Cooking matters

Nobody has cooked, or eaten, as much of our product as we have. We’ve grilled, baked, broiled, sauteed, and crock potted our meats. Heck, we’ve even eaten it raw (steak tartare anyone?) Having had our products every way that you can, I can say that cooking method and ability definitely matter. I usually try and catch new customers before they leave and explain to them how they should cook their new purchase, especially the beef. Grass fed, grass finished beef cooks differently than store bought beef. (I don’t subscribe to all the tips on that link, btw. But most are good) However on Saturday’s it is so busy that I don’t have a chance of catching everyone. With that in mind, I thought I’d type up my suggestions so they are available to everyone.

The first thing to know is what kind of meat are you buying. With only so many ribeyes to go around, odds are you’ll be buying a cut of meat you don’t normally get. You need to understand that “eating high on the hog” means that you’re getting the more tender cuts of meat. It also means they are less flavorful. That’s why tenderloin, an expensive and almost flavorless cut of tender meat, is always wrapped in bacon, or marinated in Italian dressing. Recipes are trying to add flavor to the flavorless, tender meat. On the other side of the tenderness scale, the French have perfected the art of taking the cheap cuts of meat and turning them into delicacies. And finding, along of the way, that these less expensive cuts of meat hold the best potential for amazing flavor. Shanks, jowls, brisket. These are all cuts that many American cooks fear but as any Texan will tell you about brisket, they are often the best part of the animal.

Beef cut chart
Where all the cuts of beef come from

Basically, the higher up the animal, the more expensive and the more tender the cut. That’s because the less the animal uses the muscle, the more tender and the more bland. That’s part of the reason that feedlot beef is more tender. The animals sit around and eat and do little else. By knowing where on the animal your cut comes from, you can have an idea of how to cook it. Tough cuts need a braise (like a crock pot) or some other method of preserving tenderness.

For steaks, I recommend hot and fast, just like our pork chop recipe. Just delete the sauce at the end of the recipe for beef. Or another way to cook them is Alton Brown’s method, which he uses for skirt steak. Notice he only cooks the entire steak 30-45 seconds per side TOTAL. I cook every steak, from ribeyes to chuck steaks the same way, hot and fast. They all come out awesome.

I don’t actually cook on coals like Alton. I very rarely grill anything. However, for our bratwurst and kielbasa sausage, the grill is the best place. You actually “cook” the sausages on the cooktop, in a pan filled with water for kielbasa or beer for bratwurst. All you are doing on the grill is browning them and adding flavor via the mallaird reaction. You can brown them on the stove if you want, but it’s not as good as when they are grilled.

For roasts, generally the crock pot is my friend. SWMBO does most of the cooking and she uses our various roasts interchangeably from one recipe to the next. If it’s a big four pound roast, she has no qualms about trimming it down or cutting it up to make it into what she wants. Not the most cost effective method but the meals are awesome so I’m not complaining. For roasts, just follow your usual recipe. If you are cooking them in the oven, remember that grass fed, grass finished beef is going to cook faster than you expect.

Osso Bucco is one of my favorite cuts. Technically it’s beef shank, sliced into 1″ thick slices. It costs the same as hamburger per pound and it’s wonderful in the crock pot. All that connective tissue breaks down and makes beef broth, which your vegetables soak up as it percolates all day in the crock pot. Just sear the osso bucco on both sides before you start, (remember the mallaird reaction from earlier, it’s your friend.) The meat shreds after cooking easily because of the way the cut is made. You pop out the one bone for Fido and serve. A $10 meal including vegetables that feeds the entire family.

For hamburger, I have to give a nod to our resident chef Drew. His hamburger recipe makes for a stellar hamburger. I have to admit, I don’t regrind the hamburger as he suggests. I’m just not that fussy. I’m sure it makes a difference, but I wouldn’t know. If you don’t want to do all that he suggests, make patties with room temperature burger meat. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic and grill. Simple burgers that taste awesome.

For Boston Butt, I again turn to Drew’s recipe. If you are in our store, you can also pick up SWMBO’s crock pot recipe to accomplish the same thing. Her BBQ is no muss, no fuss, and tastes awesome.

Lastly, I need to tell you about sous vide cooking. Drew turned me onto it after about a year of harassing me to try it, finally just loaning me his unit and shooing me away to go cook. After one meal, I had one on order from Amazon. It’s pretty much impossible to overcook using sous vide and I can really dial in the doneness that I want, down to the single degree.

Sous vide cooking
Our meat aquarium

After a swim in our meat aquarium (what we call it) I simply sear the meat (mallaird again) and serve. Cook times can vary by hours with no change in doneness which really makes this more like crock pot cooking. This means that I can still get my work done and pop into the kitchen at the end of the day to finish up and serve a great meal, looking every bit the hero that I am.

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Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

Pigs are really smart, aren’t they

I get this question a lot. Usually it’s in the form of a statement about how pigs are super smart. Pigs are pretty good at being pigs. Beyond that, not so much. This is a myth perpetuated by Hollywood with movies like, Babe and Charlottes Web.

