in which the Kerrys are coming

in which the Kerrys are coming

Still a little shy, our new Dexter & Kerry neighbors are settling in!

Still a little shy, meet our new Dexter and Kerry neighbors

Something’s happening in the neighborhood that I’m pretty excited about. I wasn’t sure how the Ladies would take the news, especially Molly since she takes her duties as a Heritage Breed model pretty seriously.  But surprisingly, they seem pretty excited about it too.

I had heard the Kerrys were coming, and now the Kerrys are here. It’s true – I’ve seen them myself. And with the Kerrys are a few of their smaller Irish cousins the Dexters.

Until now, we were one of the few farms in these parts with old-fashioned heritage breed cows.  Here and there I see a Dexter or some Scottish Highlands; there’s a farm with beef Devons a couple of hours away and a herd of ethereal British Parks I’ve been wanting to see. Devon crosses are popping up here and there, but mostly, until now, any heritage cow friends I’ve made are from Virginia,  New York, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Known as "the poor man's milch cow", Ireland's Kerry cattle are famous for their longevity and ability to thrive on poor forage.

I’ve had a little crush on Kerry cows for some time, but have only managed to meet one just once in my travels. That’s all changed now since recently, a small herd owned by the Grossman family has taken up residence at Pasture Maid Creamery in nearby New Castle. So, not only will these Kerry Ladies (and their man) be living nearby, their milk is being put to the test by a real, professional cheesemaker, Adam Dean.

While our Girls are an old-fashioned breed from North Devon England, Kerrys are a similar type of indigenous cattle from Ireland. In fact, the Kerrys with their lovely horns look very similar to the Ladies, but are just a little smaller and are black instead of red.  Like our American Milking Devons, Kerrys are also famous for their scrappy ability to make rich milk and excellent beef while eating nothing but grass.

The introduction of Kerry cattle into this professional dairy herd is a bold and proactive response to the ever-increasing costs of farming inputs. By breeding their herd of modern  dairy breeds to a Kerry bull, the Dean family of Pasture Maid Creamery (not  the Dean’s brand in cartons – look for glass bottles of Pasture Maid Creamery pasteurized creamline milk) is shaping their herd in a way that will reduce their dependence on expensive grains and fuel as they continue to produce excellent milk and beef.

When the milk is clean, sweet and rich you don't need exotic equipment & ingredients to make great cheese.

After visiting my new Kerry neighbors, I came home with some booty and fresh inspiration: a gallon of Pasture Maid creamline milk and a dozen farm fresh eggs. I re-started my cheesemaking engines by making this pillowy soft, fresh buttermilk cheese.  Its pure, rich deliciousness is a true reflection of the beautiful milk.

I’m struggling with brain jam because I have so many things to say about this milk and cheese. But, rather than torture you with one long runaway spew, I’ll restrain myself. More to come,  you can count on it. Don’t believe me?

Get your own Pasture Maid Creamline milk and try for yourself. Your brain will cheese up with excitement too.

Molly doesn't see why I think this is a big deal. "Bring it on with a side of fresh grass", she says.

Moo-re to come….

in which we give thanks for everyday riches

in which we give thanks for everyday riches

A while ago I stumbled across this Estonian proverb.  It struck me as oh-so-true and I have thought about it often since:

Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.

 

This morning, I am satisfied. I have everything I need if just for today.

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My pre-dawn breakfast: Farm fresh eggs, carefully basted, served on top of toasted, hearty homemade bread spread with rich, yellow butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows.  The thick-shelled brown eggs were laid a couple of days ago by the neighbor’s chickens, yolks bright and firm.

Sprinkled on top, a tiny bit of Parmesan Reggiano. The cheese mixed with the runny yolks is a thick, delicious sauce with the perfect amount of rich saltiness.

Full, satisfied and ever so grateful. How much richer can I be?  What little pleasures made your day a little bit nicer?

 

in which we have a Steak in the outcome

in which we have a Steak in the outcome

Can you tell I really liked this book? Entertaining, bright and funny...

