When I think barbecue, I think about the magic of wood and charcoal, of fragrant smoke, of the heavenly smell of meat roasting in front of a charcoal fire. Yet most people have gas barbecues.
I was faced with a choice when I wrote Tender Grassfed Barbecue. Should I write it for charcoal barbecues, or gas barbecues, or both?
Writing it for both would give me the widest audience, and the most sales. Yet I chose to write it for charcoal only, though I did include a small section on how you could use a gas barbecue.
Why? Because our ancestors used wood coals, and 100 percent hardwood charcoal. I always try to honor tradition in my books, and there is no tradition in gas grilling. The traditional fuel is wood burned down to coals, or 100% hardwood charcoal. And it tastes so much better.
The Tradition of Cooking with Fire
Our ancestors cooked a great deal of their meat in front of fires. The fires were usually made of wood burned down to coals, or 100 percent wood charcoal, which has been used for thousands of years. The wood and the charcoal give a distinct and glorious flavor to barbecued meat, and have other cooking benefits that you do not get from gas.
I also like starting a fire, controlling it, adjusting the heat by how I adjust the vents, and adding flavor to the charcoal with wood and herbs. I enjoy looking at the coals, judging when they are just right to begin cooking.
I love the smell of meat roasting in front of charcoal, which mingles with the glorious smells of the fire to make my mouth water in anticipation of the joys to come.
And I love the flavor that comes only with the use of wood or charcoal, or both.
No gas grill can provide these experiences, though it is possible to get some wood taste into meat by using smoking chips with a gas grill.
And I believe that cooking with wood and charcoal adds something special to the meat, something that may even improve its digestive and nutrient qualities, since humans have been cooking this way since the beginning. I have no scientific proof of this, but I feel in my heart that it is true.
Many people who use gas barbecues talk about how they are much more convenient. But cooking with charcoal can also be very easy and convenient, as advances in barbecue technology has made it so much easier. I have developed a system, using a chimney barbecue starter, a drip pan, a meat thermometer, and a covered kettle grill, that is very easy to use and makes the most delicious barbecue I have ever tasted. This system is at the heart of Tender Grassfed Barbecue.
Starting the fire, controlling the temperature, avoiding flare-ups, and cooking the meat is very easy with this system, and I use it most days when the weather and the law allows.
And a little extra effort is so rewarding, in taste, in the pleasure of mastering fire, in the wonderful smells, and, best of all, in the delicious food it produces, which I love to eat.
Gas Barbecues Do Not Have the Magic of Charcoal
First of all, I have a confession to make. I have never used a gas barbecue. I have had friends with gas barbecues test my ideas on how to add some barbecue flavor, and have tasted the successful results.
But I have never used one. Not even once. That said, I respect the right of everybody to use the method of barbecue they prefer. And I have tasted a fair amount of barbecue cooked with gas. Some of it was good, but all of it was lacking, in my opinion. And what it lacked was the magic of wood and charcoal.
In my opinion, there is something magical about cooking with wood and charcoal, the qualities and tastes and textures it creates, which are like no others. And the smell, the wonderful, heavenly smell that makes my mouth water and gets me hungry in a way that no other form of cooking has ever done.
Finally, grassfed meat, my favorite food in all the world, and charcoal cooking were made for each other, being perhaps the oldest food of mankind, cooked in the most traditional way. This union of fuel and meat, when done right, appeals to a taste that seems to be coded into our very genes.
People have been eating meat cooked with fire for a very long time, since the beginning. People have only been using gas for barbecue since the twentieth century.
For these reasons, barbecue means wood and charcoal, to me.
Grassfed meat and real food are more expensive, and much harder to get than factory food. Why should we pay the higher cost? Why go to the considerable trouble of finding real food and quality grassfed meat?
The answer is simple, yet profound.
- Because it makes me feel so much better.
- Because it enables the natural functions of my body to function better, keeping me healthy, with every part working well, from mind to toes.
- Because it tastes so good, and makes me feel so satisfied.
- Because eating properly prepared grassfed meat and real food makes me happy and content.
In a world that sells convenience above all else, it is important to remember that easy is not always best. Quality really matters, especially when it comes to food.
Our bodies were not designed or evolved to live on pills and supplements, or on food raised with chemicals that did not even exist until they were invented in a lab. Humanity has eaten grassfed meat and real food for most of our history, and our bodies have adapted to use this wonderful fuel.
It is not just the individual nutrient that matters, it is the combination of nutrients, many of which have yet to be discovered. When we eat a balanced traditional diet of real food and grassfed meat, we need not worry about whether we are getting good nutrition that our bodies can easily absorb and use—because we are.
Factory foods raised with chemicals, GMOs, foods that have been irradiated, foods with chemical additives, are all new to humanity, and are different from the foods that have nourished us since the beginning.
