Winter Comfort Food: Cube Steak

One of my favorite things about this time of year is comfort food.  Cube steak is a cut of meat that can often be overlooked; however, with a little TLC cube steak can easily become a wintertime favorite.

My recipe for cube steak below:

4 Cube Steak  

1/2 cup flour                

1 Onion (diced)              

1-2 cups sliced mushrooms      

1 tsp oregano

salt and pepper to taste

2 cup beef broth (more if you want to make gravy)

Directions:

Heat 2 Tbsp cooking oil in a pan.  Mix 1/2 cup flour with salt and pepper.  Coat cube steak with flour and fry in pan for 2 minutes each side.  Place cube steak in the bottom of slow cooker and cover with sliced onions, mushroom, oregano, and beef broth.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or at 350 degrees in a 13x9 in dish for 1 hour.  Serve over rice or with mashed potatoes.  Excess liquid can be used to make a mushroom/onion gravy.

Leftovers are great heated up and made into a sandwich the next day with bread and mayonnaise.

See our 50% off sale on cube steak at https://www.mountainsidefamilyfarms.com/order

 

Melissa George
Bone Broth: History, Benefits, and Recipe

If you can believe it, bone broth used to be the daily grab and go meal.  So what happened?  Why did we stop making bone broth and what do we use now to replace it?  In the early 1900s, a Japanese researcher discovered the chemical, monosodium glutamate, or MSG from the seaweed kombu (Morell & Daniel, 2014).  Bouillon cubes made with MSG were then created to make broth both inexpensive and quick.  MSG was also made to enhance the flavors of bland food, like the MREs (Meals Ready-to-Eat) used for soldiers during WWII.  Sadly, today’s bouillon cubes contain zero dried bone stock and instead contain a long list of items that include phrases like “mechanically separated, hydrolyzed, and hydrogenated.”

Morell & Daniel (2014) states:

     The use of MSG in our food has allowed the eclipse of nourishing broth, something      that tradition tells us is good for us, something that science indicates should be in our   diet on a daily basis.  Before processed foods, cooks used broth to make soups,      stews, sauces, and gravies; broth made these foods taste good, and everyone enjoyed the health benefits whether they were aware of them or not.  MSG and its many cousins used in processed food have allowed cooks to forget valuable broth-making skills.  One can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup makes a casserole—skill in making cream sauce with chicken broth not required; a bouillon cube or two flavors the stew, so the stew gets eaten without the benefits of cartilage- rich broth. Gravy is produced by adding water to a packet of powder—which contains an overwhelming amount of MSG.  Packets of flavoring put MSG into homemade meat loaf, chili, and spaghetti sauce.  With instant  broth taste in packets and cans, who needs to pull out the big broth pot and fill it with bones? (Preface xii).

There is a reason why you were given chicken soup when you were sick as a kid, because real chicken bone broth contains healing cartilage, collagen, and amino acids.

In the past, nourishing broth was made a number of different ways from adding hot stones and water to a pouch of meat, fat, bones, wild grains and herbs to shells of turtles and clay pots (Morell & Daniel, 2014).  In the modern era, people always “kept a cauldron simmering over the fire or a stockpot on a stove’s back burner.  People regularly ate from it and continually added whatever ingredients became available, making long-cooked soups and stews the original ‘fast food’” (Morell & Daniel, 2014, p. 3).

Morell, S.F. & Daniel, K.T. (2014). Nourishing broth: An old-fashioned remedy for the modern world. Hachette Book Group: New York, NY

Chicken Bone Broth Recipe found at ihttps://draxe.com/recipe/chicken-bone-broth-2/ s one of the best that I have found.  We keep the necks on our whole chickens for the very purpose of using the leftover backs for bone broth.

 

Melissa George
Folks, You Can't Buy This at the Store!

What is Pastured Poultry?

Pastured poultry is a production model designed to enhance the natural foraging tendencies of chickens.  Cornish Cross is the typical breed raised for use as meat birds (broilers/roasters) and are most commonly found in the commercial poultry industry. The pastured poultry method employs mobile, bottomless chicken shelters allowing the birds direct access to fresh air, grass, and sunshine.  The shelters are moved daily to ensure their “salad bar” is fresh and plentiful.  The chickens are raised for 6-8 weeks and then processed on the farm.

Why Pastured Poultry?