Bacon, called by some “the gateway meat”, is often the animal flesh that rocks the strongest vegetarian resolve. Crazy as it sounds, my path to beef farming began with my attempts to be a vegetarian.  Obviously, a not very good one.

For me, the irresistible wasn’t bacon. It was steak.  A manly steak; New York Strip or rib eye, medium rare at most.  A beautiful, one-and-a-half-inch thick piece of well-raised beef, sporting a perfectly browned crust and sitting well rested and alone on a generous plate…

I know, I’ve said this before, but it makes me sad that consistent has come to define good with regard to food in America. And that’s exactly and all commodity grain-fed beef has become: consistent.  And now, being generations of Americans who have never tasted anything other, we believe tender = mushy, and flavor = rub, marinade and/or sauce when it comes to good beef.  Steak as we know it has become the chef’s blank canvas rather than the farmer’s art.

I suppose that’s why a truly extraordinary steak is as rare, haunting and mythic as the Loch Ness Monster. It’s amazing how many people can tell you exactly where and when that nostalgic meal took place. And one man, Mark Schatzker, loves his steak so much, he took it on as a Quest.  Capital Q, Quest, that is.

The book Steak: One Man’s Search for the World’s Tastiest Piece of Beef is exactly what it claims to be: Mark Schatzker’s search around the world for the tastiest piece of beef. I’m a bit jealous, I admit, but he writes about it in such an entertaining and conversational way, I almost feel like I got to tag along. He starts in Texas (wow), heads to France (super-wow) where he finds a herd of ancient auroch, then Scotland, home of the esteemed Aberdeen Angus. After that, it’s Italy where I find the words to describe the thoughts I’ve had about my farm.

“There is a term that describes this [a distinctive taste for each distinctive region] phenomenon.  It is a foreign word—from France—and one that is often bandied about by pretentious people who stifle the atmosphere at dinner parties.  It is, nevertheless, a good word: terroir.”

It is a good word and Mark’s description is the perfect illustration of why I rarely use it. It makes me feel like a pompous ass. But, it is an important word here, since it describes everything I do.  Mark’s Italian friend Tilda uses the term “pure savor” which may be even more descriptive to me:

A pure savor is “any food where you can taste the nature that produced it.”

So, “ A Podolica [a breed of cattle indigenous to Italy] steak raised on Monte Tresino is a pure savor, but a feedlot steak from Texas, fed Nebraskan corn, coated with Montreal steak rub and swimming in a puddle of canned broth produced in some unknown factory, is not.”

Now, don’t let me get stuck in Italy. Mark moves on to Japan (fascinating), Argentina (nothing’s sacred), back home to Canada where he raises his own cow, then returns to the Heartland to wrap it up with his American team of grass & beef experts.  Each location contributes something unique, insightful and remarkably consistent  about what makes the best beef.  And, can I share a secret? Not that I recommend it, but:

“Start with good meat and it will be good even if you boil it.”

 “The secret to great steak isn’t the thickness, or ultra-low heat or ultra-high heat.  It isn’t dry aging, either, which is commendable but overrated— any rib eye that needs to be aged for sixty days isn’t a good rib eye to begin with.  The secret to great steak isn’t salting the day before, marinating in olive oil, or any other lost technique from the old country.  The secret to great steak is great steak.”

And, the USDA grading system isn’t even close to being comprehensive about what makes meat good. Tip: it’s not all about marbling.  Put all your steak buying decisions in the hands of the USDA grading system and you’re pretty much guaranteed to miss out on that elusive, mythic experience of a pure, beefy savor.

Time and time again, the flavor dial tilts in favor of grass-fed.  But, some of the worst steaks were also the grass-fed.  Grain-fed feedlot beef is easy to make consistent. Rations are mixed to be the same, all you have to do is dump the bucket full of grain into the trough and watch the cows get fat.

Grass-fed beef on the other hand is more complex – it  requires the farmer to demonstrate some thoughtfulness and skill.  You need to orchestrate your grasses, birth and slaughter times and even deeper, become a master of enriching your soil.  Because, it is true that two cows of the same age and breed can consume the same types and quantities of grass but live on different farms. You may expect them to taste the same, but no. They will taste different. The minerals in the soil of their different farms make their contribution to final flavor as does the level of contentment/stress the cows experience.

