Off To Whispering Pines (the butcher)

Today was the day!  We have been looking forward to this for months.  Effie the Pig and the heifer ( and I mean that in EVERY sense of the word) went to Whispering Pines today.  Shortly, we will have a freezer full of good clean meat.  Meat having been raised on love, clean water, lots of grass and in the case of Effie, lots of kitchen scraps and melons too far gone for us to eat.

I am often asked, “How can you eat your animals, animals that you know?”  Well, I must admit that sometimes it is hard.  Francis Bacon was a pig that I loved.  I patted him as we unloaded him and told him thank you.  Effie, she was another story and pig all together.  You see, some animals push your buttons and make life miserable.  As you chase those animals around the farm, through your gardens, and out of the sheds – you find yourself thinking, ” I can’t wait to eat you!” Really, some animals are so determined to upend  a farm’s balance and happiness that you even have ideas of just getting the shotgun and having roast pig luau style.  I keep using pigs as an example and that should tell you something.  Effie was one of those animals that was made for pulled pork sandwiches. So when she got out of the trailer, with much ado and drama I must say, I was like “Good riddance and don’t let the screen door hit you in the behind on the way out.”  Very kind and loving, I know.  But until you have chased a pig in  Texas summer heat not once but three times in 5 days- don’t judge me.

In all honesty, I do take this seriously.  The fact is that it takes life to sustain life.  I am grateful to the animals that feed my family.  I show them this by providing shelter, good food and clean water and plenty of kindness.  They lead a joyous life, even if their joy is derived from causing me to cuss a blue streak, until the day they die and they never saw it coming.  Most humans can’t say that about their own lives.  Everyone has a job and purpose in life, farm animals are no different.

Most folks have problems with knowing the animals that they eat because in their minds they only have two files- Pet & Wildlife.  The reality is that there are three files- Pet, Wildlife, and Food.  All of our animals are stewarded as best we know how and treated humanly every step of the way.  Some are destined to a long life as a breeder (which are sometimes considered pets and sometimes considered family members) and some will have a much shorter life and are destined for the freezer.

The butcher we use is very important to us.  When you have taken the time to raise your own meat and treat the livestock in a certain manner, you want to know that they are handled humanly in the end.  We do not have the resources to process the large animals we raise so we take them to Whispering Pines.  This is a Mennonite community that are committed to peace.  You might not agree with their philosophy, but that peace and calmness permeate the place and even the animals feel it.  Cattle are very jumpy critters when stressed and will cause quite a ruckus.  Every time we have taken our cattle in, they have trotted onto the scales and then right on out to the holding pen with 5 or 6 other steers just standing there like everyone took a large dose of Valium before they arrived.  This is a wonderful bunch of folks and they make certain that you get the meat from the animal that you brought in to the shop.  It makes it so much easier to leave you animals when you can do business with people like these.

So, the circle of life goes on and I am looking forward to getting the lard from our pig.  I have never requested the lard before so this will be a new experience.  I hear tell that baked goods made with lard and just addictive they are so good.  We shall see!

Jonathan making pork chopsFried Pork Chops- a Southern Love.  Can’t wait for Jonathan to cook us up some more!

 

Beef Carbonnade- Flat Out Good Food

This beef in beer stew is just flat out good.
This beef in beer stew is just flat out good.

I have a thing for cookbooks.  Some people have a hard time passing up a great pair of shoes, I have a hard time passing up an appealing cookbook.  More often than not, I only try a handful of recipes but if I find one outstanding recipe that makes the book purchase more than worth it.  Two years ago I picked up a cookbook, The Food Of France.  The book was worth the price just for the pictures. However, I found many good recipes in this book and one of them I choose for our Christmas Dinner- Beef Carbonnade.

Beef Carbonnade is a simple dish with only a few ingredients.  What makes this just so good is that the beef is cooked slow so that it is so tender it melts in your mouth with such deep flavor coming from the onion, garlic, herbs and beer.  You need to have the beer to make this recipe taste so good you remember it for a long time.  If you must, you can switch the beer for beef broth, but this will give you a dish that, while still good, is not really all that memorable.

Following is the recipe, however, not exactly like it was in the book.  I know, I am not even French and I am tweaking their recipes- I just can’t help myself.  However, what I changed was the amount of food.  This recipe will feed 6 were as the one in the book will only feed four.  I did also change the amount of garlic.  One clove is never enough. The recipe below calls for 6 onions- these are medium size onions.  If you have been to the Farmer’s Market and have come home with onions the size of large grapefruits you can use 4 of those if you want.  The onions cook down in to this thick sauce that is just mouthwatering good especially when soaked up with some wonderful french bread.  So, the more the better.  I use a cast iron dutch oven, but you can use whatever you have in your kitchen.

Beef Carbonnade

1 oz butter (real butter, not margarine)

Cubed Beef- so glad I have kitchen help- Jonathan- for this step
Cubed Beef- so glad I have kitchen help- Jonathan- for this step

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

5-6 lb beef rump roast or chuck roast- cubed 1 inch in size

6 onions

5 garlic cloves – crushed

2 tsp of brown sugar

1 tablespoon of plain flour

4 cups of beer (one of the large single cans of a malt beer works great)

4 bay leaves

a small bunch of thyme sprigs

1 loaf of really good french bread

Preheat the oven to 300′    Melt butter in a large skillet with a tablespoon of oil.  Brown the meat in batches over high heat and lift out onto a plate

Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, reduce heat to medium.  Add onion and cook for 10 minutes. Add garlic and sugar and cook for another 5 minutes, adding oil by the tablespoon if necessary.  Lift onion out onto a second plate.

Stirring in the flour after the beef and onion have been cooked.
Stirring in the flour after the beef and onion have been cooked.

Reduce heat to low and pour any juices that have drained off of the meat, then stir in the flour.

Remove from the heat and stir in the beer a little at a time stirring well, the beer will foam.  Return to heat and let the mixture gently simmer and thicken.  Season with salt and pepper.

layer meat and onion in a dutch oven, tucking the bay leaves and thyme in between the layers. Season with salt and pepper as you go.

Pour liquid over the meat, cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 2.5-3 hours or until the meat is tender.

Serve with the sliced french bread toasted lightly on both sides.

This main dish goes great with potatoes of any kind, green beans  or sweet peas.