Featured

Dry Aging: Less (H2O) is More

Dry aging (hanging carcass beef in a cool, climate controlled environment) has a long history but the modern beef industry has abandoned it in favor of a poor substitute deemed “wet aging” where all the excess fluids associated with a beef primal cut are supposedly captured with it in vacuum sealed plastic. Dry aging is more costly because this excess water is evaporated during the aging process and does not contribute to finished yield. Producers who don’t explicitly claim to practice dry aging are NOT using it.

Here is what Hugh Fearnley -Whittingstall, a British small holder , livestock raiser and food writer ( The River Cottage Meat Book) has to say: “What happens to the meat during hanging (dry aging) is that the natural enzymes begin to act on the fibers of the muscle meat, making them softer and more elastic so that the meat becomes more relaxed and tender.” “The meat will also begin to lose moisture as it hangs. Paradoxically this is a good thing when it comes to cooking. Wet, fresh, underhung meat carries too much water, which expands as the temperature rises during cooking, stretching the fibers of the meat and leaching out between them-especially when the meat contracts again after cooking and during carving. This means that wet meat actually ends up drier after cooking and vice versa.” “In general, another great but rarely discussed benefit of proper hanging… is that dry aged meat will emerge  from the freezer with far greater credit than immature, wet meat. Again, moisture is a key issue. Water expands as it freezes so that ice crystals will tear and push apart the fibers of the meat.Not only will dry aged meat contain less of the damaging moisture but the more elastic fibers will cope better with the expanding ice crystals. So, as the meat defrosts , and again as it cooks , there will be less tendency for water to leach out.”

I tested this idea by comparing moisture loss of pan -fried ground beef patties made from Hay Creek dry aged beef and Australian (AU) grass fed organic ground beef referred to in another post. The AU ground beef is distributed unfrozen with a moisture diaper so is almost certainly NOT dry aged. Both samples were frozen once and thawed fully prior to pan frying under identical conditions to a medium rare done-ness (just past spatula press “squish” point). The AU burger had a ring of “pan boogers” around it while cooking where excess juices were evaporating off and lost an incredible 19.3 % of it’s raw weight. It shrunk in diameter quite noticeably and had a somewhat dry, chewy eating texture. The Hay Creek burger fried w/o forming “pan boogers”, very little diameter shrinkage and only 9.0 % moisture loss. Much more tender and moist upon eating . Way juicier than any of the much-overrated Juicy Lucy contenders in town.

Remember that “dry meat” (dry aged) is “moister” than “wet meat” (fresh or wet aged) every time you discard the costly tray bib/diaper thing saturated with excess moisture from a package of grocery store beef.


 

Featured

Hot Hanging Weight Pricing : the Dark Side

Hot Hanging Weight (HHW) based pricing is common in this business and can seem attractively priced but the freedom to choose (cutting instructions) comes with the twisted consequence of having been “provided enough rope to hang yourself”. Everyone else (farmer and processor) involved in the yield outcome takes 2 giant steps backwards and you are left standing alone.

Beef genetics and quality of finishing (last stages of grazing) along with cutting method , care and skill effect actual yield expectations (net total beef cut weight as percent of HHW).  HHW is the net weight of the  rail-suspended, bare eviscerated carcass sans head, hide and lower legs at the point it enters the chilling cooler. Both payment to farmer and processor are based on this number. It’s use makes sense for small/occasional producers w/o a herd yield performance base. HHW’s continued use by large/experienced direct sellers is at first glance puzzling: how can they ever develop herd yield performance data from myriad potential cutting plans? The not-so -obvious answer is they don’t care: they are sourcing from multiple herds: the Dark Side to which HHW easily provides access.

The very removal of responsibility for yield  creates an opportunistic opening for these “front-men” ; non-farmer brokers who only source and deliver beef under their label and  profit on the spread between their HHW “buy”(from a real farmer/rancher) and “resell” (to you) prices: an essentially risk-free deal for them when yield is your problem. There’s an ol’ braggart around this area who has made himself something of a kingpin in grass fed beef- having found farming/ranching too much work and risk -and now does just that. I once heard him boast -to a cattlemen’s group-how he ( actual quote) was “not above buying  hamburger cows” (old, culled, open, unbred female cattle). Otherwise, of course, his ethical standards are only the highest. HHW pricing encourages this kind of B.S. by making it simple, easy and risk-free to source cattle from multiple herds- w/o a quality and yield data base.

Hay Creek can provide CHOICE w/o the RISK :  I offer choice of steak cut thickness , roast cut target weights, “round ” roast or steak instead of ground- for prepaid HALF size orders at normal half pricing.

