Categories
The Dark Side

Hot Hanging Weight Pricing : the Dark Side

Hot Hanging (WET) 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  WET rail-suspended, bare eviscerated carcass sans head, hide and lower legs at the point it enters the chilling cooler . Dry aging, if specified by the customer, begins after cool-down and involves 3 -9 % carcass moisture weight loss over 7 to 21 days. Both payment to farmer and processor are based on this HHW 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 fee “estimates” 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.


 

Categories
Quality Beef

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.


 

Categories
Quality Beef

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.


 

Categories
The Dark Side

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. Cheap Australian grass fed beef can easily undercut the market.

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.


 

Categories
Background

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.


 

Categories
Availability and Delivery

Availability and Delivery

Quarters and Halves available to those on wait list beginning October 1. Boxes available to everyone beginning October 1.

Lil’ Bit, Lil’ Bit More, and AllGround Samplers UNAVAILABLE until early 2023.

Yeah, you can get a traditional beef quarter delivered to your Twin Cities  home beginning October 2022. Fargo/Moorhead too. Check the freezer and see if you need to replenish or try out Hay Creek quality beef for the first time with a Box order.

Next St Cloud, Minneapolis & Saint Paul home delivery October 15, 2022.

Next Detroit Lakes/Fargo/Moorhead home delivery  October 29, 2022

Box and Quarter  deliveries begin annually in September/October after a break for the May thru August intense planting/harvesting season. Same for Samplers. Halves in October/November. Make a deposit now to reserve OR request a Wait List position for traditional quarter-plus orders. Deposits made more than 45 days ahead of scheduled delivery dates will not constitute a lock on pricing.

Jump on the Wait List anytime for 2022 delivery or farm pick-up of quarter-plus size orders. Simply send an email with your preferred month (Feb thru May and Sept thru Dec) and fractional order size  (quarter or half). You’ll receive an email heads-up a few weeks ahead of anticipated delivery and have an opportunity to make your deposit.

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 for all fractional order sizes.  Free delivery on prepaid Li’ Bit Samplers, AllGround Samplers and Boxes.

Detroit Lakes/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 same as above.

Upon receiving your prepay or deposit I’ll email with a proposed Saturday or Sunday (afternoon) 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. Squareup mag-stripe credit card swipe payment is also an extra-charge backup. Best if you are home to accept delivery but I will drop with prearrangement.


 

Categories
Recipes Roasts

Braised Short Rib Stew

I’ve made this New York Times Cooking recipe a couple of times but with significant substitutions, mostly aimed at knocking back the sweet and salt. It’s a unique flavor/texture treat and improves with refrigeration and reheat. There’s nothing quite like beef short ribs.

Substitutions in order of ingredient list: 2/3 cup soy sauce for 1 1/2 cups, sugar eliminated, dry sherry for mirin, fresh asian /anjou pear chunks and lime juice for the orange and apple juice, crimini mushrooms for shitake, jicama (20 ounces dices) for water chestnut, taro eliminated, butternut squash dices (23 ounces).

Also, skip the silly water soak of the ribs but perform the diagonal scoring. Braise 2 1/2 hours.

Great with a side of jasmine rice.

Roy Choi’s Braised Short-Rib Stew

Recipe from Roy ChoiAdapted by Sam Sifton

  • YIELD4 to 6 servings
  • TIME3 1/2 hours

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EmailShare on PinterestShare on FacebookShare on TwitterRoy Choi’s Braised Short-Rib Stew

David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews

Here is an adaptation of the Korean braised-short-rib stew known as galbijjim, a staple of neighborhood potlucks and church suppers and, in the words of the Los Angeles chef Roy Choi, “that meal from home that every Korean kid says his or her mom does best.” His recipe (well, my version of his recipe, which is his version of his mom’s) is rich and deeply flavored, thickly sauced and pungent with sugar, spice, soy and garlic. It is the sort of meal you could put together on a weekend afternoon and serve for nights to come. It is the best sort of family food. —Sam Sifton

