The marketing was effective, I must admit. It even convinced me. A large boneless ham, raised on a small farm, from a heritage breed, cured in a traditional manner, smoked over hickory wood. And at a bargain price! The ham was fully cooked, which meant I could reheat it slowly in a low oven. Easy.
When the ham arrived, and was thawed, I started to take off the reddish brown wrap. As I started to remove it, I realized that the wrap was clear. The ham itself was covered with a dried coating, reddish brown in color, which had the consistency of sawdust glued together. Netting lines were deeply sunk all over the ham, from the netting that was used when it was hung to smoke.
I began to realize that the coating around the ham was the ham itself, what the outside of the roast had turned into, with not a single shred of fat in evidence. In mounting horror, I came to realize that all fat had been trimmed off the ham before smoking. With no fat to keep it moist, the ham had dried out in the smoking process, and lost most of its moisture. I stuck a fork in the ham, it met a lot of resistance. The meat was tough.
I sliced off a small outside piece of the ham and tasted it. The outside meat tasted terrible, with a horrid texture of sawdust. The interior meat was dry, so dry. Hardly any smoke flavor. Chewy, not tender at all. Not good. But there was a hint of a good pork flavor in there.
My family was expecting a nice meal. I decided to save the ham.
A plan was needed. I decided to cover the ham in organic apple juice, and marinate it for a few hours. This should add moisture and flavor. Then, I would add fat and heat it slowly in front of a smoky barbecue fire, at very low heat. This would add the smoke flavor it should have had. And I would restore the fat to the meat, by putting some sliced pork fat from another roast over the top of the ham.
I did not know if this would work, but I was going to give it my best.
But first, that sawdust-like outer coating had to be trimmed off and discarded. I took a sharp knife and trimmed the whole thing, getting off every scrap of the outside. I placed the ham in a glass bowl, poured the apple juice over it, and set it to marinate.
A couple of hours later, I stated a barbecue fire, using some hickory. I brought the temperature up to about 225 degrees. I placed the ham on a rack in a pan, covered the top with sliced pork fat, and set it to smoke. Several hours later, I boiled down the apple juice used for the marinade, until three-quarters of the liquid was gone, and used it to baste the ham occasionally. I was encouraged when I stuck a fork into the meat—it felt much more tender than before. I continued cooking until the roast had been reheated.
Then I started slicing it in the dining room. The knife glided easily through the tender meat. There was a wonderful wood smoke smell. The ham was moist, tender, and so delicious that it was hard to stop eating it. A disaster had become a wonderful meal. The inherent wonderful flavor of the heritage pork had been unlocked deliciously, once fat and moisture had been restored.
The market for grassfed meat has changed greatly since I wrote my book, Tender Grassfed Meat, in 2009. Back then, just about all the grassfed beef on the market was good, though there was less grassfed beef available.
Now, grassfed meat is much easier to find, even appearing in mainstream supermarket chains. But much of the meat now sold is of questionable quality, and many cuts are sold for the wrong purpose. There is a perception that leaner is better, which I disagree with.
So here are the guidelines I follow in buying grassfed meat:
1. Buy the Fattest Grassfed Meat You Can Find
Grassfed meat is leaner than factory meat. But the fat in grassfed meat is particularly nutritious, containing many vital nutrients such as CLA and the proper ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.
The fat is also crucial for flavor and tenderness.
There is now some grassfed beef available that is just too lean to be tender or tasty, and I never buy it. Some of the healthy peoples studied by Dr. Weston A. Price used to throw the lean meat to their dogs, while eating the fattier parts themselves.
I examine the meat for small flecks of fat called marbling. If the meat does not have some marbling, I do not buy it. You can see an example of a well-marbled grassfed beef steak in the photo above.
This cannot be done if you purchase online, and you cannot always trust the photos shown on websites. Ultimately, the only way to know if an online seller has meat that has enough fat is to talk with them, talk to people who have ordered their products, and/or buy a sample. Currently, the only grassfed beef I buy online is from U.S. Wellness Meats, whose meat is always properly raised, has enough marbling, and is sold at a good price.