How do we know if we are well nourished? We feel good, clear, with lots of energy. We experience a great deal of satisfaction and contentment. There is a wonderful feeling of satisfaction that comes after eating a good meal of real food, that can never come from eating factory food.
The chemicals they add to factory food can make it taste good, and can make us crave it, but it does not satisfy. In fact, one of the telltale signs of factory food is that you can eat a great deal of it and never be satisfied, always craving more. That is why people will eat whole quarts of factory ice cream, drink a gallon or more of factory soft drinks in a day, eat huge quantities of candy, and still be hungry.
With real food and grassfed meat, you eat, and your body knows when you have had enough. Then the desire to eat ends, and you enjoy the wonderful satisfaction that only real food can bring.
Real food and grassfed meat, properly cooked with traditional ingredients and methods, tastes so good it is hard to describe. The smell and taste of a grassfed beef roast cooked over smoldering charcoal is good beyond belief, as are countless other traditional dishes.
And it is not hard to cook this kind of food to the point where it is wonderful. It is not complicated. If you have great ingredients, you can enjoy wonderful, tender grassfed meat, and utterly delicious real food, with just a few ingredients and simple cooking methods.
Two days ago, we had a grassfed beef roast cooked in front of a hardwood charcoal fire, seasoned with no more than three ingredients. Cooking it was simplicity itself, being just a matter of a very simple marinade, timing, and adjusting the temperature of the fire by adjusting the vents once. Yet this beef was so good, so delicious, absolutely mouth-watering as it came off the grill with that heavenly aroma that only barbecued meat can have.
Yesterday, we had a pastured pork roast, marinated with a traditional combination of four ingredients, then roasted in the oven with one change of temperature. We sliced it thin, and enjoyed the incredible flavor and tenderness of the meat, enhanced by the traditional spicing. This meat was so good it was hard to imagine anything better, and most of the dinner conversation involved praising the goodness of the pork.
Yet, when we had enough, in both of those meals, the desire to eat ended, and we experienced the wonderful sensation of satisfaction.
Barbecue season began for me yesterday. I opened Tender Grassfed Barbecue to the recipe for Roast Pork with Mediterranean Myrtle, in the Style of Sardinia. I marinated a pastured pork loin with traditional ingredients. I took the barbecue out of the garage, set it up, arranged the coals, lit the fire. I watched the first coals catch, and spread the fire to the others. I watched the flames as the hardwood charcoal burned down, filling the air with the fragrance of wood smoke.
When the coals were ready, I placed the pork loin in front of the fire, added some Mediterranean myrtle leaves to the coals, put the cover on, and inhaled the fragrant smell, feeling great satisfaction.
I adjusted the vents to control the temperature, added coals when called for, and enjoyed my mastery of the fire. The smell of the burning coals, fragrant leaves, and roasting meat made me so hungry.
I was enjoying one of humankind’s oldest experiences, cooking real meat in front of a real fire.
It got even better when the meat was finally ready, and I cut thin slices of fragrant pork, and tasted the flavors of the meat, the herbs, and the wood. So good. So satisfying. So old, yet so new. And utterly delicious.
The Goodness of Barbecue
Barbecuing meat has been associated with health risks, based on various studies. Yet our ancestors, and the peoples studied by Dr. Weston A. Price, cooked most of their meat in front of a fire, without developing the diseases indicated by the studies.
A review of the studies on the subject led me to realize something important. The risk factors were always associated with cooking the meat over direct high heat. While most Americans associate barbecue with cooking directly over a hot fire, whether charcoal or gas, our ancestors rarely did this.
By cooking their meat in front of, but never directly over, the fire, they avoided scorching their meat, and avoided the risk factors identified by various studies.
Concern has also been expressed about some chemicals that are released from burning wood, such as creosote. Our ancestors had this one covered as well, as they invariably burned their wood down to coals before placing the meat in front of it. By the time the wood burned down to coals, the chemicals had burned off. Our ancestors often cooked with natural charcoal, which was and is made by partly burning wood. This process also burns off the toxic chemicals.
It is just about certain that most of our ancestors cooked their meat in front of the fire, and that this is the oldest human way of cooking meat. Our bodies have no doubt adapted to the combination of meat cooked with wood coals. I cook grassfed meat in many delicious ways, and enjoy all of them, but real barbecue has always been my favorite. Grassfed meat is humankind’s oldest food, and wood coal fires are humankind’s oldest way to cook it. The meat and the method go together in delicious perfection.