A commercial grain fed whole beef carcass weighing 630 pounds can have a bone-in cut yield of anywhere from 44 to 79% depending on yield grade. This does not include dry aging moisture loss -which takes around 5% off the top -since dry aging is no longer used commercially. No such published statistics exist for grass-fed beef . Since grass fed breeds are  typically of British- not heavily muscled , high yield grade Continental breeding- their gross yield most likely tops out around the low 70’s , high 60’s after 14 days dry aging. Variability in individual cattle and grazing quality can reduce this to the low 60’s. This range of yield has a huge effect on net $/pound you take home.

Suppose you purchase a quarter (technically a split-half ) of the 630 pound HHW carcass (157.5 pounds) and pay $3.90/pound to the farmer and $.72/pound (combined butcher, cut, and grind fee spread over HHW) to the processor for a total of $727.65. You assumed an unrealistic 75% yield of 118 pounds ($6.17 per pound net) but only received a 62% yield of 98 pounds ($7.45 per pound net). Not a bad deal but way different from what you bit on.

Complaints to farmer or processor on your orders’ yield result will inevitably be met with the negative effect of your choice of  cutting directions: boneless cuts- including cuts processed into ground- reduce yield.  Deviations from – or lack of- a cutting “standard” leave an “out” for the grower and processor. Remember, there is only one firm number in this game: the one you are billed for: HHW.

Be wary of per -Quarter processing fees of less than $120 loosely quoted by HHW sellers: they are likely outdated.  Meat cutting is difficult, demanding un-glamorous work and wages are continuously increasing to retain reliable, skilled workers.

Factor these expectations into your purchasing decision and resist unsupported claims of unreasonably high yield. Dry aging is costly in terms of yield. Be sure to have the processor weigh, total , and sign off on your net cuts so you can determine if you got a good deal. Buy only from REAL farmer/ranchers.  Not the posers who look like they’ve spent a lot more time inside a casino than outside moving cattle.  Mystery Meat from unidentified herds with unverifiable practices is way cheaper in the supermarket.


 

Featured

All Hat No Cattle

It takes a decent breeding herd, fertile land, fencing, drinking water delivery works , expertise (luck too) and most of all;  time ( 6-12 months more than grain-fed) to produce a quality true grass- fed beef.

It’s not about just jockeying random maybe-grass-fed cattle between a convenient “sale barn”  and processor. Nor is it waylaying opportunistically-purchased cattle in some greenish chunk of pasture a few weeks.  It takes 2-4 acres of good pasture per finishing head to support that generation of cattle and the upcoming younger generations-for a whole growing season.

Beware of large sellers using Hot Hanging Weight (HHW) based pricing. It’s a likely cover for brokering from multiple unidentified herds with unverifiable practices.

Make sure you are getting what you pay for . Ask questions. Make a farm visit. Mystery Meat of ambiguous origins is way-cheaper in the supermarket. Don’t simply go along with crowd-think.


 

Featured

The (Down) Under Side of Cheap Imported Grass Fed Ground Beef

Bos Indicus cattle

There’s a region of the world where large-scale beef production is  relatively new and “grass fed” remains a disparaging term: the equatorial lands of Brazil and Australia where only Bos Indicus cattle breeds like Zebu can endure high heat, humidity, insect pressure and drought cycles to gain some very lean, tough weight over a 3-4 year harvest interval. Australia exported 2.5 million metric tonnes -predominately this type of beef- valued at $8.285 billion in 2015/2016. That works out to $1.19 USD per pound.

Here’s what they have to say about its quality and destined usage: “Australia’s beef exports are globally competitive, but are generally low-value exports (grass fed for ground beef) rather than high-value products (grain-fed for high value sale). According to Meat & Livestock Australia, in 2016, 75% of Australian beef exports to the US were low-value manufacturing or hamburger beef (MLA). The US cattle herd has been near historic lows, fueling increased demand for imported beef.”

With the US as it’s major export destination a whole bunch of this beef most likely makes it’s way into the head of the fast food industry pipeline via Lopez Foods in Oklahoma, distributed as preformed, precooked, frozen patties.

Brazil’s deforested Amazon basin is a much larger producer of this type of beef but had long been barred from export to the US due to Foot and Mouth Disease outbreaks. They also have a long history of being demonized for rainforest destruction so are compromised in the arena of health food marketing.

Some of this ground beef marketed in retail packages is labeled USDA Organic- a label whose meaning is being increasingly challenged such as in this Dec 2017 Washington Post story:  “What was the organic movement has lost control of the National Organic Program (NOP)- the pirates have taken over the ship,” said Dave Chapman, a Vermont farmer who has farmed organically for 37 years.”