2. Use the Right Cuts for Your Cooking Method
This is vital, because many stores sell small pieces of tough cuts as “steaks.” In my opinion, lean cuts like rump, round, flank, skirt, chuck, and sirloin tip are just not tender enough to be made as steaks, even with my methods. Our ancestors did not use them for these purposes. These tough cuts were almost always cooked by braising and stewing.
For steaks, I use traditional cuts like rib, strip loin, sirloin, and tenderloin. I have also used well-marbled cuts of, hangar steak, flat iron steak, and center cut shoulder as steaks, as they can be very tender with my methods.
For oven roasts, the same rules apply. Tender cuts like tenderloin, ribeye, prime rib, strip loin, and sirloin, along with some less tender cuts like center cut shoulder, and sirloin tip can be successfully roasted.
Chuck, rump, cuts from the round, flank, skirt, brisket, etc. should usually be braised or stewed slowly.
However, some of the thinner cuts like skirt and flank can be sliced thinly against the grain, marinated, and successfully stir-fried or made into fajita type dishes.
But trying to use an inherently tough cut for a steak or dry roast will almost always result in tough meat, even if good tenderizing methods are used.
In summary, my two top rules for buying grassfed beef are to buy the fattest I can find, and buy the right cut for my cooking method.
This post is part of Fat Tuesday blog carnival.
We live in an age of technology. In many ways, technology has made life easier and better. So why not use all the technological advances in food and cooking?
The answer lies in the fact that not all technology is beneficial. The human body is far more complex than any tech we can develop, and while much is known about how it works, many of the workings of our bodies are unknown. Knowing part of the answer is often deceptive. Something that seems beneficial or harmless, based on the little we know about nutrition, could be something else entirely, due to the part we do not know. And, when it comes to nutrition and how it effects our bodies, there is so much we just do not know.
So how can we possibly decide what is good to eat, and what is not?
Scientific studies are one avenue, but the knowledge is incomplete, and most of the research is financed or controlled by business interests that have a direct financial interest in the outcome.
But there is another way of gathering knowledge, the way our ancestors used. Experience. The experience of countless human beings, gathered over thousands of years, passed down from father to son, from mother to daughter, from teacher to student, from friend to friend. Nothing was as important to our ancestors as much as food, on which their very survival depended. So they carefully preserved what they learned about food. What to eat, what not to eat, which spice to use, which foods to eat in combination, and how to cook them. Vital knowledge.
Much of this vital knowledge is fading away. Most people do not even know how to cook, let alone cook traditionally. And so many people have abandoned traditional eating based on the marketing of the food industry, which often claims that traditional foods are bad and factory foods are better.
My own reintroduction to traditional eating came as a result of a serious illness. When science and the medical profession failed me, I realized I needed to look elsewhere if I was going to get better. I tried many different things, but the practice that brought my health back was traditional eating and traditional cooking. For our ancestors ate for health, as well as fuel, and many of their traditions reflect that knowledge.
Finally, traditional foods just taste much better. Every meal can literally be a time of joy. And I never feel stuffed or uncomfortable after eating quality traditional food, cooked properly. I feel happy and satiated.
A meal can be one of the most satisfying experiences. A special meal, made of the finest foods available and affordable, made from traditional dishes, was a special treat in most cultures. One of the most treasured experiences in human history was to share a great meal of wonderful real food with family and friends.
Recently, my family shared the joy of such a meal, which I had the pleasure of cooking.
The centerpiece was a prime rib roast, a favorite traditional dish in both Britain and America, which has almost been forgotten.
Grassfed, well-marbled, with a beautiful cap of glorious yellow-white fat, this roast was a throwback to a time when good meat was honored and prized.
I marinated this gorgeous roast with traditional ingredients, including olive oil and traditional English mustard, with just a touch of garlic and several favorite herbs. I let the roast come to room temperature as it marinated, as this greatly enhances tenderness and taste.
Roast potatoes provided a very traditional side dish. They were peeled, sliced, and parboiled, then placed around the roast so they could be flavored with the wonderful melting fat from the roast. The oven was preheated, and the roast set to cook in a roasting pan, with its own bones being the only rack required.