The Taste of Barbecue
Cooking with fire gives grassfed meat a flavor, texture, and tenderness that cannot be matched in any other way. I usually cook with charcoal, as it is much easier than burning wood logs down coals, and is the oldest cooking fuel after wood itself. I only use lump charcoal, or briquettes made from 100 percent hardwood charcoal with a starch binder. This helps recreate the traditional flavors, and makes for a fire that is very easy to control.
I barbecue grassfed beef, grassfed lamb, grassfed bison, pastured pork, and sometimes chicken or even wild fish. No matter what I make, I love it.
Barbecuing can be very difficult, or very easy. I prefer easy, and have perfected a simple method to cook meat in front of the fire, not over, control the temperature, and produce absolutely delicious barbecue meats. This method is detailed in Tender Grassfed Barbecue, along with more than a hundred delicious traditional recipes for many kinds of barbecued meats. I am getting hungry now.
Lamb has often been a traditional food for Easter. My family will be enjoying a grassfed leg of lamb this Sunday, using traditional flavorings. Lamb may just be the most popular meat in the world, enjoyed in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America, not to mention Australia and New Zealand.
But usually not in the United States. Americans generally dislike lamb, and rarely eat it. Many Americans who taste American lamb find it gamy and not tasty.
But there are specific reasons why some American lamb tastes this way. The right kind of lamb, raised on its natural feed, properly spiced and cooked, is some of the most delicious meat you will ever eat.
The Problems with American Lamb
American lamb used to be wonderful, especially lamb raised in the west, by experienced Basque shepherds. But times have changed.
Most of the lamb in the world is grassfed only. But not in the United States. Most American lamb is finished on grain. This causes the lambs to grow bigger and faster, and increases profits. However, lamb, more than any other meat, tastes like what it eats. Most of the grains fed to lamb are the same GMO corn and GMO soy fed to factory cattle. Grain feeding, in my opinion, totally ruins the taste of lamb. Grass feeding, on rich pastures full of wild herbs, can give a wonderful taste to lamb.
Another problem is that much American lamb comes from breeds developed for wool, not meat. These wool breeds often have a bad taste and smell that meat breeds do not have.
American lamb is also too big, which has a negative effect on taste. The standards as to what can be called lamb are quite lax in the U.S., and older animals can now legally be sold as lamb. The selling of older lambs also contributes to the size problem.
Here is an example. A leg of lamb in the U.S. often weighs eight to ten pounds, or even more. In most other countries, a leg of lamb is closer to four to five pounds in weight.
Lamb also needs to be cooked properly. Traditional cuisines cook lamb with a variety of herbs, spices, vegetables, and marinades that really enhance its taste and provide absolutely wonderful meat. Americans generally do not know how to cook lamb.
The Grassfed Solution
Lamb should only be grassfed, in my opinion. The flavor is far superior, especially if the pasture is good, and it also has the health benefits of grassfed meat. Grassfed lamb can be found in the U.S., though it can take some effort. I have also found good grassfed lamb in the U.S. that is imported from New Zealand. Some imported and domestic grassfed lamb can be incredibly expensive, so it pays to shop carefully and compare prices.
Lamb should also come from a meat breed, rather than a wool breed. There are some breeds that are supposed to be equally good for meat and wool, but I personally prefer the flavor of a meat breed, raised on grass.
I also try to buy meat from smaller lambs, as I find the flavor to be milder and superior. This can be a challenge, but is well worth the effort.
It is also important to know how to cook the lamb, and to use some of the traditional flavorings that have enhanced the flavor of lamb for thousands of years. My cookbooks Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue have many delicious recipes for lamb using traditional ingredients. These include garlic, green herbs such as rosemary and thyme, traditional olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and others.
Here is a link to a recipe for grassfed lamb that I developed for Easter, which is an example of how good grassfed lamb really can be.
The idea of having a special day to celebrate your love is both romantic and enjoyable. People in love have been sharing special days long before the creation of Valentine’s Day. There is no doubt that Valentine’s Day has been heavily commercialized, and the candy industry has tried to seize this day for its own, to the point that many people expect to get candy as a gift on Valentine’s Day.
But candy is very unhealthy, being full of refined sugar or other sweeteners, and a host of other unhealthy ingredients. In fact, high doses of refined sugar is one of the worst things the Standard American Diet (SAD) has to offer. Too much sugar disrupts the natural functions of our body, causing havoc and setting the stage for many illnesses. Just about all candy has too much sugar, in my opinion. And I consider artificial sweeteners to be even worse.
Which is why I do not give candy to my love on Valentine’s Day. I give grassfed meat, and use it to make a romantic meal.
Grassfed meat is very healthy, supporting the natural functions of the body, including reproduction and all that goes with it. Properly cooked grassfed meat does not leave the eater feeling stuffed or bloated, but refreshed and renewed, and fueled for a romantic evening. And there is something truly romantic about sharing a special, traditional meal.