Featured in: Choi Division

AsianKoreanShort RibBrunchDinnerLunchMain Course

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1,787 ratings 

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 pounds bone-in short ribs
  • 1 small bunch scallions, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 ½ cups soy sauce
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup garlic cloves, peeled (about 2 heads)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup mirin
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • ½ cup apple juice
  • ½ pound shiitake mushrooms, stems reserved for another use, halved or quartered if large
  • 1 cup jarred, peeled chestnuts
  • 1 cup taro, peeled and cut into large dice (about a 3-inch segment)
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and cut into large dice (about 2 carrots)
  • 1 cup butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about half a squash)

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Ingredient Substitution Guide

PREPARATION

  1. Put short ribs in a bowl, and cover with water. Drain, and discard water. Repeat twice. Remove short ribs from bowl, and score them diagonally across the top of the meat. Return ribs to the bowl, and rinse again. Remove, and pat dry.
  2. In a blender or food processor, combine scallions, soy sauce, ginger, onion, garlic, sugar, mirin, orange juice and apple juice, then pulse to purée. Add a little water if you need to thin out the sauce so it combines.
  3. Put puréed sauce in a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven with a lid, add 3 cups water and stir to combine. Bring pot to a boil over high heat, then add the ribs to the pot and lower heat to a simmer. Cover pot.
  4. Cook ribs over low for at least 2 hours. Add vegetables, cover and simmer, 30 minutes more or so, until meat is tender and vegetables are cooked through. Serve warm.

Tips

  • Short ribs produce a good amount of fat. Get rid of the excess by making the stew ahead of time, refrigerating it overnight and skimming off any fat that collects on top. (Reserve for cooking potatoes or other root vegetables.) Warm through before serving.
  • For a slow-cooker version, add the scored meat, vegetables, sauce and 2 cups water (instead of 3) to the machine. Cook on low for 7 to 8 hours. If you like firmer vegetables, wait to add them to the slow cooker 5 to 6 hours into cooking.

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COOKING NOTES

500

Wen4 years ago

This is my go-to recipe when I have company.
I always brown the meat beforehand with onion, garlic, ginger and scallion.
No need for the sugar. I use 1 cup of orange juice instead of the two different types. I use 2/3 cup of soy sauce.
The dish is rather greasy because short rib is tasty but contains a lot of fat.
I keep the dish in the fridge for one night so that the fat separates to the top and separate it out.
Then I add in all the fresh veggies and cook for another hour the second day.

493 This is helpful

Martha4 years ago

I’ve done short ribs in the slow cooker. After 7-8 hours they came out deliciously tender. So tender, The connective grisly part is deliciously edible.
I left out the canned water chestnuts. If you can’t get fresh, use jicama instead. Once you taste a fresh water chestnut, you’ll never settle for those awful canned ones. Instead of the OJ and apple juice, l use grated Asian pear and a squeeze of lime juice. I agree there’s too much sugar. Cut back. substitute the vegetables for any you like.

219 This is helpful

Ruth4 years ago

What if I wanted to make this in a slow cooker? Any suggestions on the best way to adapt the recipe?

112 This is helpful

Baconsensation4 years ago

The half cup of sugar can be left out entirely.

101 This is helpf

Categories
Specials

Free Delivery Samplers

Get yourself a taste of mature dry-aged beef from heirloom breed cattle. Local Minnesota beef, not cheap Australian imports like the nationwide consolidate/consign/direct ship model re-sellers. NO non-recyclable foam containers to dispose of or dry ice (CO2) to vent. More and better quality beef for your $.

Applies to $99 and $179 prepaid steak/roast /ground Lil’ Bit Variety Samplers . Sorry, $249 prepaid steak/roast/ground Box is sold out. All with Free Home Delivery (on next scheduled date) in service area.

You best be present to accept delivery but will drop with prearrangement.

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Categories
Ground Recipes

Biff Burger

Biff (Best in Fast Food) Burger was a chain originating in Clearwater FL 1956 with the last location closing in St Petersburg, FL 2021.