Organic carrots were peeled and sliced, and set to simmer in heavily buttered water, with plenty of organic garlic.
A beautiful bunch of organic Swiss chard, with beautiful deep green leaves, was destemmed, the leaves torn into small pieces, and set to await the final frying, a quick cook with garlic and extra virgin olive oil.
Some fresh crimini mushrooms were sliced, to be fried quickly in butter and olive oil when the time was right.
The meat proceeded to roast, giving off a wonderful smell that made me more and more hungry as time went on. At the halfway point, it was basted with the drippings, the potatoes were turned, and the roasting resumed.
At the end, the mushrooms were quickly fried to a beautiful brown color in plenty of butter and olive oil, smelling wonderful.
The Swiss chard was fried quickly with garlic and olive oil, shrinking into a small mass of deep green goodness.
The roast was sliced and served, tender and so flavorful, having the unique taste that only a prime rib roasted with its fat, on the bone, will ever have.
The crusty potatoes, deliciously enriched with the beef fat they roasted in, were a perfect complement to the tender meat.
The carrots, mushrooms, and Swiss chard all added their own joys to the meal, providing a variety of tastes and a powerhouse of nutrition.
We ended the meal happy, satiated, and well-nourished.
That was a special traditional meal.
This post is part of Fat Tuesday blog carnival.
I am often asked for recommendations as to a good place to buy grassfed meat. At this point, I have one answer, when it comes to the Internet.
Back when I wrote my first book, Tender Grassfed Meat, I decided that I would recommend a number of good sources of grassfed meat. I would not favor any particular operation. That was almost nine years ago, and I have changed my mind.
The very first good grassfed beef I received was from one supplier, and that supplier has been so superior to everyone else that I have decided to give them the recognition they have earned over the last nine years.
That supplier is U.S. Wellness Meats.
The reasons are many, and here are the most important ones.
The meat is grassfed, has enough internal fat to be tender and delicious, and is raised with skill and knowledge. Quality has become a huge problem in grassfed beef nowadays, as the increasing demand has led some farmers who do not know how to finish grassfed beef into the market. These farmers often produce meat that is so lean and poorly finished that it will never be tender or delicious. It takes a great deal of skill to properly raise and finish grassfed beef, and the farmers who raise beef for U.S. Wellness Meats have that skill.
While the price of other grassfed meat has skyrocketed during the last few years, the prices at U.S. Wellness Meats have risen much more slowly. Not only are the regular prices lower than almost everyone else, there are sales every two weeks that give you fifteen percent off everything. In addition, shipping is always seven dollars and fifty cents. And additional discounts are available when you buy in bulk.
I have ordered meat from U.S. Wellness Meats literally hundreds of times over the last nine years. Most orders are perfect, and in the very rare event that something goes wrong, they have always made it right. They are more reliable than anyone else I have used. Every one of the thousands of pieces of meat I have bought from them has been tender and delicious after I cooked it.
Much of the grassfed beef sold by U.S. Wellness Meats is imported from Tasmania. It is important not to confuse this magnificent meat with other beef imported from Australia. While some of the grassfed beef imported from Australia is of mediocre quality, beef from Tasmania is different. Tasmania has incredibly rich soil and grasslands, and the grassfed meat it produces is superb. In fact, it is just as good as the best American grassfed beef, in my opinion.
Service to the Grassfed Community
If you are committed to only eating grassfed beef, you cannot help but notice how much more expensive it has become over the last few years. But U.S. Wellness Meats has deliberately held their prices down, making superb grassfed beef available to many people who could not otherwise afford it. True, this does give them business advantages, such as customer loyalty, and taking customers from the more expensive sources. But it does serve our community by making grassfed beef much more affordable. At this point, they are the best price choice available to me, and I deeply appreciate their commitment to the grassfed movement, taking the long view rather than trying to grab as much short-term profit as possible. In my view, they deserve our support, and I will happily continue to buy their meat.
I usually order by telephone, and I have had the pleasure of much interaction with the people at U.S. Wellness Meats. Without exception, they are well informed, pleasant, helpful, efficient, good to talk to, and they get the job done right. This is the best group of elite workers I have ever worked with, in my entire life. It is always a pleasure to deal with them.