The commercial poultry industry is focused on how to produce and process chickens by using the quickest and cheapest ways possible.  What is wrong with this methodology?  The chickens are not allowed to express their natural tendencies to forage and are instead crammed into confinement houses where fecal dust causes respiratory problems and many other health issues.  Productivity is therefore maintained by the use of antibiotics.  These chickens never feel the warm sunshine, breathe fresh air or eat green pasture. Even commercial organic chickens tend to live in crowded and unhealthy conditions, the only differences being the organic status of the chicken feed and an “access to the outdoors” with no specifications regarding the required size for this space.  Chickens living in unhealthy conditions produce a weaker and inferior product.  These industrial chickens lack muscle tone and the soft and mushy muscle ends up soaking in up to 10% of its retail carcass weight in chill tank water, which due to the volume of chickens processed, includes fecal matter (Salatin, 1993).  The pastured poultry model produces a clean and nutrient-dense product with superior taste and quality.

Poultry Processing

Industrial poultry processing begins with the chickens being loaded up and sent to a poultry processing plant.  The chickens are then put in shackles to be killed.  Mechanical killing requires the chickens to be still in order for the cutting wheel to hit the jugular vein.  To accomplish this, the chickens are stunned with an electrical current, which inhibits the chicken from bleeding well and causes the black clotted blood found around the bones of commercial chickens (Salatin, 1993).  Next, mechanical evisceration is used to remove the birds’ innards and many times results in fecal contamination as a result of the intestines breaking.  This is why commercial chickens can be given up to 40 chlorine baths during the course of processing the birds, which then leads me to wonder how much of that is soaked up into the soft muscle of the carcass?

On farm processing starts with the birds being taken from the pasture to the processing site in plastic crates.  Killing cones (stainless steel funnels) are used to hold the birds still while the carotid artery is cut allowing the birds to naturally pump out the blood completely.  Next, the chickens are put into a scalder that rotates and dunks them in order to loosen the feathers and helps them to come out by the root and produce a clean and smooth skin.  The feathers are removed using a plucker.  A plucker is a rubber-fingered drum that rotates the birds and agitates the feathers to separate them from the skin.  Next, the feet and the head are removed along with any other pin feathers or hairs the plucker missed.  These birds are then put into a water tank to rinse and wait for evisceration.  Evisceration starts by removing the oil glands from the tail.  With the gentleness of the human hand, the crop, esophagus and windpipe are then loosened around the neck and breast and the entrails are removed from the opposite end.  Hearts and livers are saved and birds are then rinsed and put into a chill tank to wait for the final quality control inspection.  Once birds pass inspection, they are put into the final chill tanks and then packaged.

Who does the on farm processing???  The farmers....who raise and care for the chickens from the beginning and wish to make the best product the market has to offer.

Resources:

Salatin, J. (1993). Pastured poultry profits. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Melissa George
Why is Grass-fed Beef More Expensive?

Two of our main goals at Mountainside Family Farms is to make our premium products affordable and available. Rewind a hundred years ago and nutrient-dense, clean, non-toxic food was readily available and affordable because small family farms provided the food for the community. The industrialization of our nation’s food system has caused a paradigm shift of how food is produced, processed, priced, packaged, and sold. The goal for large-scale producers is cheap and fast. The reason behind this is because there is a very low profit margin per head of cattle for the industry cattleman; therefore, making volume an important factor in the market. This lends itself to the vertically integrated corporate producers who also own the feedlots, the granaries, and the meat packing facilities. It also makes time a determining factor for success because the faster an animal can be fattened and ready for processing, the quicker you can turnover that meat and focus on the next round of livestock. Cattle confined in feedlots are fed grain/corn and fattened in a much shorter time; however, the confinement conditions make it necessary to medicate the animals to fight sickness and disease until the animal is ready for slaughter between 12-13 months of age. Commodity beef can travel thousands of miles before landing on your plate.  It travels from the farm, to the feedlot, to the processor, to the grocery store, to your home.  Another result of the industrialization of our food system are corn and soy subsidies, which are given to incentivize the use of the commodity market and artificially deflates the price of commercial beef. 

On the other hand, grass-fed beef which is produced in a better, healthier way provides our bodies with the necessary vitamins, nutrients, minerals, and fats promoting wellness and vitality.  Grass-fed/pastured beef is nutrient-dense, clean, and non-toxic. The factors that contribute to the price of grass-fed beef include the length of time for finishing, space required, the price of hay, and processing fees. Grass fattened cattle take 18-24 months to finish, not only is this nearly twice as long, but is also considered an opportunity cost, because the longer length of time reduces the amount of beef that can be turned over each cycle which could then be used to develop other beef.  Space is another factor which greatly influences the price.  Where confinement feedlots house thousands of cattle, grass-fed cattle require green pastures and wide open spaces to graze.  The price of hay, which is required during the winter months, also increases the price of grass-fed beef because it is more expensive than grain.   We aim to make our farms the most efficient they can be in order to keeps costs down and prices affordable.  We have conducted a market analysis and are proud to say our prices beat the direct local competition and farmer’s markets.  When compared to the USDA national monthly grass-fed beef report, our prices were better than the median prices in almost all cuts of beef. 