The most unique relic of it’s recipe and technique seems to be the sauce in which the entire flame-broiled burger was immersed prior to assembly on the bun. I just tested this micro-batch formula purportedly based on the original:

  • Ketchup (Heinz) 5/16 cup
  • Prepared Yellow Mustard (Plochman’s Original Mild) 1 tsp
  • Powdered Ginger 1/16 to 1/8 tsp
  • Liquid Smoke 2 drops

Simply mix the sauce ingredients together and refrigerate until your next opportunity to fry/grill a genuine Hay Creek grass fed burger and try it out. No need to dip unless you’re feeding an army and time is of the essence. Simply preheat the sauce in a water bath and use as you would ketchup, maybe taking a little extra care to spread widely and evenly on top.

The sauce offers a truly unique flavor in combination with quality beef nothing short of sublime. Works with cheese, lettuce and caramelized onion too.

Categories
Ground Recipes

Oklahoma Burger

The Oky Burger has been nominated as contender for the Perfect Burger title. Let’s see how it stacks up against the current title holder. As introduced by that fun-loving, fake-finger-burning YouTube clown George Motz this burger’s origins were a response to hard times with cheap ground beef extended with even cheaper onions and has” Only 5 Ingredients: beef, bun, onion, cheese, salt, pepper.” He fails to mention the target outcomes’ impossibility w/o the use of high fat ground beef (again always discounted in the old days before the popularization of Wagyu). Try it with standard 85% lean and find out: the trademark filigree of partly charred meat and onion won’t make it’s appearance. In it’s place you’ll discover a steamed, White Castle slider-like burger atop a mass of soggy onions.

Base camp requires modifying your ground beef to around 35% fat for this variation on a smashburger to work. Do the algebra and you’ll see that 4 oz of 85% lean ground beef require 0.92 oz additional fat to reach 35%. With grass fed ground it’s best use partly frozen grass fed beef suet minced by knife as fine as possible and spread evenly over a rolled-out square of ground beef on waxed paper. Roll the whole thing up into a cylinder (leaving the paper behind) , knead gently to mix and form into a loose ball.

This burger needs BTU’s aplenty, rendering all that beef fat and evaporating excess moisture in a hand full of super-thin sliced onion (I prefer red) ; all in the space of 5 to 6 minutes. A 2 3/4 inch gas burner top ring is marginal. 4 inch provides a safety margin. Heat your cast iron to smokin’ then plop in the beef ball. Top with a hand full of onion then smash all to around 1/4 inch edges and twice that in the center. I use a potato masher with waxed paper. Apply salt/pepper..

Stand back, start-up your commercial grade outdoor exhausting hood fan and try to breathe thru the haze of smoke. Turn once at the 3 minute mark and top with cheese of choice. Despite blanketing with buns it won’t melt except at very edges in the 2-3 minute final cook.

Is it worth the effort? In my experience, no. Results are quite variable. You can only do one at a time unless cooking on a sheet of iron atop a stack of burning tires outdoors. Very messy cooking. Maybe that’s why this burger has only recently been resurrected as fodder for the Blackstone crowd.

An indoor approximation is much more easily achieved by using regular 85% lean and pre-drying the onion in a dehydrator or air fryer to roughly 50% their original volume.

No match for the perfection of the Perfect Burger.

RETRY with Wagyu ground beef (Walmart) and partly dehydrated yellow onions: This works but the process is quite different than Motz presents. Dehydrate thin sliced onion to around 50% original volume as above. Pre-form a 1/3 pound burger to around 1/2 inch thick and salt/pepper one side. Heat your cast iron to below-smoking w/a little fat and add your onions to one side, forming a loose burger-size pile. After a minute or so add the burger to the other side and cook a couple minutes before flipping over onto the onion pile, lightly pressing w/spatula, and adding cheese slice. Finish cooking another minute or so and flip onto pre-toasted potato bun. The good thing about this is the onion’s reliability in flavoring an otherwise completely bland-flavored beef.

Categories
Recipes

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. How would Instant Pot perform with this long- cooking stew? 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. Turns out Instant Pot excels @ stew.