Our Ancestors Celebrated Special Occasions with Meat
In most cultures, our ancestors had many holidays and special occasions to celebrate. One of the most enjoyable ways to celebrate these special days was with a special meal, and meat, usually grassfed meat, was the most common choice. Grassfed meat and grassfed fat are the oldest and most nutrient-dense foods known, and are so satisfying when properly cooked. A review of recorded culinary history shows a huge variety of meat dishes prepared to celebrate special occasions.
Some Special Meat Selections for Valentine’s Day
Some cuts of meat have been used for romantic dinners as a matter of tradition. I have used many of these, and all of them came out great and enhanced the occasion. Some of my favorites are:
Thick Grassfed Ribeye Steak
These delicious steaks, cut from the prime rib area, a cut of meat that used to be the food of heroes, have a unique and delicious flavor of their own. Grassfed ribeye steaks have the most flavor of all. A nice marinade will help make the meat even more tender and bring out its flavor. Grassfed ribeye steaks are wonderful sautéed in butter to medium-rare perfection. Every bite provides strength and health, and it is possible to trim and arrange two such steaks so they form a heart shape, to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
Thick Grassfed, Bone in Rib Steak
This is a thick steak from the same cut of meat as the ribeye, with the bone left in. This steak is very thick, and is meant to be shared by two. It is a favorite cut in France. This meat has all the advantages of the ribeye, with the bone providing even more flavor. It is a wonderful steak to share, and so delicious!
Thick Grassfed Porterhouse Steak
The Porterhouse is made for two, as it is at its best when cut thick. The Porterhouse, which is almost identical to the T-bone, contains two wonderful cuts of meat, the tenderloin, and the strip. Both have different textures and flavors, and complement each other wonderfully. The bone that separates the two cuts of meat adds incredible flavor and tenderness to both cuts, along with increased mineral content. Like most grassfed steaks, the right marinade greatly increases tenderness and brings out the wonderful flavor. The bone makes these steaks difficult to sauté, but they are wonderful grilled, or broiled with butter.
Grassfed Rack of Lamb
This luxury cut is also perfect for two. Known in ancient times as the “Champions Portion,” the dense, flavorful meat rests on a rack of bones, and is topped off with a magnificent cap of grassfed fat. The fat and bones provide incredible tenderness and flavor. Properly marinated and cooked, the meat is not at all gamy, but has a somewhat nutty flavor that is delightful to eat. It is best cooked medium rare to rare, and is full of valuable nutrients. But it is the taste that makes this cut something special.
By giving the gift of grassfed meat, you promote health, not sickness, as well as a wonderful taste and nutrition experience.
A feast at the end of the year is a very old European tradition, going back to the days before Christmas was celebrated. This holiday was often known as Yule. It has generally been replaced with Christmas, which also traditionally includes a feast.
It was common to welcome the New Year with a feast as well.
These days, people are taught to fear their food. Fat from healthy animals, one of the most vital and nutrient-rich foods we can eat, has been demonized and blamed for heart disease, and almost every other chronic disease known to humanity. This is just not true. People ate foods rich in animal fat during eras where heart disease, cancer, and most other modern diseases were unknown.
Yet the propaganda has been so effective that many people do not even know which foods were the traditional centerpieces of the holiday feast, and have never tasted them.
Certainly, skinless, boneless chicken breast, or skinless, boneless turkey breast, from birds fed GMO soy and GMO corn, were never the center of the holiday feast. Neither were vegetarian concoctions such as soy substitutes for meat, laden with chemicals and flavor enhancers.
The traditional centerpiece of the European and American holiday feast was a big grassfed roast, or pastured roast, or pastured bird, roasted whole with its skin intact.
It is time to put the fear aside, and enjoy the rich, traditional bounty of the holiday. You do not have to restrict yourself to lean factory meats devoid of taste and nutrition. We can still enjoy the feasting traditions of our ancestors and the many health benefits of grassfed and pastured meats.
Traditional Foods for the Feast
Prime Rib Roast
This roast, grassfed until the mid-twentieth century, is a magnificent centerpiece for any holiday feast. Cut from the chine area of the steer, the most prized traditional cut, sometimes reserved for heroes, it is a magnificent sight. Resting on a natural rack of its own bones, covered by a thick mantle of its own healthy fat, it produces instant hunger when brought to the table.
Prime rib has a unique taste of its own, that no other beef or meat shares. It is a truly wonderful taste, enhanced by being roasted on the bone, enriched by the melting fat that bastes the meat as the roasting proceeds. The natural fat cap helps keep the meat moist and tender, while lending a magnificent flavor.
