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Friday, March 28, 2014

Meat Month: Smoked Picnic

As part of meat month, I wrote a post about the smoked ham. It provided an overview of the farming practices and processing practices Acorn Acres Farm (formerly Welcome to My Garden) uses for their pork. The smoked picnic was a not as common cut of pork I got from the farm store. You can find fresh picnic in the store sometimes, but I generally have to special order it around the holidays. I was eager to try a smoked version of this flavorful meat.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Meat Month: Whole Chicken

Whole chicken is one of the more common cuts of meat that Acorn Acres Farm (formerly Welcome to My Garden) offers. The sizes vary from very small (think Cornish hen) and average-large. They carry young ones and older birds that are great for soup. All of them come with the offal and neck. All of them produce an amazingly rich stock when you boil up the leftover bones with veg and herbs. Every bit of these birds can and must be used. The flavor is rich, the meat is lean, and the texture is dense. The whole bird is consistently juicy from dark meat to breast.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Meat Month: Beef Rib Steak

I generally get the Chuck for Swissing or London Broil from Acorn Acres Farm (formerly Welcome to My Garden). I've gotten some roasts that I've cooked low and slow for the winter months. I'll get ground beef for the quick meal. This season they even had Summer Sausage that was meaty and dense with no fillers. I try to buy what they have a lot of and leave those specialty cut steaks to the other customers. I know that even the cheaper cuts like that London Broil is tender and juicy if cooked right.

During an early winter stock up, I got a Beef Rib Steak. They told me it was a special occasion steak. It's a tender steak that you can't mess up as long as you don't over cook it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Meat Month: Smoked Ham

This season, Acorn Acres Farm (formerly Welcome to My Garden) had a surplus of hams. They had a good stock of hogs and butchered them starting in November. They stocked up on hams, which definitely suits the need for a warming winter meal or Easter Hams. When I bought my hams, they were running a sale on bulk ham purchases (5 or more). They had both smaller and larger hams, so you can get one for weekday sandwiches or for a big feast.

The taste is delicious and after it's slow roasted, the meat falls off the bone. Since it's fresh from the farm store there is still some nourishing marrow in the bone. It's not all dried out.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Meat Month: Muscovy Duck

Muscovy is a special type of waterfowl. It has origins in South America and is more closely related to geese than ducks ( They take longer to grow to maturity, even their eggs take longer to hatch than a mallard. Muscovy take more time and resources to raise. They are larger than your standard duck. According to Ducks Unlimited, females average at about 3.86 lbs and males average 7.72 lbs. It is possible for the males to get up to 13 lbs

Raising Muscovy is worth the time and resources. This bird is more hearty and rich than your standard duck. It is much more lean, with just a thin layer of fat under the skin. It tastes more like veal than poultry. The stock made from this bird comes out dark and rich like a beef broth.

Last year, I had to order it in advance from Acorn Acres Farm (formerly Welcome to My Garden). This year, I lucked out and found out about a short-notice slaughter of a few of the birds. I went as soon as I could to pick up my bird. It was 6.8 lbs. I let it defrost while I was out of town and came back ready to cook it up. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Meat Month: Chef's Special (or On Using Offal)

One of the great things about getting meat from the farm is the variety of cuts. Nothing is wasted. This includes the poultry necks and offal. A common question that comes up when you find these in your bird, What do I do with the extras? These offal have varied textures, which are a pleasure for the palate. The heart and gizzard are dense like tuna. The liver and lungs are creamy and melt in your mouth when cooked right. But, we normally do not get a chance to eat these extra bits. There is only one set and we can't share it as part of the whole meal, so I make my chef's special to snack on while the food is cooking. If Mr. K is lucky, he might get in the kitchen in time to grab a bite or two.

I know that offal and necks aren't the first thing we generally crave in our culture. If you have never had them, or have not had a good experience with organ meat, I encourage you to give it a shot anyway.  It might take a couple of tastes to get used to the idea, but once you get used to it, I think you'll enjoy it. You'll enjoy the varied textures and the complexity of flavors.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Meat Month: Curing Fresh Pork Side Meat

A perk of going to a small-scale farming operation for meat is access to a larger variety of cuts. It's not just the chicken breast, ground beef, and pork chops, Welcome to My Garden (now Acorn Acres Farm) uses the whole animal. I was able to get a couple of packs of pork side meat for my curing pleasure.

I opened the pack of Fresh Pork Side Meat (sometimes labeled Fresh Pancetta) ready to cure some meat. It was tightly wrapped in thick butcher paper and thick plastic, which prevented any freezer burn and kept it fresh. The meat had soft fat with a larger proportion of meat. It was not greasy or slick like some pork. It smelled fresh and was a vibrant, natural pink color.

Typically, to make pancetta, you season the slab, let it cure in the refrigerator for a week, roll it up, and dry cure it for a couple of weeks. I was a little thrown when I opened it; it was pre-sliced. Since it was not a slab of meat, it had to alter my approach. After a couple of weeks curing in the refrigerator, I ended up with was a salty and flavorful alternative to bacon.

Friday, March 7, 2014

You are What They Eat

Eating is essential to fuel our bodies. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica digestion is, "[the] sequence by which food is broken down and chemically converted so that it can be absorbed by the cells of an organism and used to maintain vital bodily functions.

Animals eat the food, break it down and absorb the nutrients and other properties. What they eat goes into their system. You eat the animal, break it down, and absorb the nutrients and other properties. What you eat goes into your system. It is not as simple as this, but it is something to think about.

Past the basic impact on our body, performance, and nutrition, there is another important factor in the diet and care of animals we eat. And that factor is the flavor. The flavor is impacted by the feed and the breed of animal. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Experiementing in the LAB

Lexington Avenue Brewery
39 N Lexington Ave | Asheville, NC

While we were in Asheville, NC on a recent trip, we stopped at Lexington Avenue Brewery (LAB) for some brews and snack. We got a flight to try their beers and some nachos after our exploration of Mount Mitchell to hold us over before NYE celebrations. I really enjoyed the beer, food, and atmosphere. It's definitely on my list for our return trip.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Global Warmer (Sixpoint Craft Ales)

I grabbed a 4-pack of this Sixpoint brew yesterday while stocking up a bit. I'd had lots of the hoppy Sixpoint offerings, and I thought a winter warmer would be a nice change. I got home and noticed the 70 IBU and realized this was not what I thought it would be. Next to a higher than norm IBU, the description provided no information at all. Not sure if they were trying to get poetic or what. I poured the brew and readjusted my expectations.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: As soon as I poured this, I was hit by the bitter-hoppy and woody hop aromatics. There was lots of particulate in the glass, suspended in the brew and settled to the bottom. It was a dark orange with a super frothy off-white head (even when poured gently). It left thick, sticky lacing on the glass as I drank it.

Taste: It had a sugar sweetness, not a round malty smoothness. It was very bitter. The woody taste was more like cedar than pine. As it warmed, it got more astringent. I like a good IPA. I like floral and woody flavors, but this was just a little astringent for my tastes. I'd definitely recommend that people who favor more bitter beer give this Sixpoint offering a try.

From the site/packaging:
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
A Winter Warmer to warm your Globe, or a Global Warmer to warm your Winter? There's no denying the Beer Climate is changing.

If you read the article about the brew on their site they list all of the complexities of the brew. All the nuances that make this beer special. They point out a toasted caramel flavor, herbal qualities, and even dark fruit and chocolate as it warms. My tongue couldn't get past the astringent, drying, bitter to enjoy all of those qualities. I feel like I missed out.