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 in 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 (plug) 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.

Beware however of the potential failure of the pop-up plug to seal – which allows venting of ALL the internal moisture w/o triggering the “pressure cook” cycle time. The plug is vulnerable to getting “stuck”. I’ve had this occur and been surprised by the IP chugging away on full heat with all the steam venting out the stuck plug. It’s best to be around to check/nurse that part until sealing is confirmed or you could re-enter a smoke-filled house with your meal burnt-up.

UPDATE April 12, 2021: Tested a variation with goal of achieving cleaner flavor and not-so-mushy texture in final stage of cooking after vegetable addition. Removed the IP vessel from the cooker after the 1 hour pressure cycle complete and placed on stovetop. Made all vegetable and herb additions as above with exception of barley for which I substituted quartered, unpeeled red potatoes totaling 3/4 pound. Heated on stovetop to just boiling, and reduced to simmer (covered) for 20 minutes. Perfect vegetable texture and delightful, clean flavor. Benefits from salt at point of serving.

Categories
Ground Recipes

Perfect Burger

Like many great quests the resolution to this one came about by chance. I’d been working on the Perfect Burger Project for a couple years stymied by dead ends along the Juicy-Lucy stuffed path and most recently the charred anaheim/serrano/onion topped with marble jack path. In fact I was at the Walmart to restock for a new attack along those lines when serendipity intervened.

As usual you can’t realistically expect exactly what you are looking for at Walmart. Their supply/stocking isn’t consistent. This time the first substitution was Tillamook cheddar for the missing Cabot. No problem with the marble jack. In the produce section I was confronted with overflowing bins of peppers arranged vertically. The anaheims actually appeared fresh w/o their usual withered appearance. Serranos good too- but after pulling a couple small ones, I instead replaced them with a couple more robust ones from near the top of the bin. Note that I didn’t study these new choices carefully.

New girl at checkout was unfamiliar with the codes for the peppers and could not locate the anaheims on her cheat sheet so called over the manager guy. He and I promptly got into an argument over the more robust “serranos” which he insisted were Jalepenos! At one point I heard myself say “bet you a million dollars they are serranos” and he countered by trotting off to the produce area to take photos of each; It wasn’t a very busy mid-day. I wasn’t convinced but happily paid the lower jalepeno price.

I didn’t re-look at the peppers until prepping for a burger days later. The First Step (single 1/3 pound burger) is cutting the tops off (1) Anaheim and one (only now obvious) Jalepeno. Then slice each lengthwise into quarters and scrape out seeds. Place pepper slices into a preheated heavy skillet with a dab of oil and flatten with a heavy spatula or better yet; a potato masher. Time for 5 minutes a side at a low hissing, below smoking heat. Peppers should be 50 % scorched black on both sides and soft. Add a quarter (tennis ball size) Red Onion sliced thin along it’s top to root axis and continue the process until the onion is soft and a bit carmelized. Push all to the side and toast buttered potato buns. Transfer buns and onion/pepper mix to a warm serving plate. Keep them apart for now as the onion pepper mix will go on top of the cooked burger.

Reheat the skillet at a higher setting (just smoking) for cooking your burger. While the peppers were blackening you should have portioned your Hay Creek grass-fed burger into a 1/3 pound patty just a bit larger in diameter then the bun. Keep the edges tight and smooth to avoid drying. Kosher salt and black pepper both sides, working the salt/pepper into the surface by cross-hatching with the underside of a fork- like the peanut butter cookie treatment. Cook the burger 2 minutes per side, placing a single 3-4 mm thick slice of Tillamook cheddar (WTH; it’s the first I saw in the cheese drawer and already opened) on the just-flipped first side. Let the burger rest in the pan maybe 30 -60 seconds after turning off the heat (beyond the second 2 minutes).

Place the burger on your unadorned (NO condiments) lower bun, top with pepper/onion mix, slap the top bun on (NO condiments) and dig in! Truly Sublime. There were virtually zero grand expectations for this outcome so impartiality is guaranteed. Remember, you heard it first here.