Scope of Inventory
While I have focused this article on grassfed beef, U.S. Wellness Meats has a vast array of other fine products, including grassfed lamb, grassfed bison, pastured pork, pastured chickens, pastured ducks, even excellent frozen shrimp and other seafood. They also make excellent grassfed beef sausages with only good ingredients, including the best organ meat sausages I have ever come across. While they produce several fine organ meat sausages, I consider their liverwurst, made from grassfed liver, grassfed kidney, and grassfed heart, to be one of the most nutritious products I have ever purchased. These organ meat sausages make it easy to enjoy the benefits of organ meats. They also make some very fine bacon, with only good ingredients, and many other fine products, including grassfed beef tallow and other healthy fats.
For these reasons, I recommend U.S. Wellness Meats as the best choice I know for purchasing grassfed meat through the Internet.
After a long night, I woke up to start my daily duties at six am, feeling tired and listless. As usual, my solution was based on food. It occurred to me that the original purpose of breakfast was to provide the nutrition needed to start the day.
But what would give me the energy I needed? I focused on it, and four different foods came into my mind. All these foods are forbidden by conventional food beliefs, as they are all high in animal fat. Yet this was exactly what I wanted, and I trust my body more than profit-based nutrition standards.
The Forbidden Foods
Red meat, maybe the most demonized of all foods. Yet grassfed beef has always given me strength, and our ancestors used meat for this purpose. I had some rare leftover roast beef.
Whole Pastured Eggs
We are not supposed to eat egg yolks, but I always do. The yolks contain many nutrients, some of which are hard to get elsewhere, in a very delicious and digestible form. I got hungry just thinking of how good they would go with the meat.
Another forbidden food, real pastured butter is a nutritional powerhouse. The real sacred food of Europe, and I love it. I decided to heat the beef and eggs in butter, and put additional butter on the meat when served.
We are told to eat low-fat cheese, but our ancestors never did, and neither do I. Cheese is fermented, which adds additional nutrients, and the Gouda cheese I decided to eat is very rich in Vitamin K.
In no more than five minutes, I quickly fried the meat and eggs in butter, cooking the eggs just until the yolks set. I added more butter at the table, sliced some Gouda cheese, and happily ate this delicious, satisfying meal. I had so much energy that I got right to work, and was very productive. And I wrote this blog.
This forbidden breakfast was just what I needed.
This post is part of Fat Tuesday blog carnival.
I have often been puzzled by the popularity of various protein bars. Usually they contain one the cheapest, most processed, and least desirable of proteins—soy protein. They also include a variety of nuts, various sweeteners, perhaps some dried fruit, a variety of chemicals, and are usually low-fat or no fat. There are some more natural varieties, but even these do not come close to the ultimate protein bar—a slice of traditional cheese.
Traditional cheese, made from good, truly natural milk, with all of its natural fat, is fermented, which creates additional nutrients. Dry cheeses can be carried around in a wrapping, providing wonderful nutrition when opened and eaten. Such cheeses are rich in easily digestible protein, and have the natural fat that should always be eaten with protein. In addition to this, these cheeses are rich in many minerals such as calcium, and have a rich vitamin content, some varieties being especially rich in Vitamin K, a nutrient that is hard to get in our modern world.
Traditional cheese is often extremely tasty and satisfying, while providing a full range of vital nutrients. There are a huge variety of these traditional cheeses, so it is impossible to be bored, and some are so good that it is impossible for me to tire of their taste.
Many armies, from the ancient Greeks and Romans, up to the French Foreign Legion in the early twentieth century, would provide hard, dry traditional cheeses to their soldiers as part of their field rations. Shepherds and travelers in ancient, medieval, and even early modern times would often carry cheese with them so they would have something really good to eat while watching the sheep, or on their journey. Using cheese as a protein bar is a very old tradition.
If I am going somewhere and need instant nutrition available, I always pack some hard, dry cheese, never a protein bar.
One such recipe was a Mongol dish that was described by Medieval Chinese food writers, who called it “Grab Your Own Lamb.”