It takes more than simplified labels to identify good beef. A grass-fed label does not say anything about flavor, quality & texture.  It just tells you that cow did not eat grain.

I worry because some of the beef I see being sold as grass-fed has not been finished at all. I know that the farmer simply did not feed his cow grain which means that while it may be healthier, it will not be enjoyable.  And you are likely to blame your  disappointment on the fact the cow was grass-fed instead of the fact that it was the beef “equivalent of bad home-made wine.”  Mark has much to say about this:

“Grass isn’t so easy. Williams likens finishing cattle to playing guitar. ‘Feeding grain,’  he explained to me,  ‘is like knowing a few chords and playing an easy song. Finishing on grass is like being a virtuoso.’ ”

and

“One snowy winter day, I visited a farm where the farmer was letting the wrong kind of cows eat the wrong kind of grass.  The farmer and his wife were salt-of-the-earth types-three dogs, five kids-and lived in a hundred-year-old farmhouse.  Most of their cows were fed corn, but a few of them ate grass and only grass, because growing numbers of precious foodie types down in the city had been clamoring for healthy, earth-friendly grass-fed beef.  I drove back to the city with a grass-fed sirloin and grilled it that night. …While chewing it, I debated whether the meat would make a better sandal or boot.”

So, someone who values well—raised beef and its healthful benefits is in danger of spending good money and getting a disappointing hunk of shoe leather.  And, ever after, believe the experience is proof that while grass-fed beef may be better for you, it is more health food than treat.  Which is completely false and leaves you in danger of missing out on the best steak experience of your life.

I was pretty excited also to see my belief that  old—fashioned unimproved breeds of cattle produce the most memorable beef was confirmed by experts. In particular, the old, un-“improved” British breeds are recognized as being superior in both flavor and texture and science is now beginning to demonstrate why.

Great news for our herd of compact Devon cattle - exactly the type of breed grass-fed beef experts recommend

Our Devons are as close to their original, smaller, slower growing British ancestors as can be. And their milk is high in butterfat, which, surprise surprise, is a significant indicator of good beef.

There is a documented relationship between cows producing milk with high butterfat content and superior marbling. And, a scientific reason the flavor and texture of the meat from smaller breeds who are slower to mature is so much finer.

So, you see, this book means a lot to me, especially since it reassures me that my farming decisions, exploratory and intuitive as they’ve been, are supported with data and the experience of farmers, experts and scientists I don’t get to chat with here in my small town.

Here, I’m the eccentric lady with the herd of “exotics” even though my “exotics” pre-date Roman times and the locally popular and hefty grain-fed Angus Hummers are evolutionary babies.  I could go on and on and actually paraphrase the entire book for you, but I won’t torture you that way.  I want you to read the book—it’s a four hooves up.

I could have highlighted the whole thing - important steak-y stuff from all around the world. Tag along on Mark's road trip and find yourself really hungry for something not so easy to find...

If you love beef but have felt it is somehow mysteriously lacking, you’ll gobble it up and learn something in spite of yourself. Makes me excited to get back to my work preserving and sharing something we are in real danger of losing.  And it should make you want to go out and find yourself a great steak.

If you decide to take up the Quest yourself, Mark has a website featuring contacts for some of the farms featured in the book. Also, be sure to check out eatwild.com and localharvest.org to find farmers in your area raising breeds you won’t find in the grocery store.

OK people, you have your mission….. readysetGO! And don’t forget to come back and share what you’ve found….

In which we are very clear

In which we are very clear

I'm not proud of myself or anything but look what I made! A kitchen basic every serious cook should learn...

Following an extended cookie/cheese/charcuterie season, I feel like a fatted calf myself.

I’m craving light, fresh, green, you know, the stuff that isn’t in season in Pennsylvania now.  The greenest things in my kitchen today are the pangs of envy I’m feeling for those of you blessed with citrus fruits in your yards  – some bright, lemony deliciousness would be a welcome treat.