Pigs are anthropomorphized and made to be much smarter than they are. In reality, pigs can be cute and funny, but I wouldn’t have them do my taxes.

While pigs don’t have a lot going on upstairs besides what it takes to be a pig, dogs are pretty doggone smart. Not our dogs. No, they are as dumb at a box of turnips. The big dog, Cotton, doesn’t really know her name, or how to sit, or roll over. But she does know to stay with the kids, and to protect them from anything that she deems to be abnormal. She also makes sure that no predators enter, or at least stay, on the farm. Sometimes Cotton decides that something that is completely normal isn’t supposed to be there. In that case she bites whoever that is. Once it was Miguel, once it was a deputy Sheriff. She’s never vicious and she loves children so we keep her on patrol because her good far outweighs her flaws.

The little dog, Ruby, as much as it pains me to say, is actually smarter than Cotton. She knows her name. She can sit on command with nary a word spoken. I taught her, in a fit of boredom when the entire family was at the beach, in about 2 minutes. And she’s retained it so far the rest of her life. The problem with Ruby is that she’s neurotic. As in, not remotely functional, neurotic. Ruby is much like Dave Barry’s Zippy, the emergency backup dog. Little, useless, and annoying. She is, however, smarter than a pig so she has that going for her.  But that’s about it.

I point out all this information about our dogs, to bring our farming/blogging mentor, Walter Jeffries at Sugar Mountain Farm, into the conversation. His dogs not only sit, stay, retrieve, etc. They also talk. Yes, I said talk. Walter has his dogs up to about six word sentences with a combination of sign language and verbal communication. How? I have no idea. I’m going with the assumption that Walter is smarter than I am and it flows from there. Perhaps it is a breeding thing. I don’t know. But with the improvement in our gene pool by marrying SWMBO, I hope to see our breed improve in the next generation.

Two kids on a swing
Two of my three wonderful kids. I didn’t have a handy picture of our emergency backup kid, Wildflower.

So far, so good!

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Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

We will be open Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday this week

Open-Sign

Thanks again to Lucy, we are now adding this coming Saturday the 21st as a day when we will be open, despite my being off the farm that day.

Lucy and Crystal will be working the store on Saturday and they will be doing pickup appointments only. That means no tours are available.

When you select your provider on our booking application, select Lucy Deaton for Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday of this week. The rest of the choices will be blocked off but all of her times will appear.

Dan Moore on sabtwitterDan Moore on sabgoogleDan Moore on sabfacebookDan Moore on sabemail
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

What do you mean you don’t have ribeye steaks?!

A lot of times new customers come in the store and they have one thing on their mind.

“Blah, blah, whatever. Where are the ribeye steaks?”

When we tell them we are sold out, they sometimes seem incredulous that we could be out of something as basic as ribeye steaks. Sometimes they even seem offended that we’d be so poorly managed that we’d run out of ribeyes. I think they view the cut chart of a cow, you know, this one.

Beef cut chart
Where all the cuts of beef come from

The way Texans view a map of the US.

Texan's view of the US
Texan’s view of the US

Except they think that ribeyes are the part that is Texas in this map. I guess hamburger and cube steak are the other bits?

What people think a cow is made of
What people think a cow is made of.

I don’t blame them for not knowing the break down of an animal but despite what they may think, the reality is quite different.

The last cow we took to the processor weighed about 1050 pounds when he left the farm.

Once he was processed, he weighed 636 pounds. That’s the hot hanging weight. Out of that 636 pounds of beef, this is what we get in ribeye steaks.

12 packs of ribeye steaks
Ribeye steaks, an entire cows worth

Twelve packages of ribeyes, two per pack. Twenty four ribeye steaks total. That’s about 21 pounds of ribeyes out of 636 pounds of beef or about 3% of the total beef.

We aren’t a grocery store that orders our beef in by the truckload. We are a small farm that truly does this nose to tail. That means we utilize the bones, the liver, the lesser known steaks, the ribs, the roasts, all of it. And before we can restock with another cow, we need to utilize all of this animal we cared for for over two years and that gave its life for us.

We do get ribeyes in, every single time. But they are generally spoken for by our regulars before they ever show up. We’d love for you to be a regular too and get your ribeye steaks. In the meantime, maybe you could try a cut of beef that you don’t normally get, like osso bucco, or bottom round roast. You might find that it’s better than you realized.

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Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

The store is open tomorrow, and well stocked

Today I drove to Chapel Hill, Bahama, Louisburg, Bailey, and Siler City. That was just to pick up part of what we put in the store today. In addition I had deliveries from some of our farmers who helped us out while I was in school (Thanks Jennifer, Christy, and Kevin!) from Moncure, Hookerton, and Ayden NC. We are fully stocked on beef, pork, chicken, dairy, honey, cheese, and honey related stuff like soap and lotion bars (we got some back in stock, yeah!). I put away about 1000 pounds of stuff today and tomorrow the girls and I will be sorting everything out and getting it ready for you.