It is an old tradition to roast vegetables in the same pan as the prime rib. The vegetables caramelize in the flavorful fat that melts from the roast, developing a depth of flavor that must be tasted to be believed, turning crusty on the outside while remaining tender on the inside. Organic potatoes reach their height of perfection when roasted this way, which also adds scrumptious flavors to peeled and sliced carrots and onion wedges. A traditional grassfed prime rib roasted with vegetables in this manner is perhaps our favorite holiday meal, which we have at least once every holiday season. You can see a photo of one of our holiday prime ribs above.
Roast Tenderloin of Beef
A whole tenderloin of beef is another holiday choice for a special meal. Grassfed tenderloin, in particular, has a wonderful flavor. Tenderloin is naturally lean, and traditional preparations add fat to it in many different ways. It often had slivers of bacon inserted in the meat, a process called larding, that used a special needle. It was often wrapped in pork fat, or beef kidney fat. It was often marinated in oil with herbs. Many times, it was coated with large amounts of butter and basted as it roasted.
Yet our favorite method of cooking this magnificent, luxury cut is to cook it in a rich pastry, made with huge amounts of butter, known as Beef Wellington. The meat is coated with a mixture of finely chopped mushrooms and onions, sautéed in butter until they have shrunk and caramelized, which greatly intensifies their flavor. The coated meat is than wrapped in butter-rich puff pastry, and roasted to tender, flavorful, perfection.
The smell of the roasting grassfed meat, butter, and mushrooms makes you so hungry, and the sight of the wonderfully browned pastry as it is carried to the table is something to behold. The combination of the tender grassfed meat, sautéed mushroom coating, and buttery pastry is wonderful beyond my ability to describe it.
Roast Rack of Lamb
The rack of lamb is cut from the chine portion of the lamb, traditionally the most valuable and cherished cut. This cut is also a great choice for a holiday feast. Many people, especially in the U.S., think they do not like lamb, but that is only because they have not had quality grassfed lamb, from a traditional meat breed, which has a mild yet wonderful taste, especially when served rare to medium rare.
A rack of lamb has been prized in Europe as a holiday feast for a very long time, and we have learned how to enjoy this tradition as well.
Racks of lamb are often “Frenched,” which usually means that all the fat is trimmed off. I do not recommend this, as the fat is crucial to a magnificent roast. Sometimes during the holidays you will come across a “crown rack of lamb,” which is cut in such a way that it is almost guaranteed to come out overcooked. I do not recommend this either. Most American butchers will cut a rack of lamb between each bone, to make it easy to carve into individual chops once roasted. I do not recommend this either, as it almost always results in an overcooked lamb that has lost far too much of its natural juices and flavor.
The rack of lamb in our holiday feast rests on a natural rack of its own bones, retains a thick crown of its own magnificent fat, and is uncut and whole—no cuts between each chop to let the flavor out. It roasts quickly at a high heat, with organic potatoes and other vegetables in the pan, caramelizing in the melting fat, and taking on a wonderful, crusty flavor and texture. The smell of this cut as it roasts is almost as good as the taste when it is finally served. It is important to serve lamb hot, and not let it get lukewarm or cold. But the flavor of a true grassfed lamb, from a traditional meat breed, is magnificent.
No article about holiday feasts in winter can be complete without at least a mention of roast goose, which was one of the favorite Christmas meals in Europe for many centuries. In fact, having a roast goose for Christmas was so important that many employment contracts provided that the employer would give the employee a fat goose at Christmas time—it was that important.
Goose is not commonly made these days, and is a bit tricky to get right, but when you get it right, it is something very special. The plentiful, crisp skin is in a league of its own, being an incredibly satisfying mouthful, with a wonderful texture and flavor. The tender dark meat has a great depth of flavor which sets off the crisp skin perfectly. Any traditional holiday goose will include a delicious stuffing, often rich with apples, which go perfectly with the goose meat. And the traditional gravy, flavored by the rich, caramelized drippings, is something special, a symphony of flavors that enhance the stuffing, the skin, and the flavorful meat.
The goose gives off a lot of fat when roasting, so much fat that it must be carefully drained at various times during the roasting. Traditionally, this fat was saved, and used for cooking, and for healing. I have saved goose fat in this matter, and it is one of my favorite fats to cook with.
There are many other traditional centerpieces for the holiday meal, including hams (both cured and fresh), duck, capon, turkey, leg of lamb, rib roast of pork, roast pork loin, roasted beef strip loin, roast saddle of lamb, and others. All of them are roasted whole, with plenty of their own fat, and usually roasted on the bone. Our ancestors knew how to celebrate with food!
My first cookbook, Tender Grassfed Meat, contains many recipes for prime rib and rack of lamb, and the best grassfed Beef Wellington I have ever tasted.