At it’s essence Organic is only the certified absence of forbidden synthesized inputs: fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and drugs. Even that basic requirement is somehow overlooked by current administration of the NOP according to audit results. Virtuous, feel-good niceties like holism, species diversity, integrated pest management, etc. are relegated to window dressing by the caveat “where possible”.  Perversely, it is possible to merely deplete a natural environment  with the Organic blessing (UNCTAD p24).  Organic or not, rough, dry-land ranching has always been a brutal business with no lack of adversaries; real (drought) and perceived : kangaroo

I bought a couple pound bricks of Australian (AU) grass fed ground beef to try out for eating quality.  Cooked them “sous vide” for 60 minutes (sealed in zip lock plastic bag and immersed in temperature-controlled circulating water bath) in quarter pound segments cut direct from the  brick alongside the same of my own Hay Creek ground beef.  The samples cooked ‘”rare” (126 deg F) had the most pronounced difference with the AU sample have a chewy texture like  rubber bands that slowly disappeared as chewing progressed. The “medium” (142 deg F) and “medium well” (157 deg F) AU samples were also more rubbery-chewy but not so distinctly as the “rare”. Flavor was comparable between my own and the AU samples. Samples of both presented to farm dogs were wolfed down so quickly that the hundredth-second stopwatch differential could easily be attributed to operator reaction time.

This is not a bad quality product but why the completely opaque source labeling with only a whole huge continent  of widely varying climate and environment as the “country of origin”?  No state or territory or farm name. The USDA labeling laws don’t preclude more information but they do help obscure those that desire to remain so.

Don’t be reeled-in by colorful, cheery labels with no real information. Can you tell if you are buying from small farms or mysterious corporate entities or brokers?  Where -as in on the map-is the beef raised?  Practically speaking Organic means different things in different settings and practices, particularly when imported.  In tropical native grassland grazing it can mean next to nothing or even be a force for land clearing or other forms of  environmental degradation.  

Reinforcing this madness; cheap ($38USD/acre), raw, previously un-farmed land is actually favored by the NOP in that it does not require the 3 year transition to Organic of lands with a history of conventional farming.


 

Featured

My Foodie Background

 

Disclaimer on “foodie” in that it’s prob’ly been overused to the point of meaninglessness but it seems to still possess instant recognition. Paradoxical in that hardly any modern farmers-those folks closest to the origins of the food supply-would call themselves or be considered foodies.  Most of them I know consider the Sysco-supplied stuff in the local cafe/ roadhouse or the stuff off the Schwanns truck to be good food. Lots of reasons for this “dumbing down” of the traditional farm table: the specialization of modern farms cuts selection of home-grown foods on hand for cooking; tight profit margins mean the farm wife no longer cooks but instead does shift work at a local manufacturer; aging-out of the remaining farmers mean reduced appetites, fewer children, and less energy.

Been in the food business continuously in one way or another since starting at Pillsbury R&D’s fledgling frozen foods group in 1976 as a process technician. Put together and operated a low-budget, skunk-works pilot plant for process experiments on a new Totino’s pizza concept. The engineering came naturally. Learned the basics of cooking , baking and food safety practices from food scientists . Left there in late 80’s- after attaining a mechanical engineering degree and process engineer title- during one of a series of takeovers and downsizing that culminated later in purchase by General Mills.

Went on to Food Engineering , a small fabricator of specialty equipment primarily for the prepared cereal industry. Lots of time spent in vast processing plants starting-up new lines, new products or diagnosing malfunctions. Spent an overnight in a South Korean instant ramen  soup plant  to get the kimchi drying quality they expected out of a new conveyor-type dryer with 3 temperature zones and 5 conveyor levels that required 6 hours retention time.

Quit engineering to take up beef farming/ranching in ’98 while the kids still young enough (10 and 12) to be excited about the prospect.

Stumbled into low-carb nutrition by the back door after a spring and summer of eating old-timey (fat/flavorful) pork out of their 2 Hampshire-ish sows and a stubby, round, spotted gift- boar. The family bought a half pig from them and ate pork a least  4 times a week , believing pork only had a 6 month freezer life. So much pork to eat we hardly had the appetite for carbs beyond that from vegetables. That fall, at my 30th high school re-union, I was lighter in weight (165 pounds) than any point since high school.  Don’t recall exactly how I pieced together cause and effect but I’ve been a low-carb advocate since. Always find reason to regret falling for high glycemic foods.