But, we Pennsylvanians are not without our own winter brightness.  Thank goodness for cabbage, parsley and apples, I say.

I’ve decided this year to focus on improving my most basic kitchen skills. The ones we tend to skip because they’re too boring and fussy.  It’s much more fun to fast-forward to the more exciting stuff like splashing  sauces with flourish and setting things on fire.

Without mastering the basics, you will still make some fine, enjoyable meals.  But, you will remain dependent on recipes and the store for spices and ingredients.  Master the basics and you advance to creating memorable, haunting dishes from nothing more than you can scrounge from the freezer or pantry.

Since beef is my thing, I thought beef consommé would be a good project to start.  When you have good quality stock or broth on hand, you’re ready to make so many quick yet amazing meals on the fly.  Making stock has been part of my weekly routine for a long time. I swear, it’s not really a big time hog; my stove does most of the work while I sleep.

I make good stock, but because I usually choose the quick and dirty method, I tend to skip the little tedious steps that would make my stock great.  I happily eat rustic, rough-around-the-edges foods with bits and chunks, but for some reason after weeks of holiday excess I really, really wanted some beautiful, super clear, purest of pure essence of beef. So, consommé it is.

My mission had several goals:

  1. To make quality use of typically wasted parts of the cow 
  2. To experience the difference the extra fussery makes in the final stock 
  3. To decide if said fussery is worthwhile 
  4. To see if I could

My imaginary helpers for this project were Darina Allen, author of my go-to cookbook Forgotten Skills of Cooking, Queen of Bones & Fat Jennifer McLagan and a tip or two from Paul Bertolli of Cooking by Hand fame. I know. How intimidated lucky can I be?

Important Step One: Start with good beef.

I was fortunate to have access to 3 whole ox tails, a part of the cow often ignored. My tails were purchased directly from a local farmer who raises lovely, healthy, grass-fed Angus beef. OK, I will confess ox tail is not my favorite cut of beef, but this is mainly due to laziness on my part. A low slow braise turns it into yummy pot-roast like shreds and ox tail makes some of the best stock ever – lots of rich beefy flavor and super-silky texture.

My ox tails on a bed of carrots, onion and celery, ready for a good roasting. Ox tails are usually cut more conveniently than this; if not, ask your butcher to be sure and score them for easier handling.

About your meat choice, my esteemed helpers say:

Paul Bertolli:  “It is important that the meat and poultry you use be impeccably fresh.  The broth pot is not the place for old or ‘high’ meat, as their off aromas do not cook away.”

Jennifer McLagan:  “Don’t buy your beef and veal just anywhere.  A good butcher, or a local small producer, can ensure the provenance of your meat and guarantee that your veal is humanely raised.  The tenderness of beef cuts can’t be judged by simply looking at them; a good butcher carefully ages his meat to ensure its flavor and tenderness.”

Darina Allen: “For strength of flavor in this, the meat really needs to be aged.  Fresh meat will not give you the depth of flavor you need for good consommé.”

My Note: you may feel confused by possible conflict between the advice of Paul Bertolli and Darina Allen. There is in fact none. Off or spoiled is not the same as aged. Aged meat is not rancid. Rather, it has been allowed to rest in a climate-controlled environment after slaughter to allow excess water to evaporate and enzymes to break down the strands of muscle fiber. Aging is what makes the meat more tender and flavorful. So, it is possible for your beef to be both aged and impeccably fresh.

One other confusing factoid: Darina comes from a background of small, diversified farming in Ireland where it is commonly understood that the meat from older cows produces more flavorful meat. In the US, we have become accustomed to our beef coming from very young cattle and are not often able to experience the difference age adds to the meat. If you can, give mature beef a try. It’s true; old animals make the best broth.

Important Step Two: Make good stock.

Usually, I make stock from leftovers. Bones of earlier meals, scraps of veggies, whatever needs to be used up, thrown straight into a pot, covered with cold water and allowed to simmer all day. I admit to skipping the roasting step that really does make a big difference.

