I have so much to catch up on here, and I hope you will cut me some slack and reconnect with me as I struggle to get this farm chronicle back on the rails.
Lots of really big stuff is happening in farming nationally and within our local food shed, we are experiencing lots of fresh impact from venture capital driven mail-order competitors and massive grocery chain mergers, we are wrestling with new and old struggles within our local meat processing community, and even navigating fresh, emerging differences among sustainable farmers themselves.
But let me jump back into the blogging fray with an easy one. As these past two years have been challenging -bordering upon ridiculous, I have given deep, deep thought recently to my whys.
You see, why you do something is an important litmus as to whether you should continue on when things get dark, or if you should just chalk it up to failed mission, debrief yourself about lessons learned, and move on.
My whys are deep, hard, and unselfish. This is not simply a business to me. This is a mission. A teaching moment for all of us, and the challenges are part of the understanding of the larger picture.
The large picture being the reality of what it takes to start a farm in the US. Which is important because the fastest growing segment of farmers in the US according to census is those in the 65 and over category. Very simply, we need to start including agriculture in our everyday understanding once again, and we need to help prepare a new generation to ensure we continue to eat.
Which leads me to my breakfast. You saw that coming, right?
In the lost files of farm education, we have evolved into a lot of habits that simply make no sense, unless you consider the brainwashing we have received our whole lives from food industry marketing campaigns.
Cooking fat is a big industry, and a confusing, ever-changing dilemma for most of us. It is elitist, faddish, and the way industry would have us purchase fats, is impractical from a food waste and personal spending standpoint.
Must + Go = Musgo, get it?
Which is what Musgo Monday is all about. Reducing Waste. Monday in my house is the day you put out the garbage. So it is also the day I scavenge all the odd bits in the fridge and make sure they do not end up in a landfill. I make omelettes, soup, stew, bowls, hash, pies and salads and often times, my Musgo meal is the best of the week.
Fat is an item I am honed in on this morning, because it is one of the items I had available, as well as an area that can help you get maximum value when you invest in independently raised pastured meats.
A couple days ago, I was cleaning out my freezers and realized I had a bunch of what my butcher labels “soup bones” that are actually osso bucco, or beef shank. Meaning, they are from the forearm of the cow, and have a lot of meat, surrounding a big marrow bone. They also are an item that can often be purchased at a lower price than say, chuck roast, or arm roast, and lots of delicious things can be made from them.
I love beef shank for a nice, slow, crockpot braise, covered by a full teakettle of water. I typically don’t season it much, because I have plans for the byproduct – beef stock and a bit of healthy cooking fat.
When my shank is finished cooking, I separate the meat from the bones making sure to scoop any bone marrow back into the liquid. I end up with about a quart of collagen rich beef broth perfect for later sipping or soup, a couple nice meals of shredded beef either taco or pot-roast style, and this lovely tallow for cooking.
Last night I baked sweet potatoes (not yams, you need to try them). This morning, I diced a leftover sweet potato, took out my strained beef stock, skimmed off the layer of fat, then fried my sweet potatoes in that beef fat until they were crisped up, then fried a couple of my pastured eggs in the same pan.
There is a beauty and efficiency to using that fat & stock, and the crispy texture and purity of rich flavor cannot be matched with commercial fats or canned broths. I did not throw fat into the garbage, i did not spend money to buy another product to cook my potatoes, and I squeezed easily four meals out of this bit of meat most people completely waste.
And my beef shank meals, while simple, were excellent, and not at all repetitive, and I was able to stash some extraordinary ingredients into the freezer for later day.
I have been loving me some Instagram, and hash tagging, which I am certain I am not doing in a professional way, but I find them tremendously entertaining.
Some of my favorites are #MusgoMonday #peasantfoodisthebestfood , #youarentgoingtothrowthatawayareyou, #grassisthebestseasoning, and #extraordinaryingredients. If you want to see more of what we are up to on a more day-to-day basis, check out our insta feed here: https://www.instagram.com/auburnmeadowfarm/ .
And, I hope this links up properly, ’cause I totally enjoyed this video and hope you do too: