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Meat cooking tips

Not all meat is created equal!  Our grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken and free-range pork requires different techniques in the kitchen than are normally used for conventionally-raised, grain-stuffed meat.

Grass-fed meats tend to be lower in fat and calories.  They also contain significantly higher levels of vitamin E, beta carotene and omega-3 fatty acids, which are the "good fats" essential to good health and which the body cannot manufacture.  Grass-fed meats, milk and eggs also contain high levels of CLAs (conjugated linoleic acids), a group of nutrients that have been shown to be anti-carcinogenic and anti-oxidant.  Most nutritional studies show that grass-fed beef and veal contains 300-500% more CLAs than grain-fed animals. And most importantly, because our animals are raised entirely here on our farm, we never expose them to artificial hormones, antibiotics or "funny stuff."  In other words, we can pronounce the ingredients of everything that goes into making the meat from our organically-raised animals great tasting and healthy to eat.


                pork roast


There are three basic techniques that you'll want to use when cooking with grass-fed meats:

  • marinating
  • braising
  • brining

And while all three techniques have a lot in common, there are subtle differences in terms of when and how to use each technique for different meats.  For example, marinating chicken for 2 hours prior to cooking it is fine, but you wouldn't want to marinate it for 24 hours like you might do with a larger cut of beef or pork.

What follows are a few basic guidelines.  None of this is "rocket science," but it is based on good food science and generations of human culinary experimentation focused on making our cornucopia of food choices taste better and nourish us more wholly.

Marinating

Marinating meat serves as a meat tenderizer and flavor enhancer.  Marinades start with an oil and acid, such as vinegar, citrus juice or wine, and are further enhanced with spices, herbs or anything aromatic.

The acid in citrus juices, wines and vinegars break down proteins, thus tenderizing the meat while also balancing out spicy and sweet flavors in the marinade.  While meats like beef, pork or lamb can handle 24 hours of marinating, seafood generally requires an hour or less and chicken no more than 2 hours.  Marinating too long can actually "cook" seafood and turn chicken mushy.

Meats should also marinate iin the refrigerator--never at room temperature. Marinate in a sealable plastic bag if you can.  It's much easier to turn these bags over often, ensuring that all surfaces of the meat are coated in the marinade.

When ready to grill or roast your meat, be sure to treat the marinated meat with the same care you would treat any raw meat.  If you wish to use part of the marinade as a basting sauce, gently boil it for 5 minutes before using it on grilling meats.  Do not reuse the marinade.

Braising

When you hear the word "braising," think "low & slow," which is the ideal way to cook grass-fed meats.  One of my favorite ways to braise larger cuts of meat like pork shoulder or beef brisket is to cook it on low in a crock pot.  Crock pots can be bought for as little as $20 and last for twenty years.  They essentially allow you to braise meats and vegetables "low & slow."  And the best thing, especially for those of us who can't "watch the pot" all day, is that you may leave it unattended and come home to a ready-made meal of tender meat and vegetables.

You can also braise meat by first searing it on all sides in a skillet and then adding liquid (water, wine, beer, vinegar...the possibilities are endless).  Bring to a boil, skimming off any impurities that form on the surface. Lower the heat to a simmer, or better yet, place in the oven and finish cooking there at a low heat, about 300 degrees F. Seasoning can be added at any point.  

a basic recipe...

Ingredients:

Meat for braising: bone-in, shank, leg, shoulder, ribs
4-5 cloves garlic, minced (use more or less, your preference)
1 large onion, cut in half, sliced
1 1/2 cups liquid: beer, stock, or part wine and stock with a splash of balsamic vinegar for body 
Assorted vegetables (as desired) or even dried fruits.  I've tossed in dried cranberries with a pork shoulder braise to great taste effect.


             dutch oven for braising pork and beef


Brining

 

The ideal brine is 5%. That means 50 grams of salt in a liter of water, 1 ounce of salt for every 20 ounces of water, or in lay person's terms:

 

2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt for every 2.5 cups water.

 

It’s powerful enough to work, but not so powerful that you will make the meat too salty if it stays too long in the brine.

But, if you want to brine more quickly, make a stronger brine. Double it to a 10% salt solution: 4 tablespoons coarse kosher salt for every 2.5 cups water. If you want to add aromatics and ensure you dissolve the salt, you’ve got to heat the brine (and water takes time to cool).

So: When that urge to have fried chicken strikes at midday, you can make a 10% brine but use only half the water. Bring this, along with herbs and garlic and lemon to a simmer, let it steep for 10 minutes, then add the rest of the water as ice (another handy use for a scale, weighing frozen water). By the time the ice is dissolved, minutes, the brine is cool. Throw it all in a plastic bag and leave it at room temp for 2 to 3 hours, remove it, rinse it, and let it rest for another hour or so, to give the heavy salt concentration on the exterior time to penetrate and equalize.

 

Lemon-Herb Brine for 1 Chicken, whole or cut into pieces

 

15 ounces water (or 1/2 liter)
3 ounces salt (or 100 grams)
fresh herbs (e.g., sage, thyme, basil, rosemary, etc.)
4 cloves garlic
1 small onion sliced
1 lemon halved
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, cracked beneath a saute pan
15 ounces ice or 15 ounces of ice water
1 chicken (3.5 to 4.5 pounds)

 

             roast chicken 


Combine all of the above except the ice and chicken in a small pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and remove from the heat and let sit for ten minutes.

Put the ice (or ice water) in a bowl or large measuring cup. Pour the herb brine over the ice. Stir till the ice is dissolved.

Put the chicken in a plastic bag, pour the brine in, seal the bag, and let sit in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours.

Remove the chicken from the bag, discarding the brine. Pat it dry and let it sit out for another hour before using (or you can refrigerate it till needed). Great for roasting, but especially fine for frying.


Photo(s) added: JacobOctober 23rd, 2016

New photo added:

New aerial photo of TWCF farmlands available for viewingMarch 9th, 2016

Now you can see the breadth of our various farmlands up here on Abbot Hill.  From Gage Field to Randi's Field, from the top of Frye Field down to the Hidden Meadow that once was a peach orchard a

New Showcase: Cheesemaking at Abbot Hill CreameryMarch 2nd, 2016

Click here to view the showcase.

 

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