Today, before starting, browning convert that I am, I always begin by throwing my veggies and/or meat into a roasting pan and roasting first.  When using onions, leave the skins on for a small shortcut and additional color.

Paul Bertolli: Uses a stove top method, browning the meat in batches in an oil coated heavy bottomed stockpot though he says, “It is not necessary to brown the meat to the point that its surface develops a crust.” Another Bertolli difference: He uses a mixture of 70 percent beef (made from a combination of meat and meaty bones) for meaty flavor, 20 percent poultry to which he attributes a “soft and homey dimension of flavor”,  and 10 percent gelatinous pork for collagen and silky texture. He uses no vegetables or seasoning – his is meat juice straight up. He prefers the pure flavor of the meat extraction and since the broth will be later used in preparations that  contain vegetables, adding them sooner is unnecessary.

Jennifer McLagan: Roasts meat first in the oven at 425°. She also scatters carrots, celery, onion and leek over the bottom of the roaster, and places rinsed bones patted dry on the vegetable bed. She roasts the meat for an hour, turning several times until  well browned.

Darina Allen: Also uses aromatic vegetables and an oven roast, but she uses a 450° oven, roasts her beef bones w/scraps of meat on them for 30 minutes alone, then adds the veggies until they are colored at the edges. She also adds garlic, clove, peppercorns, bouquet garni and tomato paste to the liquid.

My note: good stock is forgiving. All three yield excellent results.  The most important ingredient is time and attention. I tend to mix and match from all three methods and have not been disappointed yet. Can you ruin it? Absolutely – simmer slowly and check on it regularly or you will boil the liquid away and burn the pot. Once the pot is burned dry, there’s no salvation. Your stock is officially ruined.

Find a printable recipe for basic beef stock here.

Important step three: The raft

This is the part where things get freaky. I had never seen this done and it takes a bit of faith because the directions sound a little suspect. A raft is used to clarify the broth. It’s a mixture of pureed carrots, celery, leeks, beef and egg whites, poured into cold skimmed stock, stirred well, brought to a boil slowly over low heat and stirred constantly.  What??  This stuff looks NASTY and my stock is a priceless elixir of beautiful well raised  ox tails plus a day of my time…. I don’t want to do it.

I am not exaggerating the fearsome nasty appearance of the clarifying raft.

But, Jennifer McLagan promises that “… my perseverance will be rewarded with a stunning golden broth with an intense beef flavor.”  And Darina Allen calls consommé the “…pure essence of beef – simple, elegant and nourishing.”  She also says that, “Even for many trained chefs, it’s often a forgotten skill and a real accomplishment when successful.”  Paul Bertolli is silent on the subject of consommé but his devotion to craftsmanship is so evident, if he makes it I’m sure it is the golden-est,  clear-est, most intensely flavored nectar imaginable.

Important tips from the masters:

DA: “As soon as the mixture looks cloudy and slightly milky, stop whisking. Allow the filter of egg whites to rise slowly to the top of the saucepan. DO NOT STIR the consommé; just leave it to simmer gently for 45 minutes – 1 hour to extract all the flavor from the beef and vegetables.”

JL:  “As the liquid approaches the boil, it will appear to curdle; don’t panic, that is what you want.”  “The whites will form a congealed mass on the surface, which will puff up and then crack as the steam escapes.”  Whew…

So anyway, nervously I realize my no-guts-no-glory moment has arrived and I dump the unsightly mess into my lovingly simmered, de-fatted and cold but de-jelled beef jell-o. I trust my mentors to get me through and take extra care to follow instructions precisely, but YIKES!

Well, thankfully, my mentors have not let me down. It worked! After gently simmering this nastiness for 45 minutes, I lift off the scum, slowly strain the clarified broth through a double layer of coffee filters in a wire strainer and LOOK! It’s gorgeous! Golden! And PERFECTLY CLEAR!

