoes we left trail side for the ascent up the dune. The vista from the top was more than worth the ten minute climb through a hot and shifting earth studded with twigs. From those heights, a faint haziness obscures the horizon, giving the great lake a dream-like quality.

The dune climb was followed by an equally long swim in the vast waters being churned by the winds. Thoughts out there on the lake concerned just what was to be done if caught in an undertow. In hindsight those thoughts may have been well-founded: there was a red flag flying at the entrance to the State Park that day which, I’m sorry to say, didn’t register much of a warning in my conscience mind.

With life and limb intact, our family made its way north on Scenic Drive to the Whitehall and Montague area. We stopped briefly at the site of Michillinda Lodge where my wife and I spent our wedding night almost three years ago. An empty lot remains where the lodge once stood, having since burned to the ground in a “spectacular fire”. But fresh grass grows there now–a hopeful sign.

The winding road to White Hall and Montague skirts White Lake and boasts many stately country homes which have the antique charm of the early 1900s. At 3:00 in the afternoon on a Sunday, Montague is sleepy town of brick buildings, vintage shops, and art galleries. The promise of live jazz music at a local espresso and wine bar had brought us here, though the bar had closed a couple of hours prior to our arrival. Who, however, could be disappointed with the discovery of Brigadoon, albeit nearly uninhabited? What a spell was cast by this part of Michigan’s west coast, scarcely appearing on a map.

There’s money in ground.

Those were Frank Reese’s parting words to me at the 2012 American Livestock Breeds Conservancy’s annual convention in North Carolina. Hailed as the father of heritage meats, I was once skeptical of his advice; since then, I have become a believer. As immensely proud as I am of the quality of our steaks and roasts, no where is the difference between conventional and heritage meat more pronounced than in its ground. In fact, ground has become our best-selling item. I have a theory as to why this is the case, a theory collaborated by other butchers.

As the theory goes, meat flavor is concentrated in the tougher muscles, muscles too chewy to turn into steaks or chops. Those are the parts of an animal that are turned into ground for burgers (they are also well-suited for pot roasts, cooked “low and slow”, or for steaks prepared sous vide; these methods ensure tender meat with optimal flavor from what would otherwise be courser cuts).

As a delegate to the Slow Meats symposium in Denver last month, a chef and butcher attending the event raved about a lamb burger being served up near Denver’s Larimer Square (so good, in fact, he returned the next day for the same dish–something he never does). Until discovering heritage lamb, I was not much a fan of America’s most under-rated meat. But the lamb burger I had at Rioja Restaurant was arguably the best lunch I’ve had in a quarter century (that is to say, my whole life). Served on a house-made pizza bun with chipotle aioli and mozzarella cheese, it’s everything you might expect from a restaurant that houses a James Beard Foundation award-winning chef. That was the lamb burger I set out to re-create tonight with a shipment of Cheviot lamb, newly arrived from Dundonald Highlands.

Selecting a bun from Kingma’s Market that closely approximated Rioja’s bun, I made a chipotle mayonnaise and grilled up lamb burgers for a friend and myself. Applying the chipotle mayonnaise only to the first couple of bites, it was forgotten for the remainder of the burger (the inherit flavor beggared no such additions). My friend–a beefaphile never before having tried lamb meat–was superlative in his accolades, preferring its flavor to even that of beef. In the final analysis, the summer barbeque of lamb burgers left us wanting more though. No more was to be had. But, you know, there’s a sweet satisfaction in partially fulfilled desires.

When in the course of driving last month from Michigan to Colorado–and back again–it became necessary to find some means of passing the many hours on the open roads. David McCullough’s book 1776 proved to be a welcome companion. It’s a masterful retelling of arguably the most crucial year of the American Revolution. What one may not realize is just how close the Colonies came to losing the War of Independence (and on more than one occasion). The Declaration of Independence had a galvanizing effect on the United States, which–on July 4–was starring in the mouth of the British Navy, gathered in all its force in New York’s harbor. I was inspired to return to this, one of the founding documents of the United States this Independence Day. Few of us have a familiarity with the document beyond that famous line concerning “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. If you’re so inclined, here is a reading of that seminal document:

[hana_testimonial name=””]When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world. In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people. Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends. We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.[/hana_testimonial]