Check out the links below for the USDA and NCDA Monthly Grass Fed Beef Reports:

https://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/lsmngfbeef.pdf 

https://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/ra_lo101.txt 

Melissa George
Cuts of Beef

It is important as a consumer to know the different cuts of beef available in order to ensure you are getting the right cuts for your needs.  First, always remember the most tender cuts are found in the areas furthest from the horn and the hoof.  This is because the neck and legs are what the cow uses the most during its life.  The more a muscle is used, the tougher the meat and the tougher the meat, the longer is needs to cook in order to be tender.

A whole cow is first divided into two sides.  Each side is then further divided into two main sections called the forequarter and the hindquarter. 

Beyond that, there are 8 primal cuts: Chuck, Rib, Brisket, Shank, Short Plate, Flank, Round, and Loin.

Chuck: Known to be a very economical cut, it has a rich flavor but the toughness caused by the connective tissue requires it to be cooked in a slow and low manner like beef stew or pot roast..  Common cuts include chuck roast, arm roast, flatiron steak, boneless short ribs.

Rib: The rib area yields both ribs and steaks.  This portion of meat is known for its marbled and flavorful quality. Common cuts include ribeye (bone-in and boneless), back ribs, rib roast.

Brisket: Slow-cooking methods render tender beef with this cut.  This section is often used for BBQ beef and when cured can be turned into pastrami or corned beef.  Common cuts include whole brisket, front cut, corned beef.

Shank: As the top portion of the leg, this is considered the toughest cut of beef and most often used for making stock, soup, and stew.  Common cuts include beef shank.

Short Plate: The short plate is from the abdominal section of the cow.  These cuts are very economical, fatty, and flavorful.  Most often these cuts are best when marinated and thinly cut, like when used for fajitas.  Common cuts include skirt steak.

Flank: This cut like the short plate is best suited for marinating and braising.  Most notably used in London Broils.  Common cuts include flank steak.

Round: The round is a leaner cut because it is the back leg of the cow.  Due to the minimal amount of marbling, these cuts should be cooked slowly and are best used for pot roast, ground round and jerky.  Common cuts include round steak, eye of round, top round,  bottom round steaks and roasts

Loin: There are multiple parts to the loin section.  The sirloin section is a flavorful section great for slow-cooking, roasting, and barbecuing.  Common cuts are sirloin steak, top sirloin steak, tri-tip roast. The short loin section contains the most popular and most tender cuts.  These are best used for grilling and pan-searing.  Common cuts include beef tenderloin, top loin steak, T-bone steak, filet mignon, NY strip, and porterhouse steak. 

Check out this link for more information: https://www.angus.org/pub/beefchart.pdf

I even recommend printing this chart and hanging it on your fridge.  

View the cuts we have available below.

Melissa George
Animal Fats and Oils

When is the last time you made a pie crust with lard? Or fried potatoes in beef tallow? If your answers to both of those questions are two resounding NEVERS, you're not alone.  However, there was a time, not too long ago, when animal fats were the primary source for cooking and baking.  So, what happened, you may ask.  One of the main contributing factors came about when big agribusinesses and food manufacturers started mass producing and processing soy.  Deville (2011) writes "much of the U.S. soybean crop today is processed into oil that accounts for 80 percent or more of the edible fats and oils consumed in this country in the form of shortening, margarine, cooking oil, and salad dressings" (p. 89). Most often when you see the term vegetable oil, most or all is comprised of soy oil (p. 89).  The industrialization of food took away the safe method of small batch cold-pressing vegetable oil and instead now uses heat and chemical processes that produce greater amounts of oil at a greater profit but creates free radical oxidation.

Deville (2011) continues to write that "prior to 1900, when Americans ate butter, cheese, whole milk, red meat, beef and lamb tallow, chicken fat, and lard, heart disease caused only 9 percent of all deaths.  Today heart disease causes 30.3 percent of deaths" (p. 105).  Factory food producers have been "feeding" us the lie that fat and cholesterol are the enemy; therefore, we now see terms like "fat free" and "low fat" on the supermarket shelves as well as egg whites and egg substitutes.  

Animal fats are considered "saturated" fatty acids because every available carbon bond is taken up by a hydrogen atom.  The saturation of hydrogen atoms allows it to be the most stable and resistant to rancidity when exposed to heat, light, and oxygen meaning they are least likely to create free radicals (Deville, 2011).  Tropical oils, like coconut oil is another example of a saturated fatty acid.  Saturated fats are typically solid or semi-solid at room temperature. 

Monounsaturated fatty acids are the next in the line-up for stability.  The difference is that two carbon atoms are bonded together and therefore are lacking two hydrogen atoms.  These are most often liquid at room temperature.  Oleic acid is the most common type of monounsaturated fatty acid found in our food and is the main component of olive oil, as well as the oil from almonds, pecans, cashews, peanuts, and avocados (Fallon & Enig, 1999).

