Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Real Thing

Honey. It is not what you think it is. At least the stuff you buy in the grocery store, is not what you think it is. Actually, no one knows what it is. We do know one thing, it is not real honey.

Earlier this year, Andrew Schneider, of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, investigated and wrote about imported honey and the lack of federal regulations placed on this imported good. This is a real cause for concern, since Americans consume over a pound of honey per a person each year and about 1/3 of the honey on store shelves is imported from places like China. Andrew interviewed with Bruce Gellerman of public radio's Living on Earth and some interesting facts came to light during that show. Here is a snippet of that interview:

GELLERMAN: Well we've been talking about honey, and one of the things you write about in your article is that actually, there is no legal definition of what honey is in this country. I mean, you could put another in a jar and call it honey?

SCHNEIDER: That's correct. You can call it anything you want and you can put anything you want in the jar. And you can call it honey. Neither the FDA nor the USDA has a legal definition of honey. Which means that enforcing the quality of honey becomes extremely difficult and problematic. If it has a recognized hazardous or illegal substance like the antibiotics the Chinese use, then you can pull it off the market. But if it has any number of other things – like if it's mixed with sugar water or corn syrup or something, there's really nothing there in the regulations that say that "Thou shalt not do this."

Now if you are like me, this is pretty frightening news considering just how much I love honey. I have been getting my honey from local sources for years, but this tidbit of info is news to me! I started buying my honey locally to help ease my allergies. Now I buy my honey locally to support my local beekeepers, including the neighbor that cares for Mint Creek Farm's hives (pictured above). Who figured I would need yet another reason to buy local honey! Thankfully, there are a ton of sources for the Chicago area to purchase local honey, mainly all of them are at our farmers markets.

And speaking of how much I love honey, now is the time to stock up on local honey and enjoy a spoonful in a cup of mint tea. You can also cook with honey (try tossing some with your favorite root vegetables or squash and roasting them in the oven) and it makes a lovely addition to a cheese plate. Honey is a wonderful food product created by nature and if you become as smitten with it as me, you will find it to be as complex and exhilarating as a glass of wine!

If you are feeling adventurous, you too can also tend to your own hive, even in the city. More and more urban beekeepers are popping up on roof tops and in gardens. Check out the following sites to learn more about keeping bees:

Chicago Beekeeping Meetup Group

Chicago Honey Co-Op

BeeSource for Beekeeping

Here a Chick, There a Chick, Everywhere a Chick Chick

As you can see our girls are curious creatures that live a good life on our farm. Our heritage chickens feed on insects and weed seeds in our organic pastures and even in the straw that I was trying to put in their nest boxes! They get excited when we change their water, when they get new feed, clean straw, treats (they love apples) and anything else that we do to make they happy and healthy. Working with chickens is alot of fun, they make you laugh with their silly schoolgirl noises and they follow you around. I even dance with them occasionally! They like dusting themselves in whatever you put down, whether it is a dust bath or even their grit (we use oyster shell for added calcium). They are pretty happy creatures living a simple and carefree life.

Raising chickens for eggs is pretty simple and it is gaining popularity across the country. More and more city folk are keeping chickens in their backyards too! There is even a documentary traveling around called "Mad City Chickens" and it shows us all how chickens are making a comeback as one of the most popular pets for people to keep.

If you are interested in learning more about how to raise your own backyard chickens here are a few resources for you:
Backyard Chickens Forum
Chicago Backyard Poultry Meetup Group
Angelic Organics Learning Center
Chicago Chicken Owner
Faith's Farm Poultry Parlor (complete set-up to get you started)

Everything is Coming up Roses

We don't have roses on the farm, but we do have milk-fed beef cattle, which is also known around the world as Rose Veal. This lovely sweet and tender meat is a rosey pink color which indicates a healthy iron sufficiency. Traditional veal meat is a pastey white color indicating a lack of iron levels in the young steer's muscle. Why would this matter to someone who wants to eat veal? Well, it matters because it indicates how the young animals are being raised. We raise our rose veal calves on open prairie pastures with their mothers and the rest of the cattle herd. They enjoy a life eating sweet grasses and their mother's own milk. This is the way it was meant to be for a young meat animal's life.

Unfortunately, traditional veal calves are not raised this way. They are raised in extreme confinement (crates that are not big enough for the calves to turn around in), alone and without their mother's milk or even cow's milk for that matter. They are fed a man-made formula that lacks the necessary iron that a young animal needs to grow strong and healthy. These animals are raised for meat that is so tender it can be "cut with a fork." Traditional veal is also practically tasteless. It is a shame that our meat/dairy industry has allowed and encouraged such practices. As conscious meat eaters, we can take back the meat/dairy industry and only support farms that humanely raise rose veal calves that live with their mothers in open pastures. We hope that you will say NO to traditional veal and enjoy veal that not only is tender but flavorful too.

We hope that you will share this information with others and encourage them to support healthier and more humane meat options. Please shop at your local farmers markets and get to know your farmer and their farming practices. It is important to become an informed shopper. You can then be confident in your decisions about what you feed your family.