 

Oxtail Stew by Instant Pot: One Thing at which it Excels

I make this dish all the time in fall/winter either with Hay Creek meaty soup bones (neck bones) or actual oxtail segments. Both turn out great but the oxtail definitely has the more intense beef flavor. Thing is, you have to remember to begin very early morning if you hope to eat anywhere near normal lunchtime with the extensive stove-top stewing time required. Seemed at last an ideal task for Instant Pot (IP) ’cause lots of moisture already comes along with the recipe ingredients and needs no reduction/thickening after cooking. Yeah, IP and I have a history.

Last made this on a busy cattle-working day the first of November with help arriving at 9 am and minimal time after that to spare for meal prep.

Seared (browned) the oxtail segments in a 12 inch saute pan, ignoring Instant Pot’s “one pot” capabilities. Yeah, it’s possible but a pain the ___ to turn beef pieces in a deep-walled pot using tongs. Don’t mess with it!

Added the browned oxtail, 3 cups water, and the sauteed onions to Instant Pot along with peppercorns and bay leaf. Set for 60 minute “pressure cook” at 7:30 am and went on to prepare the ingredients to be added later so I could simply come inside , pop them in and reset cook time.

These were a couple cups of course-chopped red cabbage, a couple cups chunked carrots, a cup of chopped celery, 2 cups stewed or crushed tomato, 1/3 cup barley, a tablespoon dried parsley, and a teaspoon each dried marjoram, basil, thyme and sage.

Got back inside at 10:30 am. The pressure cook cycle was complete, IP had shifted to “warm” mode and the pressure indicator was down so simply removed the lid, added the prepared ingredients, replaced lid and set for 10 minutes “pressure cook”. Back in for lunch break at 1 pm and all was ready, warm and smelled great on removing cover! The ability to complete a timed pressure cook, shift modes and hold warm automatically is the real beauty of Instant Pot. I hereby retract some of the more disparaging commentary made in earlier post.

All Ground Special $69

Xtra thick ground round burgers w/garlic & balsamic worked in

Get either a 10 (2 each type)or a 15 (3 each type)-nominal 1 pound each- assortment of grass- fed ground beef delivered: beef brick, beef quarter-pound patties, chuck brick, round brick, and sirloin brick: all dry-aged and vacuum packed. $69 for 10 or $99 for 15.

Firehouse Chile Gumbo will get you thru a cold wintry spell.

Limit one (1)  Special per order/delivery address. Only PayPal (not mailed check) $20 “special” deposits received while this post is active will be eligible. Special flat total delivery charge of $7.00 per order/address. See “How to Order” on menu. Make note during PayPal checkout of which order size. For   St Cloud, Minneapolis, St Paul delivery November 16, 2019.


 

Availability and Delivery

Beef Boxes, Quarter and Halves available now. Also currently posted “Specials”, Ground Beef, Ground Chuck and Ground Round . All for  2019 Fall farm pick-up or  Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St Paul)  and Fargo/Moorhead home delivery. Check the freezer and see if you need to replenish.

Next St Cloud, Minneapolis & Saint Paul home delivery November 16, 2019.

Fargo/Moorhead home delivery  November 30, 2019.

Boxes and Quarters first available August 2019. Halves in September. Make a deposit now (refundable to within 24 hours of confirmed delivery date/time) to reserve OR request a Wait List position.

Jump on the Wait List anytime for Fall 2019 delivery or farm pick-up. Simply send an email with your preferred month (August thru December) and fractional order size (box, quarter or half). Priority given to “box” sizes and folks who have ordered before so turn yerself into one of them by ordering something available now.

St Cloud/Minneapolis/St Paul area home doorstep delivery service area is within 10 miles of 10/94 southeast of St Cloud or 10 miles of the 494/694 loop. Cost is a flat $10 per address plus 12 cents per pound of total beef order.

Fargo/Moorhead area home delivery service area is within 5 miles of Hwy 10 west of Detroit Lakes or 10 miles of the interstate 94/29 intersection. Cost is a flat $10 per address plus 10 cents per pound of total beef order.

Upon receiving your deposit I’ll email with a proposed weekend delivery date. Be sure to check inbox of email account used for PayPal! If a conflict develops you can delay for a month or 2 or request a refund. When delivery date is agreeable you’ll get a confirmation email with date, time slot, total delivered weight, price and net due. Balance due by cash or check on delivery.


 

Instant Pot: Icon of a Cooking-Averse Generation

I stumbled upon the Instant Pot Millennial Cult in discussing roast cut sizes with a fellow Farmers Market vendor. She raises pigs and claims all her customers want is 2-3 pound roasts that will fit in a “crockpot”. Well, turns out the Instant Pot is to NOW as the Crockpot was to the 80’s. A customer interested in my beef Sirloin steak claimed to cook both steaks and roasts using the “pressure cook” function . She was astonished at the idea of saute’ing a steak to completion and strangely equated the terms “sear” and “saute” – echoing precisely Instant Pot literature’s blithe conflation. I was about to learn how Instant Pot feeds Millenials and their distraction.