Polyunsaturated is the most unstable and highly reactive because it lacks four or more hydrogen atoms.  The two most common forms are unsaturated linoleic acid also known as omega-6 and triple unsaturated linolenic acid called omega-3.  Polyunsaturated oils should be consumed in small amounts and taken in the natural form found in the foods we eat.  Foods like legumes, grains, nuts, green vegetables, and fish should provide the necessary amounts of polyunsaturated fats and not commercially processed vegetable oils.  The heating and processing of polyunsaturated oils leads to the increase of oxidation and rancidity leading to free radicals.  Free radical damage can lead to premature aging, tumors, and the build up of arterial plaque (Fallon & Enig, 1999).  Modern diets can be comprised of up to 30 percent of polyunsaturated oils when they should only comprise up to 4 percent (Fallon & Enig, 1999).

The benefits of saturated animal fats include healthy cell function, liver protection, enhancement of the immune system, concentrated source of energy, mineral absorption, and they act as carriers of important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.  It is important to note that the best saturated animal fats are found in pastured animals that are raised on species-appropriate food.  So, do not be afraid of butter, lard, and grass-fed beef tallow.  They are not the enemy.

For more information

Deville, N. (2011). Death by supermarket. Austin, TX: Greenleaf Book Group Press.

Fallon, S. & Enig, M. G. (1999). Nourishing traditions. Brandywine, MD: NewTrends Publishing Inc.

My experience with animal fat.......rendering beef tallow.

Trim the excess meat from the fat and cut into small pieces. Put into a crock pot to melt slowly without burning.

After the fat has melted, strain it through cheese cloth and put into jars.

When the tallow has cooled it will solidify.  It can be used for soaps, candles, and cooking.

Melissa George
What does ORGANIC really mean?

What do you think of when you hear the term organic?  Green pastures, fresh air, sunlight, cows grazing, chickens scratching, and pigs rooting? Those images should be closely linked to the living conditions surrounding the animals/products that are labeled "organic" in our food system (and sometimes they are).  Sadly, in a lot of instances, the true picture is vastly different.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the governing body charged with the responsibility to monitor and oversee our nation's food industry as well as create rules which regulate the methods farmers use in production.  The federal government just recently updated the animal welfare rules that organic poultry farmers are required to follow.  Their goal is to strengthen consumer confidence in the organic label and create a more consistent playing field for organic farmers (Jones-Ellard, 2017). The prior rules required organic egg producers to provide their hens with an outdoor space; however, the amount of space for the chickens was not specified.  In some situations, this ended up amounting to only a small enclosed porch (Charles, 2017).  After much criticism and debate from organic and animal welfare activists, the USDA is now requiring farmers to provide 1 square foot for each 2.25 lbs of poultry (Charles, 2017).  For a 4 lb hen, that is less than 2 square feet of wiggle room.  On a larger-scale, it equates to about 1 acre for 20,000 birds (Charles, 2017). Chickens are designed to scratch and peck.  Twenty thousand hens on one acre would scratch and peck it down to rocks and dust.  Land has to be given time to rest and regenerate.  Currently, our egg-laying hens are wintering over our vegetable garden.  In doing so, they are providing nitrogen, an essential ingredient for rich compost and healthy vegetables.  They have access to insects in wood chips and green grass.  In the spring, our mobile chicken coop will be frequently moved and our hens given access to fresh grass, fresh air, and sunlight.  So before you spend the extra money on the "organic" label, it is important to know your food, know the source, and know your farmer.

Our hens should start producing eggs at the end of March.  Updates about availability will be posted on the website.  Meet our happy hens.......

For more information

Charles, D. (January, 2017). Organic chickens get more room to roam. The Salt. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/01/18/510474179/organic-chickens-get-more-room-to-roam

Jones-Ellard, S. (January, 2017). USDA strengthens rules for organic livestock and poultry, ensures fairness for organic producers. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from https://www.ams.usda.gov/press-release/usda-strengthens-rules-organic-livestock-and-poultry-ensures-fairness-organic

Melissa George
Ready.....Set.....Go!

Here it is....the official launch of our new farm business.  We are so excited to have the opportunity to provide our neighbors with wholesome food.  I want to utilize the blog space to educate and inform.  There is so much to learn about when it comes to the production, integrity, and nutrition of quality food.  We also feel it is important for you to know your farmer and know your food.  We want to be transparent in our methods so you can be confident in the quality of our products.  The methods we have chosen for our production model foster the healing of the land as well as responsible animal and soil stewardship.  Please join us on our journey as we promote healthier food and happier animals.

Melissa George