This weekend we are releasing our Rose Veal products to our farmers market customers. We will have Ground Veal (excellent for meat sauces, like bolognese), Veal Stew Meat (perfect for all your cool weather stews) and Veal Rack Chops (they make an amazing saltimbocca*). We hope that you will give our rose veal a chance and enjoy meat the way it was meant to taste.

*This recipe is for a pork chop but I also love it with a veal chop because it calls for you to stuff the thick chop with all the classic saltimbocca ingredients instead of pounding the meat thin and layering the other ingredients on top. It holds together very well and makes for a lovely clean presentation.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What's on Sale This Week at Market (9-19 to 9-20)

Sale Item:
Frenched Rack of Lamb $17.00/lb
Rack Chops $17.00/lb

What better way to celebrate the start of the Autumnal Season (September 22nd) than with a cozy and elegant meal for two.

May we suggest the following menu to warm your belly and lift your spirits:

Rogue River Blue (cow milk cheese that has been wrapped in grape leaves soaked in pear brandy) serve w/Mission figs or local Concord grapes

Garrotxa (a semi-firm goat cheese) serve w/local Jonathan or Cortland apples

Pecorino (firm sheep milk cheese) serve with warm lemon-scented Mediterranean olives

Warm Crusty Baguette

*All of these cheeses and more can be found at one of my favorite cheese shops in Chicago, Pastoral Artisan Cheese Bread and Wine

Cream of Mushroom or Butternut Squash

Rack of Lamb with Caramelized Shallot and Thyme Crust

Wild Rice with French Green Lentils

Roasted Beet Salad with Beet Greens and Feta

Balsamic Roasted Bosc Pears with Pepper and Honey

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What's on Sale This Week at Market (9-12 to 9-13)

Sale item:
Lamb Loin Cuts 20% Off

All Loin Roasts (bone-in and boneless)
Loin Medallions

These cuts are the creme de la creme of lamb. Tender, full-flavored and they cook quickly. Always be careful not to overcook these delicate cuts especially the tenderloins and medallions. The loin roasts are wonderful and very versatile for almost any recipe. If I want to impress dinner guests and serve something that didn't take me all day to prepare, these loin sections are my go-to cuts for ease and elegance. After trying one of these recipes we are sure you will fall in love with lamb loins and find yourself using them at your next dinner party!

Here are some great recipe ideas for the loin cuts:
Boneless Roast Lamb Loin Persillade

Bone-in Lamb Loin Roast with Apricot Glaze

Lamb Tenderloin with Crimini Mushrooms and a Red Wine Sauce

Grilled Eggplant and Lamb Medallion Sandwich with a Rosemary Aioli

2 Guys and Whole Lotta Gals

These handsome fellas are our farms' latest additions. We are proud to introduce you to Helios (the multi-colored lad in the top photo) and Zeus (the black rooster in the bottom photo). They are our attempt to appease the ladies' demands. The ladies insisted on roosters as part of union negotiations and if we keep our fingers crossed these 2 young lads will encourage more consistent egg production from our layers.

We can say that after the roosters were introduced to the ladies, it appears that Helios (still a tad too young) will need some time to grow into his own and find a way to work with his ladies. However, Zeus is quite the ladies man and is already working with his group quite nicely. His girls accepted him immediately and were excited to have him be a part of their flock! We are hopeful that he can successfully increase their egg supply before too long.

2009 Farmers Market Season Updates

The regular Farmers Market season is rounding the bend and heading into the last 2 months before we head into the Winter Market season. This is good for everyone, lots more time to shop and there are tons of great products to purchase with this time of year being celebrated as the "Peak of Harvest." However, this time of year does bring some changes to the market schedule for many, including us. So, we wanted to give everyone an update on where and when we will be in the city to sell all of our great pasture raised meat products!

Logan Square 10am-3pm (until October 25th) *
Wicker Park 7am-2pm (until October 25th)

Green City 7am-1pm (until October 28th) *
Andersonville 3pm-7pm (until October 7th)
(please note the time change for Andersonville)

We are no longer participating in our Friday markets.

Green City 7am-1pm (until October 31st) *
61st Street 9am-2pm (until October 31st) *

* There is a potential Winter Farmers Market in these communities. We will post our Winter Market schedule soon.

A Gobble Gobble Here and a Gobble Gobble There

Here's a peek inside our new turkey brooder...these young birds are growing fast and will be ready to go outside any day now. We have over 300 of these White Broad-breasted Turkeys and they will be pasture raised and ready to harvest just in time for Thanksgiving!

