By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat
Many people who eat grassfed meat have trouble affording the higher cost. Grassfed meat is more expensive than factory meat, in a per pound cost. However, there are many ways to reduce the cost of grassfed meat, such as buying a whole, half, or quarter animal, joining a CSA, searching the websites of trusted providers for specials, making a good deal with a local farmer, and other similar methods. But there is another way to make grassfed meat feed more people and provide more meals, which was developed over the centuries in Europe and elsewhere. Add wholesome and less expensive ingredients that literally enable you to stretch the meat, while adding a delicious taste and texture. Done right, these dishes can actually taste better than a dish made up only of meat.
The ordinary European had a hard time getting meat, so they made the most of it. Meat scraps were made into stews combined with many different vegetables. Chopped or cubed meat was often added to grains such as wheat, rye, oatmeal, rice, kasha, and barley. Sausages often contained a large number of non-meat ingredients such as grains, fat, sometimes blood, and sometimes all three. Onions, chopped, or sliced, or pureed, were added to almost every meat dish other than roasts or steaks, and often to those dishes as well. Herbs, fresh and dried, were added for flavor, as were spices such as pepper, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and others. Spices were usually added in very small amounts, because spices were expensive. The use of small amounts meant that the spices did not overwhelm the meat, but blended with the other ingredients to create a wonderful taste.
Ground meat is usually the lowest priced form of grassfed meat available, especially in bulk. Traditional European cuisines had many recipes for ground meat, almost always stretched by the addition of other ingredients, both for economy and taste. The added ingredients often included eggs, onions, milk, cream, stale bread or bread crumbs, small amounts of various spices, and always some of the fat of the animal. Ground meat was cooked in the form of meatballs, meatloaves, as part of the filling for pies, in sausages, as part of a filling for all kinds of pastries, and in dumplings. These methods and flavors work very well with modern grassfed beef. Adding traditional ingredients to ground meat can result in a hamburger, for example, that is much tastier than an all meat burger.
I want to make a distinction between the traditional use of stretching meat with other ingredients, and the modern factory food method of making more money by adding ingredients such as soy protein, water, and all kinds of other filler materials to ground meat before the meat is sold. The traditional practice of adding other ingredients to ground meat occurred only when the meat was actually cooked, not when it was bought. Any ground meat I buy is 100% grassfed and grass finished, with no ingredients except meat and meat fat.
The following is my version of a typical European meat mixture for hamburgers. There are hundreds of different versions. This one contains many of the typical ingredients used to stretch ground meat in Europe and is delicious. It is intended for grassfed hamburgers. The mixture can be grilled, sautéed in a frying pan, or cooked under a broiler. It should be cooked thoroughly, with medium rather than high heat. Stale bread does not appeal to me, so I have substituted fresh bread crumbs.
Traditional Burger Mix
1 pound grassfed ground beef
2 slices chemical free sprouted or sourdough bread of your choice
1 small organic onion, very finely chopped
2 pastured or free range organic eggs
1 teaspoon coarse unrefined sea salt, crushed
1/2 teaspoon organic freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground organic cloves
- Chop the bread into cubes, and crumb in a blender.
- Break the eggs into a small bowl, and beat lightly with a fork until well combined.
- Add the crumbs, eggs, and all other ingredients to a large bowl, and mix until well combined. Traditionally, this would be done with your clean hands, but it is a sticky experience, and it can be hard to wash the mixture off your hands. A large spoon is a very practical alternative.
- Form into hamburgers and cook, or refrigerate until just before cooking. This delicious mixture should be used within 24 hours of being made.
This post is part of Real Food Wednesday Blog Carnival at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.
Read more frugal real food blogs at Pennywise Platter Thursday at the Nourishing Gourmet.
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