This piqued my curiosity as to the outcome quality of Instant Pot so I bought a 6 qt Duo model and tried their page 24 “Beef Roast w/Potatoes and Carrots”. I began searing the 2 pound chuck roast at 5:30 pm and the sauce wasn’t finished reducing until 8 pm so the recipe claim of 55 minutes is ridiculously optimistic. With no fun whistle to blow…..

…..Time grinds to a standstill waiting for the pot to complete it’s near eternal venting -like an oldtime locomotive approaching the station- and subsequent leisurely reheating between component addition steps. Of course Millennials don’t notice: they’re distracted checking 9 different social media feeds, tweaking profiles, creating content, researching a new gig…..

Also, unlike traditional oven roasting, the wine addition is delayed until AFTER cooking so the meat isn’t exposed to the flavoring impact. Probably a safety concern due to the potential flammability of quickly-vented alcohol vapor. End result is a huge amount of very thin, unconcentrated-by-evaporation “broth” to reduce into something resembling a sauce at the end of cooking. The recipe directions failed to specify point of fresh parsley addition so I waited to after reduction with “saute” function just cancelled.

Results were better than expected though everything was overcooked. Beef was falling apart with an internal temp of 202 deg F. Potatoes were crumbling. Carrots very soft. I expected something on the order of Dinty-Moore canned beef stew but this was much better and I’d give it a 6 rating. By comparison Lisa’s Lazy Pot Roast takes 3 hours for the beef but you can steam or boil the veg’s simultaneously for a quality outcome score more around 8. No tedious venting but the joy of lifting a casserole lid from the oven and inhaling the wonderful aroma your whole kitchen has been suggesting. Or the ultimate: Julia’sBeouf Bourguignon which rates a solid 10.

So unless you’re already a zealot of this bizarre cult, homeless but otherwise fortunate enough to have access to 110 volt power, or your kitchen space and budget confine you to a single pot costing $60 and occupying a square foot of space you can aspire to a much greater quality and variety of textural/flavor outcomes with a traditional gas range/oven combo and a decent set of thick-bottom pans with tight fitting lids.

Bike Audio Trailer

Conceived, designed and built specifically for large public bicycle rides. Lightweight, aerodynamic and electronically efficient so can provide hours of clean stereo sound -with a touch of bass punch-to the biking community along the varied and constantly morphing “listening chambers” constituting the ride’s course. Three prior years (2016,17,18) of riding with a system of massively over-rated Logitech Z313 internal amp 2.1 computer gaming speakers powered via a power-sucking inverter and carried by a poorly-sprung EMT conduit trailer equipped with 12 inch foam Strider wheels bore this revelation. Full 700C wheels and a lightweight sprung suspension with linear damping minimize bounce and rattle on the wonderfully-curated and meticulously preserved collection of pavement hazards unique to the Minneapolis Bike Tour.

Amp: Amplifier Board TPA3116D2 50Wx2+100W 2.1 Channel Digital Subwoofer Power X1B4 Bigger, cleaner sound (with speakers below) than even Logitech’s outrageously overrated (200 watt RMS!) big bro’ the Z623.

Power Supply: Car Rover Li-Ion 26,000 mA-hr @ 12 volts

Stereo Speakers: Alpine SPS-10c 2; 30 watts RMS, 92 dB sensitivity, silk dome tweeter, polypro woofer

Sub-Woofer:: Sound Storm SS10: 88 dB sensitivity, 32 Hz resonant freq, 69 ounce weight, operating in sealed 17 inch inside diameter spherical enclosure .

Enclosure: Marine plywood laminated and lathe-turned sub mounting ring integral to 1 inch foam core and fiberglass-epoxy inner and outer structural skins.

Music Source: Spotify playlist in offline mode on LG Nexus 5 with dual 3.5 mm connection cord to amp.

Sauteed Filet Mignon (Tenderloin Steak)

Filet or Tenderloin is a unique cut; relatively lean but quite tender it requires very little cooking time and is best done only to “rare” to “medium- rare” (remove from heat at 115 to 130 deg F and rest beef 2-5 minutes before slicing). It has a delicate flavor and -with little fat- is intolerant of overcooking; so unless you are a grill master it’s best to bypass the grill in favor of the sautee pan.