Winter is coming. In Europe, those words were a serious warning. Winter, with the freezing cold it brought, the snow and occasional blizzards, was the time when many people died. In fact, often a person’s age and health were measured by how many winters they had survived. The Native Americans of the Great Plains also used this measurement.
Whether one survived the winter, before central heating and supermarkets, was largely dependent on having shelter, fuel, and, most importantly, the food that ensured survival. Our ancestors learned much about what to eat during this dangerous time, and passed this knowledge down through the generations.
While most people in the U.S. and Europe do not see winter as a threat, more people do get sick in winter and more people die. Many people expect to have colds and flus during winter, and many do. Most people have no idea of what their ancestors ate to survive the winter, and depend on doctors and prescription drugs, or over-the-counter drugs, to get them through it. Unfortunately, doctors know nothing about curing colds and flus, and the drugs are of limited effectiveness and all have negative effects. Some take flu shots, and get sick anyway.
We can still use the wisdom of our ancestors to stay healthy during the winter, by eating the foods that make our immune systems strong and able to fight off colds and illness.
Traditional Winter Foods
Our ancestors used a number of foods in winter, foods that they knew would help them stay healthy. Here are a few of the favorites in Europe and the United States.
This is the number one winter survival food in the entire world. Made from the bones of grassfed animals and pastured poultry, or wild game, these broths were the best mineral supplement ever invented. The long simmering process, usually at least twelve hours, extracted the nutrients, minerals, and gelatin from the bones and meat, and put it into the broth, where it could be easily absorbed. The gelatin from the bones and cartilage was also invaluable, improving the digestion, nourishing the gut, providing a protective coating to membranes and the stomach, and enabling the body to keep digesting and absorbing the nutrients from food. The broths were always cooked with plenty of unrefined salt, which also nourished and protected the body. The broths were always drunk hot, not scalding, but hot. The hot, nourishing liquid warmed the body from the inside as it was slowly sipped, helping to ward off the cold . Those who had it would drink broth every day of the winter, plenty of it.
A traditional European stew contained grassfed meat, onions, garlic, and a number of other winter vegetables. Often broth was added. These ingredients were slowly simmered together for hours, which caused the vegetables to disintegrate into the gravy. The meat also broke down, and merged its nutrients with those of the vegetables. When the stew was ready, it would be very tender, and thick. The tender meat and vegetables were easy to digest, and the nutrients extracted from the ingredients form the long cooking process were easy to digest and absorb. These stews were also rich in minerals and gelatin. They were always served hot, and there are few things as warming and satisfying as a forkful of hot, traditional stew. Eating a stew like this after coming in from the cold is one of the most satisfying things you can do, as your taste buds and body welcome the badly needed nutrients.
Winter Fruits and Vegetables
It was hard to get fresh vegetables in the cold of winter, yet our ancestors had their ways. Onions, carrots, and cabbage would keep for a long time in a root cellar, and were full of nutrients. Just about every stew, broth, and pot roast was made with onions, and carrots were also often available. Turnips would also keep in a root cellar, and were widely used. Later on, turnips were largely replaced by potatoes. These traditional vegetables were often added to broths and stews, and greatly increased the nutritional value of these warming dishes. Cabbage was not only cooked into stews and broths, but fermented into sauerkraut. Fruit was often dried during the fall and eaten during the winter, often cooked into stews, and added vital nutrients. Dried apples were a favorite in Europe.
Traditional fermented foods were a crucial part of the winter diet, all over Europe and the cold parts of Asia. The fermenting process not only preserved the food, but actually increased its vitamin content. The most famous and crucial fermented food was sauerkraut, which was eaten every day in small quantities, providing crucial vitamins such as Vitamin C, and friendly bacteria that helped the immune system and the digestive system. Many other vegetables were also fermented. The fermentation process used was lacto fermentation, which used salt and natural bacteria to do the job. This type of fermentation is the only way to get the nutrients from these foods that our ancestors did.
These traditional dishes consisted of cooking a large piece of pastured meat, always one of the cheaper cuts, in a covered pot with spices, herbs, and winter vegetables, with some liquid added, often broth. These delicious concoctions were cooked slowly until very tender, and until much of the vegetables had dissolved into the heavenly gravy. Very tender, and full of nutrients like a stew, these roasts were also served hot, and would warm the body and soul on a cold day, while giving valuable nutrition. And the smell as the meat slowly simmers away is so good.