How to Cook Grab Your Own Lamb
The ingredients could not be simpler. A single young lamb, gutted, with the head, wool, hooves, everything, left on.
Some large rocks that would not crack from heat were heated in a hot fire. That is, the rocks were placed in the fire, and kept there until they were literally red hot, glowing with their own heat.
Then the rocks were removed from the fire with tongs, and placed in the cavity of the gutted lamb. The cavity was sewn closed with sturdy twine, and the cooks and guests waited for it to be done.
First, the wool would burn off. I think the smell of burning wool might have been very bad. When all the wool had burned off, from the interior heat, the skin would start to crisp. At some point after this, the lamb would be considered ready.
The meat was so tender that the diners would serve themselves by literally pulling the lamb apart with their hands, and grabbing the pieces they wanted. The Chinese food writers wrote that this lamb was one of the most delicious things you could possibly eat.
I would never try this myself. Heating rocks until they are red hot could be very dangerous, leading to serious injury or worse, or fires if something goes wrong. Even heating the wrong rock could result in an explosion that would send red hot pieces of rock flying in all directions. The Mongol cooks were experts in using this method. I believe those skills have long been lost.
Why Was It So Good?
At the time of the writing, Chinese food was heavily seasoned and spiced, meat was eaten in small quantities, and was often cut into small pieces and stir-fried, lamb was almost never eaten, and the center of most meals was the featured grain, either rice or wheat. The prevailing attitude in China was that only Chinese cooking was worth eating, and all other cuisines were inferior. In other words, “Grab Your Own Lamb” was as un-Chinese a dish as you could possibly find.
So why did the Chinese writers love it so much?
I think it was the bones and the fat, cooked right into the meat.
I am just guessing here, but it is based on my experience in cooking much smaller pieces of meat on the bone, with the fat.
Cooking the lamb whole, with all its bones and fat, meant that substances from the bones and fat would cook right into the meat, helping it become more tender, adding incredible flavor, and greatly increasing the nutritional value of the meat. This provided so much flavor that no spices were needed.
What We Can Learn
I recently made a small roast from a very fatty piece of grassfed meat, which I was able to get with all the fat left on. I barbecued it with no seasoning other than the smoke of the fire. Unbelievably tender and delicious, and we felt so good after eating it. I have had even better results when I could get the fat and the bone.
Cooking meat on the bone, with the fat, provides incredible flavor, tenderness, and nutrition.
This post is part of Fat Tuesday blog carnival.
Photo credit epSos .de
Our ancestors used food to prevent and heal disease, and to maintain their natural functions. They did not have the benefits of scientific studies, but they did have the benefits of experience, knowledge that was passed down from father to son, mother to daughter, master to apprentice.
Organs As Medicine
Cultures as diverse as the ancient Chinese, ancient Greeks, many African tribes, and Native Americans connected the eating of a certain animal, and body part of a certain animal, to heal and benefit various organs and parts of the body and mind. This practice continued into the twentieth century, with some medical doctors using some of these traditions to help their patients.
There is a logic to this practice, as the nutrients the animals needed to maintain and nourish their organs were likely to be found in that particular organ. Scientific research has confirmed that organ meats are very rich in vital nutrients. I do not know of research that has supported the idea that eating the particular organ of an animal would prevent or heal disease in the same organ of the person who ate it. Of course, modern medicine does not use these methods, relying mainly on drugs, surgery, and radiation.
Some examples are as follows:
- Eating the heart of a strong, healthy animal was believed to help maintain the health and strength of the human heart. The Native Americans placed special value on the heart of a young stag, for this purpose. In the early twentieth century, some doctors in the U.S., used to advise patients with heart problems to eat beef heart as a way to strengthen their own heart.
- Many peoples believed it was beneficial to eat the brains of an animal, and that this would make them more intelligent and sharpen their minds.
- The liver was particularly prized, all over the world. Hunters would often eat the raw liver of their kill on the spot, as it was felt to be the most beneficial at that time. The hunters would divide the raw liver among themselves, so all could get the benefits. It has even been documented that the first part of the prey eaten by a predator, such as a lion, is the liver. Eating the liver was believed to make the liver of the eater stronger, and to purify and cleanse the body. Science has confirmed that cleansing and detoxifying the body is the function of the liver. In fact, the custom of eating liver regularly, at least once a week, was common in Europe and the United States up to the middle of the twentieth century.