This recipe from Aidells and Kelly (The Complete Meat Cookbook) for 1 to 1.5 pounds of steak involves a simple pan sauce to compliment the mild beef flavor. Simply ratio the sauce ingredient quantity to the weight of steak you are preparing so the reduced sauce flavor doesn’t overwhelm the steak. Reliable, high quality results that I’ve benefited from more than once.

Dry steak surface with paper towels and sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper and fresh (dry works in a pinch) rosemary.

Heat heavy skillet and add 2 T olive oil. Adjust heat to just below smoke point and add beef, sauteeing 3-5 minutes per side to an internal temp of 115 to 130 deg F. Remove to a pre-warmed plate, cover loosely and rest.

Sautee 2 t minced garlic in remaining oil in skillet until just turning color. Add 1/4 cup vermouth and reduce to a syrup consistency while stirring with a spatula. Add 1/4 cup beef or chix stock, 2 t soy sauce and 1 T balsamic vinegar. reduce to syrup while stirring . Remove from heat and stir -melt-in 1 T butter. Serve finished sauce over rested steaks on pre-warmed plates.

Retail Grocery Steak Shoot-Out (Review)

Goals

Gaining perspective on what others are experiencing with their Twin Cities area retail meat counter steak quality choices is important to a beef producer. We tend to get accustomed to our own product and need to force ourselves to explore the larger world. That’s what this post series is about.

Method

We’ll focus on the New York Strip cut as the best compromise between flavor and tenderness. Grass-fed and conventional. Refrigerated distribution steaks will be frozen if unable to prepare b-4 exp. date. All frozen steaks will be defrosted in sealed packaging immersed in cold water . NYT Cooks “Cast -Iron Steak” (“salt the pan, not the steak and flip early and often”) cooking method will be used to a 125 to 130 deg F internal temp. Steaks will be rested 2 minutes on a steam-heated stoneware plate before slicing and tasting.

Scoring

Composite quality score will be calculated by multiplying a 0 to 5 Flavor by a 1 to 3 Texture score. Flavor has the upper hand here with potential of a Zero score. Why eat beef if it doesn’t taste like beef? Value score will be the Composite Quality score times 10 divided by $ price per pound paid (corrected for un-chewable discard pieces).

The Contestants:

No-Name (Original)

I recall these as being a quality product back in the 80’s and was curious as to the direction they’d taken since. Frozen in 8 oz pouches, $15 for 24 oz net ($10/pound). Country of origin NOT spec’d. Brined up to 7% w/water, salt, sodium phosphate, dextrose, papain. Cut not spec’d.

The pre-cooking beef is a boneless rectangle unidentifiable as to cut. Surface and partial thru-slices (to tenderize?) appear randomly. Wet, “plumped-up” appearance. Totally saturated a half-sheet of Bounty w/surface moisture.

Flavor Score: Zero (0) No discernible flavor characteristic of beef. Only a vague salty flavor.

Texture Score: One (1) Soft, squishy. Easily chewed.

Composite Score: Zero (0)

Value: Zero (0)

This outfit has constrained themselves to a price point that apparently demands they focus only on providing “tenderness” They’ve gone way too far down the rabbit hole for this to even be realistically regarded as “steak” any longer. They’d be ahead of the game simply molding a bullion-flavored gelatin into the shape of a steak.

Springerhill Ranch Brand

Refrigerated distribution at Fresh Thyme “Farmers” Market. $12.49 for 10 oz ($20/pound) trimmed NYS. Origin USA/Texas. Grass-fed, no added antibiotics, hormones, steroids.

Pre-cooking note: moisture absorbing “bib” built into rear panel of package. Some weight to it.

Flavor Score: Five (5) Robust grass-fed beef flavor. Clean w/no off-flavors.

Texture Score: Two (2) A bit over-tough on both ends of the strip with 2 only partly reducible-by-chewing (dogs got’em) pieces and 1 fatty/gristly piece.

Composite Score: Ten (10)

Value Score: 5

Exemplifies the Grass-Fed conundrum of getting both flavor and tenderness in the same cut of beef.

Thousand Hills

Refrigerated distribution at Coburns. $12.99 for 8 oz heavily trimmed NYS steak ($26 per pound). Origin USA. Grass-fed. No added antibiotics, hormones, grain.

Flavor Score: Three (3). Mild flavor straddling-the-fence between conventional and grass-fed. Fails to hit any of the distinctive grass-fed notes. Clean, no off-flavors.

Texture Score: Three (3). Heavily trimmed, angular, unnatural NYS shape most likely directed at eliminating “tough” portions. Total unchewable “gristle” at end around half an ounce. Otherwise ideal steak texture.