Monday, September 7, 2009

September Meat CSA Share

Half Share:
1# ground goat
1# of lamb chorizo sausages
1.25# of lamb spareribs
.75# of milk-fed beef sirloin scallops
1# of beef stew meat
Bonus: sampling of lamb organ meats

Whole Share:
1# of ground goat
1# of lamb chorizo sausages
1.75# of lamb spareribs
.75# of milk-fed beef sirloin scallops
1# of beef stew meat
1# of lamb kabob meat
1# of milk-fed beef rack chops
.75# of beef ribeye steak
1.75# of milk-fed lamb shanks
Bonus: sampling of lamb organ meats

This month's meat shares have a little of everything, including organ meats! We also released another brand new meat product, our milk-fed beef. This sweet, pink-colored and mild beef is from our young steers that were born this past spring. These young meat animals lived the perfect life nursing from their mothers and grazing in the sweet prairie pastures. We hope you will love this humane and non-traditional take on veal, as much as we do. There is no other way to raise a young animal than to let it free-range with other animals and live a serene life as it was intended to.

To learn more about why it is so important to only eat milk-fed beef that have been raised with their mothers in open pastures (also known as rose veal), please visit the following site to learn more about the unfortunate practices of raising traditional veal calves: Veal Fact Sheet *Please be warned that this information in unsettling for some individuals.

* It is very important for us to educate our customers about the horrific practices of conventional farming. We hope that you will help us share this information and let people know that there are alternatives and that they should seek them out.

We also wanted to give our CSA members some great recipe ideas for this month's shares:
Ground Goat- great in Kefta Kabobs or in a Shepherd's Pie
Lamb Spareribs- another way to prepare the Spareribs is to roast them with rosemary
Beef Stew meat- Beef and Bean Chili is always a winner on a cool evening
Milk-fed Beef Scallops- Piccata (if you are feeling Italian) or Wienerschnitzel (if you are feeling German)
Lamb Shanks- One of my personal favorites is simply to Braise them in wine and serve them with a fresh herb and lemon gremolata
Milk-fed Beef Rack Chops- Make a fancy meal for 2 with an elegant Saltimbocca (this recipe calls for a pork chop, but use the rack chop instead and it will be perfect!)
Lamb Organ meats- check out our website for a great list of recipes perfect for the elusive organ meats!

We hope you all enjoy!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ode to Julia

Boeuf Bourguignon. Beef Bourguignon. No, Boeuf Bourguignon is the only way to spell, pronounce and present a dish as grand as this hearty meat stew. Julia Child knew just how to do it, so in honor of all things Julia (her 97th birthday would have been this past August and we loved the fun summer movie Julie & Julia) we are cooking up her version of this spectacular meal! Actually, I am letting the creator of Sugar and Spice by Celeste cook up this elaborate meal for you.

Here is a snippet of what to expect on Sugar and Spice by Celeste:

Boeuf Bourguignon is basically beef that has been slowly cooked in red wine, with bacon, onions and mushrooms. I've heard so much about this dish lately. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Julie Powell made it in the new movie Julie & Julia. This was also the very first dish that Julia Child prepared on The French Chef! It's such a classically French meal. The beautifully complex flavors...especially of the sauce...really makes this dish amazing.

I would give you the recipe's ingredient list, but Celeste makes it fun by scanning the original pages of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbook. By reading her original recipe, your experience is enriched and gives you the feeling of cooking with Julia. However, I will tell you that where there is beef, bacon and wine, your taste buds will thank you.

Side note: Julia Child highly recommends using Beef Rump Roast for this dish, so we are bringing up to market, what else, but Beef Rump Roast!

We are also bringing regular beef stew meat to market. Both the rump roast and the stew meat are $7.00/lb. If you are still in the mood to grill this weekend, we will also have ground beef for $7.00/lb and ribeye steaks for $19.00/lb.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What's on Sale This Labor Day Weekend

Sale Item:
Lamb Shoulder Chops $6.00/lb

For those of us who want more meat on our lamb chops, shoulder chops will fill the bill or should I say stomach! Shoulder chops are a tougher cut of meat, but they pack quite a punch of flavor and at $6.00/lb you cannot pass up this inexpensive and tasty cut. They could benefit from a little olive oil and lemon juice as a marinade before being put on the grill or roasted. Shoulder chops are also known to be a great braising cut, making a delicious and tender chop once cooked in broth to keep them juicy. Here is a quick recipe from The Splendid Table that is perfect for grilling this holiday weekend.

Grilled Lamb Shoulder Chops Greek Style
  • Four 10- to 12-ounce lamb shoulder blade chops, 1/2 inch to 1/4 inch thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 lemon
1. Build a fire in your grill.

2. Dry the chops with paper towels and sprinkle them generously with salt and pepper. When the fire has died down and the coals are hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above the grill surface for 1 to 2 seconds), place the chops on the grill and cook until well seared, 3 to 4 minutes per side. To check for doneness, nick, peek, and cheat: Make a 1/4-inch cut in the thickest part of the meat; it should be slightly less done than you like it. When the chops are done, remove them from the grill, cover them loosely with foil, and let them rest for 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the olive oil, oregano, and garlic and mix well.

4. Spoon the garlic mixture over the lamb chops, squeeze the lemon on top of them, and serve hot.