- Many peoples believed that eating the eyes of an animal, particularly an animal known to have keen vision, would help their own eyesight.
There are many other examples, but the general idea was that eating a particular organ of a healthy animal would help the same organ in the human who ate it. Every traditional society who did this was careful to only eat healthy organs, from healthy animals. If the organ appeared diseased, or even discolored, no one would eat it.
I make it a point to regularly eat liver, kidney, and heart from grassfed cows. I should mention that all of these organs seem to be functioning perfectly, and give me no discomfort or trouble. You can do this without much work, if you get the magnificent liverwurst from US Wellness Meats, which contains high-quality liver, heart, and kidney from grassfed cattle, in the form of a sausage that is very easy to eat.
Disclaimer: Information found on the Tender Grassfed Meat site, including this article, is meant for educational and informational purposes only. Any statements or claims about the possible health benefits conferred by any foods or anything else have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. None of the content on the Tender Grassfed Meat site should be relied upon for any purpose, and nothing here is a substitute for a medical diagnosis or medical treatment.
When a holiday approached, our ancestors, all over the world, anticipated the feast with great joy, happiness, and anticipation. The feast would be prepared by skilled cooks, from the best traditional foods available, and would provide a happy time where everyone would enjoy the fun, happiness, satisfaction and joy of sharing a special great meal.
Yet in modern America, the approach of the holiday feasts is cluttered with a blizzard of cautionary articles, posts, and warnings that could ruin the joy of any meal. Avoid fat, avoid eating too much, avoid gaining weight, avoid eggs in the stuffing, avoid the skin on the turkey, avoid cooking the stuffing in the bird, avoid calories, avoid, avoid AVOID!
In other words, avoid the traditional joy of the feast and worry about what you eat, even on the holidays.
Most of the people who have lived on this earth would be puzzled by this kill-joy attitude.
I advocate enjoying the holiday feasts, and the traditional dishes that have been used to celebrate them.
The Claim that Animal Fat Is Bad for Us Has Been Debunked
Most of the fear of the feast is based on fear of fat. This fear is based on the debunked belief that animal fat is always bad for us. This is just not true, as documented in the book The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, and many other credible sources, including articles in the New York Times and Time magazine.
My Thanksgiving Plans
I have seen ads for Thanksgiving which featured mounds of different kinds of steamed vegetables. I have seen vegetarian “roasts” made mostly of soy, in the shape of a turkey. I have read articles advocating roasting a turkey breast instead of a turkey, with the skin to be trimmed off and discarded before serving. None of these things are traditional, and none of them are for me.
Instead, we will have a traditional Thanksgiving feast, including:
- Roast whole pastured turkey, brined in my secret apple brine, and basted repeatedly with pastured butter while roasting
- Stuffing made from homemade cornbread; roasted chestnuts; onion and celery which have been cooked golden in plenty of pastured butter; as many whole eggs as it takes to moisten the stuffing; various herbs; and the minced heart and liver of the turkey; roasted inside the turkey in the traditional way
- Sweet potatoes, roasted whole until meltingly soft, and served with plenty of pastured butter
- Fresh cranberry sauce
- Sliced onions, cabbage, and apple, sautéed in plenty of melted bacon fat, with the bacon
- Gravy, made from lots of fatty turkey drippings, and homemade turkey broth, and the flavor-rich scrapings from the pan the turkey is roasted in
- And finally, a homemade pumpkin pie
And we will most definitely eat every last bit of the crisp, buttery, wonderful turkey skin.
Now, that is a feast to look forward to!
Disclaimer: Information found on the Tender Grassfed Meat site, including this article, is meant for educational and informational purposes only. Any statements or claims about the possible health benefits conferred by any foods or anything else have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. None of the content on the Tender Grassfed Meat site should be relied upon for any purpose, and nothing here is a substitute for a medical diagnosis or medical treatment.Next Page »