Composite Score: Nine (9)

Value Score: (3.5)

For an outfit that crows “Lifetime Grazed”, why stake out such a please-everyone flavor profile? Excessive reliance on focus group direction produce innocuous, undistinguished products like this.

Angus Farms

Refrigerated distribution at Hugo’s. $9.58 for a 0.71 pound NYS ($13.50 per pound). The “brand” label appears to be simply a stick-on to conventional in-store tray/film package so no country of origin or other claims on label other than” USDA Choice” which implies conventional (grain) fed.

Curious that this trademark is a front for “Cargill Meat Solutions” whose website blithely claims “Only the best cattle meet our strict standards for quality”. Huh? Everyone knows the “best cattle” in the conventional feeding game are graded USDA Prime. USDA Choice is the middling grade above Select. Double-take: USDA doesn’t grade “live cattle” ; only “hanging carcasses”! So these clowns are playing a shell-game w/us! They’re happily choosing some secret definition of the “best cattle” that an indifferent USDA only grades as “Choice” when they become carcasses. Apparently Cargill isn’t a very good judge of cattle.

Other than their place of birth there’s not likely much of anything like a “farm” in these animals’ experience. This is industrial feedlot beef.

Flavor Score: Two (2) Very mild verging on bland. No off flavors.

Texture Score: Three (3) Tender and juicy with exception of discarded fat and gristly pieces.- which totaled 0.070 pounds. It occurred to me that rather than discount the Texture score it would be more fair to let the Value score deal with “waste” portions, which were larger in total with this contestant than those prior. Both Springerhill and Thousand Hills value scores would be somewhat lower if waste were taken into account.

Waste-adjusted price per pound : $14.96

Composite Score: Six (6)

Value Score: Four (4)

Post-script: Their website recently began claiming dry-aging but you sure can’t verify from the bland flavor result.

Four Brothers

Refrigerated distribution at Coburn’s. Store film over tray pack with only paper stick-on exterior lablel . No COO claims. Only claim is “Hereford Beef” as part of logo. No in-tray diaper but loads of free moisture. Packaging dripping. Steak saturated 3 half-sheets of Bounty. $9.05 for 1.01 pounds ($8.99 per pound).

Flavor Score: Two point five (2.5) Mild but quite distinctive beef flavor ; Hereford influence?

Texture Score:: Two (2) “Dry” (like lean round steak) in center portion of strip. Ends w/more fat very good. Total discard: 0.030 pounds.

Waste-adjusted price per pound: $9.23

Composite Score: 5.0

Value Score : 5.4

Four Brothers originated in AU. If this is AU beef why no COO claim?

Hyvee Choice Reserve Beef

Refrigerated distribution at store meat counter. Paper wrap at POP with stick-on label claiming “Born , Raised, Harvest USA” Purchased 10-12-19 at $7.99 for 8 ounces and prepared w/o freezing on 10-14.

Flavor Score: One point five (1.5 ) Lower two-thirds of steak had next to NO flavor. Only the upper third redeemed the score. Course texture comes off as Hereford but nowhere near a flavorful as the Four Brothers previous review.

Texture Score: Two (2.0) “Dry” but not generally tough. Total un-chewable discard 0.75 ounces.

Waste-Adjusted Price per Pound: $17.76

Composite Score: Three (3.0)

Value Score:: One Point Seven (1.7)

So what’s so great about Hyvee?

Homemade Pastrami

Pastrami is to beef brisket as bacon is to pork belly. The “Michael Symon’s Carnivor” recipe (on which I based this) uses a hybrid cook of dry smoke to 150 deg F internal followed by enclosing the brisket in a covered pan w/water (steam) cook to finish. I considered it a waste to cut short great smoke conditions for cheesy steaming so used apple wood chunks (for smoke) in an indirect heat Kamado grill setup with a cup of water in the drip pan (early steam) and allowed the grilling temperature to slowly increase from 225 deg F to 275 over 4-5 hours, removing the brisket at 180 deg F internal, foil wrapping and “resting” 1.5 hours in a towel-lined insulated “cooler”. My indirect Kamado set-up elevates the meat rack 3 inches with a 14 inch flat aluminum pizza pan “heat deflector”, 1/2 inch air gap and 12 inch deep dish pizza “drip pan” between the coals and the meat- blocking radiant heat transfer.

The result is firm, a bit on the dry side, and intensely smoky-salty flavorful. I sliced by hand (chef’s knife) so could only control to around 1/8 inch thickness. Firm enough to go half that thickness with a power rotary slicer. Steaming it prior to some uses might be desirable. Portioned slices into freezer gauge ziplock bags for future test of Symon’s “Fat Doug Burger”.