Lift off this putrid looking mess

Strain slowly & gently through a dampened double layer of cheesecloth, thin dish towel or two coffee filters

It's clear, golden and delicious. Little black dress in a bowl. Of course I couldn't resist adding those ravioli...

Both chefs strongly warn to resist rushing the straining and to not be tempted to press the mixture through the strainer as that will cloud the consommé.

Click here for a printable recipe for ox tail consommé.

I admit I’m a little excited. It’s delicious too. But, I also know it’s probably one of those things that my eaters will not express proportionate admiration for. After all, isn’t beef broth from a can clear? Isn’t this the sort of punishment food you get in the hospital?

I decide the ultimate garnish is what I need to ensure this broth reads VERY SPECIAL: ROYAL PAIN IN THE ASS TO MAKE. The punctuation for my nectar is inspired by recipes from both Jennifer McLagan and Paul Bertolli.

The meat left on the bones after making your stock should not be wasted, but should live on as an unbelievably rich, tender and flavorful filling for pastas and other yummy treats.

Jennifer McLagan’s suggestion that my consomme could be garnished with a wonton wrapper stuffed with diced ox tail and minced parsley (cooked separately of course to not cloud the crystal-clear broth) got me a little excited,  so I adapted some home-made semolina pasta, hand rolled it (don’t give me too much credit here – I didn’t have wonton wrappers, fancy white flour or a pasta machine and I wasn’t going to the store) and made rustic ravioli.

I married Paul Bertolli’s alternate filling from leftover sugo meat recipe to Jennifer McLagan’s minced ox tail and parsley stuffed wonton suggestion. Being so bold as to “improve” Paul Bertolli’s filling recipe, the addition of fresh parsley makes me like it even more.

Find the printable ox tail filling recipe here.

Ta-Da! To say I’m proud of myself would be a bit of an understatement, but to say I’m glad I took pictures because this won’t be happening again anytime soon is even more true.

Glad I did it, have learned much about that culinary workhorse stock and the experience has deepened my understanding of broth in many valuable ways. And, now I can spell consommé without looking it up!

Let me also say my thrifty friends, lest you’re fretting about all the wasted beef, vegetables and egg from my raft, no worry. A special staff dinner was held where it was very much appreciated.

Special perks to the extermination staff for a job well done. Nothing goes to waste around here...

in which we say goodbye: to a beloved friend and commercial dog food

in which we say goodbye: to a beloved friend and commercial dog food

Charley, our Tireless Farm Poodle

It’s been a sad couple of weeks for me here at the farm. My most faithful companion of 11 years, my dog Charley, died two weeks ago Saturday. Still I can barely believe it. Strange but true, this farm and my work today is largely motivated by that colorful, oddball dog.

Not your usual farm dog, Charley was a Standard Poodle. These days, Standard Poodles are  mostly known for general craziness like goofy haircuts & rainbow dye jobs. Many people are surprised to know that poodles are not French, they’re German. And they weren’t designed to be a canvas for ridiculous fashion, but are actually true working dogs. Water retrievers in fact. Amazingly, the crazy topiary haircut on show poodles today evolved from a practical cut to help lighten the dog for swimming yet still remain warm.

Charley wasn’t going for any high-fashion silliness. He was a natural dog with a healthy love of all things stinky. He was the perfect pup, housebroken immediately, not a slipper or table leg chewed, happy to go with you but content at home if he couldn’t, and boy did that dog love food.

The perfect pup until one day…

At first, we couldn’t believe our good fortune. We thought we had escaped all the common puppy mishaps. Then, about the time Charley turned 8 months, he started developing severe, debilitating allergies and skin infections. Out of the blue.

Since poodles are prone to a disorder called sebacious adenitus,  our vet was a bit too quick to diagnose and sent us home to a messy regimen of nasty oil baths which were hated by both us and Charley. Plus a steady prescription of antibiotics for his constant and smelly bacterial skin infections.

Much torture and no improvement continued to the point where we were all giving up. Charley was depressed and showed none of his joy for life, he smelled horrible, had nasty sores and had to wear turtlenecks so he didn’t ooze on anything. He also had to wear a cone much of the time and it was beginning to seem that the kindest thing we could do would be put him out of his misery.