I have not pulled the pre-orders yet, which I will be doing first thing in the morning. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get the notices out to everyone that their pre-orders are in, but if you are waiting on something, we’ve got it. I don’t know of a single item we don’t currently have in stock so you can swing by and pick up your pre-order.

The cutest shopping list I've ever seen
The cutest shopping list I’ve ever seen

So get your shopping list ready and book an appointment for a pickup tomorrow. We’re full on tours for tomorrow, but we do have some pickups still available on the calendar.

Dan Moore on sabtwitterDan Moore on sabgoogleDan Moore on sabfacebookDan Moore on sabemail
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

Update on cows and cow plans for 2016-2017

Today Miguel, Spork, Vicente, and I worked all the cows through our corral and across the scales. It’s our first time doing so since the cows went to our leased farm this spring and it’s our first gut check of the year to see where we are.

First, back in 2015 we had a goal for 2016 to finish one cow per month. That would keep us in beef pretty much all the time, so we thought, throughout the year. We scheduled with our processor to have one cow per month back in 2015. However with the demand, we’ve increased our schedule to where we’ve already taken 8 cows through the processor in six months, putting us ahead of plan. It normally takes 90 days to get on the schedule at the processor, or more pertinent to us, to get extra slots in the schedule. Last month I sat down with our processor and mapped out our schedule for the rest of 2016. I did this before I had the data from today’s weigh in so it was really just educated guesses.

For the remainder of the year, we now have spots on the schedule for 12 more cows to be processed over 7 months.

June 13 – 1 cow
July 11 – 2 cows
August 15 – 1 cow
September 13 – 2 cows
October 14 – 2 cows
November 4 – 2 cows
December 12 – 2 cows

Importantly, we have slots at the processor prior to Thanksgiving and Christmas so that we can get our meat back prior to the big days. That will let us order special orders for people and get them in fresh just before the holidays (hint, hint).

As we weighed everyone today, we have 11 cows that are or will be ready to process in 2016. They are:

14 – 1186 lb
3 – 942 lb
39 – 1247 lb
43 – 1050 lb
47 – October finish, 720 lb
LF33 – 1135 lb
WF 18 – Late 2016, 966 lb
Steve 10 – 1210 lb
LF07 – 1198 lb
759 – 1093 lb
63 – 1042 lb

That means we are 1 cow short of plan. Since we just took an unplanned cow to the processor (they had a sudden extra spot this past week), that means we were actually perfectly on plan for 2016, which is pretty good when you consider we’ve increased our beef production 50% above our original plan and we were just guessing on how many we’d need.

We will most likely take #11 to the processor in late 2016 as well, so that will make our 12th cow for the plan putting us perfectly on plan, Lord willing.

So for all of 2016, we will process 18 cows and about 54 pigs.

For 2017, we need to finish 24 cows. We have 13 cows on the ground that will finish in 2017 meaning we are 11 short. We will need to purchase stocker cows to make our numbers for 2017 and I’m already working on that now. For 2017, we have:

47, 54, 55, 57, 60, 64, A1, A2, A3, A4, A6, A9, and A12. Those are our 13 cows already committed. From that group, we have four cull cows, A5, A7, A8, and A11. These will be going to market to be gotten rid of.

For 2018, I don’t know what our planned production will be yet. I do know we have 9 calves expected this year (to finish in 2018), three of which are from new moms. We also have a number of new moms coming into production for 2017 meaning we have calving potential for 2019.

As you can see, it’s not ready, fire, aim so much on putting beef in the freezer. We have to plan out years in advance. In order to keep growing, we are going to have to either find some farm land to lease/buy or change our operation to a finishing operation. That would mean we only buy stockers/weaners and don’t have bulls and momma cows. I’m resisting that option as long as I can, but with the demand for beef in the store, I’m getting pushed that way pretty hard. We’ll see how it goes.

Dan Moore on sabtwitterDan Moore on sabgoogleDan Moore on sabfacebookDan Moore on sabemail
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

It was a casual day on Saturday

Normally this place is crazy busy on Saturday’s. Spork is giving tours, I’m giving tours, and we have people popping in to pickup goodies all at the same time.

However this past weekend, Spork was having a birthday shindig with his cousin so it was just me giving tours. And we had about three no shows for pickup appointments. That meant that our tours were about all we had in the store for part of the day. When I came back with one of our tour groups, I walked up to this.

Girls relaxing during work
The girls, relaxing on a beautiful day

If you feel bad for the girls having to give up their Saturday’s to work. Don’t. Work isn’t bad. It’s fun, entertaining, and sometimes relaxing. While we prefer to stay busy, the girls make the best of any situation so no matter what, it’s all good.

Dan Moore on sabtwitterDan Moore on sabgoogleDan Moore on sabfacebookDan Moore on sabemail
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

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