The 3 -day wet brine for a 5 pound brisket calls for 1 gallon water, 1.5 cups salt, 1/2 cup sugar, 8 tsp curing salt ( I used Tender Quick), 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup honey, 2 tbsp minced garlic and 1 tbsp Pickling Spice (next paragraph). Bring all to a simmer, cool, pour over brisket in non-reactive container , weight to submerge and refrigerate for 3 days.

Pickling Spice makes 1/4 cup (more than enough for a 5 pound brisket) and calls for 1 tbsp black peppercorns, 1 tbsp mustard seed, 1 tbsp coriander seed, 1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 1/2 tsp allspice, 1 1/2 tsp mace, 1 1/2 tsp whole cloves, 1 1/2 tsp ginger, 1 small cinnamon stick and 10 bay leaves.

Remove brisket from brine, rinse in water and dry with paper towels before coating in a coarsely ground blend of a tbsp each toasted black peppercorns and whole coriander. Place in preheated smoker or grill setup and monitor internal temperature to desired done-ness. Steam or not: it’s your call.

Firehouse Chili Gumbo

This NYT Cooking recipe works great with Hay Creek Ground Round. Serve with grated cheese and tortilla chips. Stands up to liberal use of hot sauce. Good stuff.

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE CHILI:

  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, like canola or grapeseed
  • 3 pounds lean ground beef, Round or Sirloin
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons steak sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes

FOR THE GUMBO:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium shallots, peeled and diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 3 ribs celery, trimmed and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 6-ounce cans tomato paste
  • 2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 1 to 2 cups tomato juice
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon apple-cider vinegar, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce, or to taste

PREPARATION

  1. Make the chili. Heat the oil in a large skillet or heavy-bottomed pot set over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook the beef, stirring often, until it has begun to brown at the edges. Using a slotted spoon, transfer browned meat to a bowl.
  2. Pour off excess fat, turn heat down to medium and return the browned beef to the skillet or pot. Add salt, peppers, chile powder, turmeric, oregano and cumin, and stir to combine. Add steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce and diced tomatoes, and stir again. Cover the skillet or pot, and cook, stirring a few times, for 15 minutes or so.
  3. Make the gumbo. Place a large pot with a heavy bottom over medium heat, and put the butter and oil into it. When the butter is melted and foaming, sprinkle the flour into the pan, and whisk to combine. Continue whisking until the mixture is golden brown, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Add the onion, shallots, bell peppers, celery and garlic, and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables have started to soften, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Make the chili gumbo. Add the beef mixture to the pot with the vegetables along with the tomato paste, tomato sauce, tomato juice and ketchup, and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 45 minutes, then add apple-cider vinegar and hot sauce to taste. Take the pot off the heat, and serve, or allow to cool and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to cure. Heat before serving.

Old-Time Diner Style Keto- Burgers

This high (20-30%) fat burger is absolutely melt-in- your- mouth luscious and a wake-up jolt to the leaner-is-better crowd. Add frozen-shaved grass-fed suet (50 grams per pound of thawed Hay Creek ground beef ) and fry to 130 degree target internal temperature. This takes a good while since all the fat has to begin melting before the temperature will rise. Don’t overcook or you’ll melt out all the fat! Have Brioche buns already toasted and avoid overloading with condiments. A bit of ketchup, mayo, and fried onion maybe. Skip the tomato slice -or any other cold, moist mass-for sure. Eat ’em right away. Don’t let the fat cool and solidify.

Beef suet -with it’s unique flavor and melting point profile- is the only fat that will work for this. No Substitutes!

You could use an auger/plate style meat grinder with 3/16 to 7/32 inch plate openings to regrind the entire rolled-up “log” in photos above. NO “food processor”: it’ll destroy the meat texture and melt the fat.

Do not try this with commercial, wet-aged beef or you’ll have a mess, to say nothing of risk of illness.

No matter your take on the origin of the American burger, this preparation style dates from a time before any consumer had heard of e. coli – much less it’s numbered mutations. No one had heard of an official 160 deg F internal temperature cooking recommendation or had any equipment capable of measuring it in such a thin piece of meat. How did the burger become popular if it was always accompanied by the threat of illness or even death? The answer is most likely the growing dependence on fed antibiotics in the commercial cattle feeding business.

The USDA inspected processor I use handles only small- farm grown beef and has NEVER had a recall. Seems to me that the rewards outweigh the risks of “under-cooking”small farm, small processor beef: particularly so if grass-fed.. I never cook Hay Creek ground beef burgers to 160 deg F, just to the point the “squish” disappears at around 130 deg F. You judge for yourself.