The more tender cuts of meat, containing much fat, both in the meat and covering the meat, were expensive, and beyond the means of most people. But the nobles and those who could afford them would make great use of them in winter. Grassfed meat, roasted in its own fat, often served rare or medium, is loaded with vital nutrients, and the smell of roasting meat and fat is one of the best on earth. These roasts were served hot, with plenty of their own fat, which was eaten along with the meat. The pastured fat was full of vital nutrients, and helped the body resist the cold, while nourishing the brain. Even people of more modest means would enjoy roasts at feasts and holidays, with beef, lamb, pork, geese, ducks, and fat chickens being the favorites. The fat skin of geese and ducks was particularly prized as a winter food, as was the crisp fat that covered beef, pork and lamb roasts. Eaten hot, these were absolutely delicious. These roasts were often served with rich sauces and gravies made from their own fat and drippings, often with butter and cream, or added broth. These sauces added even more fat to the dish, in a most delicious and warming way.
Salted Meats and Fish
Much of the meat used in earlier times was dried, or salted, or fermented, so it would be available when needed in the winter. Ham, sausage, bacon, salt pork, pastrami, corned beef, and salted beef are examples of these foods. Fish were often salted or dried, also for the winter. These heavily salted meats were also eaten hot, and the fat they often contained helped the body resist the cold. Bacon in particular was a popular winter food, as were hundreds of kinds of sausages. The heavy fat content in these products not only made them delicious, but helped people resist the cold.
There are many other winter foods, but these are some of the main ones. We always eat plenty of broth, stews, pot roasts, and roasts during the winter. There are recipes for many of these traditional foods in Tender Grassfed Meat. I can often feel the strength and health flow into me as we eat these traditional foods. Good food can do more to keep us healthy, in my opinion, than anything else. And it tastes so good.
Every year, I follow an old American custom. When Thanksgiving comes around, I think about what I am thankful for.
The list is very long, but there are some things that really stand out. This year, I am particularly grateful for grassfed meat and grassfed fat. These wonderful traditional foods are so good for our health, and so delicious. There was a time when I could not get them. And there was a time that I did not know how to cook them.
That has changed, and I am thankful for that.
I Am Thankful for the Good Farmers Who Raise Real Grassfed Meat
Few people realize that it takes much more skill, knowledge, trouble, time, and effort to create grassfed meat. It is much easier, cheaper, and faster to raise a factory cow, and ship it off to the feedlot to be turned into factory meat.
Raising a grassfed cow is something different. It takes a knowledge of what breeds will fatten on grass. It takes an understanding of the magic of soil and pastures, and how to graze and when to graze, and when to rest the soil. It takes knowledge of the seasons and weather patterns, of the needs of the cattle, of the unique peculiarities of the land used for grazing, and the plants on that land. It takes an ability to adjust to changing conditions, which can change the whole dynamic. It requires creativity, intelligence, ingenuity, and decisive action. It is as much an art as it is a science, and the parameters are always changing.
I have talked with some true experts on raising great grassfed cattle. Ranchers like Chris Kerston of Chaffin Family Orchards. John Wood of U.S. Wellness Meats. Lee Mora of Humboldt Grassfed Beef. Ed Wimble of Homestead Natural Foods, and others. I am amazed by the great intelligence, know how, practicality, determination, and creativity of all of these ranchers. Every day is a challenge, and they always manage to meet it, raising some of the most wonderful food in the world. They know the magic of pasture, the ways of their cattle, the impact of the weather, and a thousand other things that are vital for raising great grassfed beef. They know how to improve their land by managing the grazing of their herds, and how to make the soil richer and better.
The meat they raise is healthy and delicious, being some of the finest food we could ever hope to put in our bodies. I can only hope that they will pass on their special knowledge, and that it will not be lost. We have a desperate need for good grassfed meat in a world where inferior factory meat dominates the market.
I am very grateful for the meat they raise, and for the fact that I am able to get it and feed it to my family and myself.
I Am Grateful for the Cooking Knowledge of Our Ancestors
It is not enough to be able to buy grassfed meat. You also have to know how to cook it. I learned this the hard way, and I mean that literally. You would be able to break windows with some of the first grassfed meat I ruined.
The first grassfed meat I cooked was good meat, and I ruined it. It was tough and tasteless. Everything I knew about cooking and marinating factory meat failed, when I tried to apply it to grassfed meat. After many failures that resulted in tough, bad tasting meat, I gave up.
But I still wanted, I still needed the many health benefits of grassfed meat. My body needed to rebuild after many years of illness, and factory meat just was not doing the job. It occurred to me that our ancestors must have known how to cook it. And they must have enjoyed it, because the histories and novels and legends were full of accounts of wonderful feasts of meat. And that meat was grassfed, through most of history, everywhere in the world. It was only in modern times that factory meat became available.
An old memory came to me. My Dad grew up on the prairies of Canada. When he was ten, he and his younger brother were put on the train, and given money to buy food in the dining car. They would be going a long way, to stay with relatives. My Dad and his brother had heard stories of the wonderful steaks in the dining cars of the railroad, which were very expensive. They decided to blow most of their food money for the trip on a steak dinner. That steak was so wonderful that my Dad never forgot it. He remembered it eighty years later, when he was dying, and that memory brought one of his last smiles. I realized that this magnificent steak had to have been grassfed.