We had been to at least three different vets and all reached the same snap diagnoses. I wasn’t ready to give up without one last try, so we found a vet who finally was willing to dig a little deeper. Dr. Hutchinson had colleagues at Cornell who analyzed a skin scraping of Charley’s. Lo and behold, Charley was crawling with Demodex mites.

Now, before you get all freaked out, all dogs have these mites and they weren’t any problem for us. Most dogs have a healthy immune system which naturally fights the mites. Charley had no such natural protection and so suffered miserably.

This is a genetic issue, and we were guilty of buying a poorly bred puppy from a backyard breeder. Our bargain pup turned out to not be such a bargain. Except we loved him to death and would not have traded him for any other pup, no matter how gleaming and mange free its coat.

Winter just won't be the same without our crazy-for-snow poodle!

Thank goodness, relief!

Although I felt better to know what we were dealing with, I was still worried since the cure was nearly as bad as the disease.  Charley had to take potentially toxic doses of Ivermectin, a type of cattle wormer. To help support his immune system, and to align my dog food purchases with my changing beliefs about buying meat and dairy, I started making all Charley’s food.

My research about meat led me to Pet Food Politics by Marion Nestle.  I was already bothered by industrial meat and dairy, but now I was disgusted, disillusioned and mad enough to do something about it.

I was familiar with the BARF (raw meat) diet, but as much as I loved Charley, I wasn’t going to let him drag raw meat all over the carpets and furniture. OK, maybe Charley wasn’t perfect. He did like to eat on his bed by the living room window. Surely there had to be a win-win compromise!

Well, there is.  This extremely helpful site from Fiasco Farm has a great recipe for Mable’s Meatloaf. Fiasco Farm features both a meat and vegetarian version as well as valuable dietary information.  Charley did the meat version, but the vegetarian may be better for you if your dog suffers from diabetes. The Fiasco Farm site also led me to my pet food bible, Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats.

The Birth of Pupcakes

The muffins take a little longer on baking day, but pay you back over and over in ease at meal time! Be prepared to make a slow transition from commercial pet food to home made. Your food is made of only natural ingredients with no additives like stool stiffeners. Be prepared for changes and loosening of your dog's feces while your dog's system adapts. Commercial pet food companies add stiffeners for your benefit, not for your dog's!

Fortunately for all of us, the Ivermectin worked for Charley with no ill effects and his bouncy, quirky personality was back. Charley ate commercial dog food only rarely for the rest of his life – he loved his pupcakes. Over time, my original Mabel’s Meatloaf recipe evolved. I switched to making the loaf in muffin tins (grease them well) instead of loaf pans which made serving much easier. I would double the recipe which makes approximately 48 (4 tins) of muffins at a time. Exactly the number of muffin pans that fit into my oven at one time. I also would mix and match the grains and meats.

And, since Charley went everywhere with me, the pupcakes were easy to pack for travel. What seems like a massive chore really wasn’t hard at all once I got efficient at the process. I was able to work this into my own food preparations with just a little extra effort.

I made the pupcakes in bulk and froze them 16 to a gallon sized ziplock freezer bag. Since Charley ate 4 a day, that was just the right amount to thaw in the fridge and finish before they could spoil. I just microwaved 2 pupcakes a serving (just until warm), broke them up in his bowl and that was it.

It took some finessing and trial and error to arrive at the perfect quantity per day, but was no harder than figuring out portion control for yourself.   Charley, who would eat as much as you would give him and more, was a drama master who could convince you he was starving to death. Once we got past that (he had to get used to doing without a bowl of kibble available during the day), Charley maintained perfect weight throughout his entire adult life.

Healthy, happy dog, and no more supporting the industrial pet food system. Charley and I both slept well; he with a full belly and no bad skin and me with a clear conscience…

Pupcakes - a tidy, portable, well-balanced diet your dog will love. No more supporting the industrial pet food industry; your dogs can eat the same quality ingredients you do for a fraction of what you'd pay for premium dog food.