This inspired me to read hundreds of old cookbooks, novels, and histories. While most of the recipes assumed that the reader already knew how to cook, and gave very vague instructions, certain themes were repeated over and over. I began to experiment with them, and the time came when I learned how to cook grassfed meat, and make it tender and delicious every time. I focused on easy methods, as I did not have the time or interest for the more elaborate ones. I also learned many other things about ancestral cooking, especially about how to combine different foods to create a very nourishing meal. This knowledge became the foundation for my cookbooks, Tender Grassfed Meat, and Tender Grassfed Barbecue, and the basis of so many wonderful meals.
I am thankful for the cooking knowledge of our ancestors, and how it enabled me to learn how to enjoy the benefits and awesome taste of grassfed meat.
Many people have heard of the health benefits of grassfed meat. Just as I once did, they will buy some grassfed meat, cook it the same way they cook other meat—and ruin it. Many of these people will never try grassfed meat again, convinced that it is tough and tastes bad. This can happen even to professional chefs. It certainly happened to me.
Yet I will tell you that grassfed meat is incredibly tender, with flavors that make conventional meat taste like cardboard. I now find the taste of grain-fed meat to be totally blah, and the texture of grain-fed meat to be repulsive.
The difference is all in how you cook it, though the meat itself is just as important. Knowing what meat to select, and how to cook it, has resulted in hundreds, perhaps thousands of wonderful grassfed meals for me and my family. And the meat is always tender.
When I became frustrated with my failures in cooking grassfed meat, I realized that our ancestors knew how to cook it. They had to. There was no other red meat. And I read many accounts of how humans have loved and cherished red meat for thousands of years, and used red meat to recover from wounds and illness.
I went to work, researching many older cookbooks, histories, and old novels. I came to understand that our ancestors cooked grassfed meat very differently than we cook factory meat, and decided to use the old ways, adjust them for modern kitchens, and see what I could do. After years of research, experimentation, and cooking hundreds of meals, I finally learned how to cook this wonderful meat.
And I discovered a secret—properly cooked grassfed meat is not only much healthier for us, with large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, CLAs, and vital amino acids in a form that our bodies easily absorb—it tastes much better than conventional meat. And it is more tender, with wonderful mouth feel and texture.
Each book contains over a hundred detailed recipes.
In response to a request from my good friend Kimberly Hartke, I have decided to share some tips on cooking grassfed meat. These tips will be useful for most people who are learning to cook grassfed meat.
Here is the link, to my article on Kimberly’s great blog, Hartke is Online:
I am happy to announce that I have been selected as the U.S. Wellness Meats Featured Chef for November. This is quite an honor.
Being the Featured Chef means that I was asked to develop four new recipes that will be posted on their website. The first of these recipes, a magnificent prime rib with an herb crust that would be ideal for a special holiday dinner is already up. The other recipes will be posted later this month.
U.S. Wellness Meats holds a special place in my heart. They sold me the first grassfed meat I successfully cooked. Since then, I have been a regular customer.
I am also an admirer of John Wood, the founder of U.S. Wellness Meats. John has made quality grassfed meat available through the Internet in an astonishing variety of cuts, along with a wonderful line of organ meat sausages that make it easy to get the unique nutrients of organ meats in a tasty form. There are many other great products available from U.S. Wellness Meats that are hard to find elsewhere, such as grassfed beef tallow and grassfed lamb tallow. John has also used holistic land management techniques developed by the Savory Institute to constantly improve and enrich the soil of his farm, while raising quality cattle. This is a model that I would like to see spread throughout the entire country, replacing the CAFOs and factory farms.
U.S. Wellness Meats is a longtime sponsor and supporter of my favorite organization The Weston A. Price Foundation, which spreads the truth about food and nutrition. John will be speaking at the WAPF Wise Traditions 2012 Conference that will be taking place November 8 to 12th, in Santa Clara, California.
I am also grateful to John Wood for the great support he has given me in the creation of my books. Not only did John give me valuable information about raising grassfed meat, he gave me constant encouragement and support while Tender Grassfed Meat was being written. When the book was published, John immediately bought a large number of copies, and U.S. Wellness Meats began selling the books.
Here is the link to my Featured Chef page at U.S. Wellness Meats, which also includes some interesting food questions and my answers:
Here is the link to the four recipes I hinted at last month. They are delicious, and free. A magnificent prime rib, a Spanish short rib dish, a tender brisket, and the ultimate Paleo meatloaf, with organ meats. Enjoy!
This post is part of Weekend Gourmet blog carnival.
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