Oh, the timing of this whole process works out really well for prepping homemade fries cut from a single longish unpeeled russet potato. Simply handcut the fries with a 8 inch+ chefs knife and begin heating for a 5 minute parboil at the point you first flip the peppers in the skillet. Drain and begin pan-fry in a separate skillet at the point you turn off the pepper/onion mix.

Categories
Recipes Roasts

Sirloin Tip Roast Sous Vide

Finally caved to my curiosity on extended time Sous Vide  cooking after a heads-up from long time customer Joe L. during a recent beef delivery.  He extolled the results of 48 cook time on a grass fed Hay Creek sirloin tip roast from my farm. I’d discounted the effect of these long  (over 6 hour) cook times in the erroneous mindset of thinking the internal meat temperature would surely stabilize within that time and why cook longer? The reality is counter- intuitive and miraculous changes take place with extended time at relatively low temperatures: solving the ages-old  problem of creating a moist but tender roast from a relatively lean cut of meat. So onward to sirloin tip sous vide:

I did some quick searching and discovered 2 sources recommending between 17 hours @ 137 deg F and 46 hours @ 134 deg F.  I wanted to test both  “pot roast” and a “leftover” cold cut serving scenarios so applied an herb rub to the roast before bagging ( 1 gallon freezer ziplock) and inserting a half-dozen garlic cloves around the perimeter. Trick for eliminating excess air from bag (prevents floating) is to suck it out with a small-diameter tube like that used for aquarium aeration. Pinch the tube near the corner of the bag while sucking the air out and progressively sealing the zipper.

Some important Sous Vide considerations: Basic Sous Vide is well covered in this video.  Curious to note that cooking in the 134 to 137 degree F  range for hours violates the crude rule-of-thumb advocated by every Dept of Public Health: to minimize food residence time in the 40 deg F to 140 deg F temperature window for avoidance of food safety (microbiological) issues.  This excellent source on the science of sous vide protein cooking indicates “These temperatures are not quite right: it is well known that food pathogens can only multiply between −1.3 °C/29.7 °F and 52.3 °C/126.1 °F…..”   Consider testing the calibration of your Sous Vide device if you hope to achieve comparable results to others and avoid food poisoning.. Despite their tenth degree F resolution, they can easily be inaccurate by 2 whole degree F.  Test by immersing in  boiling water on the stove top and recording  the device’s temp reading.  Boiling point temp must corrected for your local altitude. This is then the “real” temperature which you can then use to offset your device setpoint to compensate for any inaccuracy. The long cook time also pumps a lot of heat and moisture into your house so wrap your vessel with a towel and cover the water surface.

Removed entire bag to refrigerator after 46 hours @134 deg F and cooled 7 hours before draining fluid surrounding roast to a saucepan for finishing as a gravy. Seared exterior of roast in smoking hot frying pan with a couple T-spoons lard to minimize internal temperature increase. Cut and rewarmed slice from the seared exterior and served on boiled potatoes w/ gravy. Amazingly tender, moist and mild flavored. The fluid “juice” in the bag surrounding the cooked roast is loaded with proteins (foams readily on boiling) and quite intensely flavored so does not benefit from much reduction prior to adding thickening agent (flour or starch).

Cold cut slices best served on mild white bread like burger buns accompanied by Dijon mustard. So incredibly tender it isn’t crucial to slice thinly. So delicate in flavor that it gets lost with horseradish and sourdough rye.

Next try will be with roughly half the cook time to regain a little ‘”chew” texture.

Update: Repeated process as above but for reduced time of 24 hours with goal of using for thin-sliced cold sandwich cuts. Result was much similar to a uniformly-cooked rare to medium-rare cut with good moisture and tenderness in the muscle fiber and a more “true” beef flavor but with little tenderizing transformation of the connective tissue. I actually prefer this to the prior 46 hour cook for cold-cut use with the only drawback being the more resilient connective tissue making thin-slicing with even a sharp knife difficult to control.


 

Categories
CrowdThink

Instant Pot: Icon of a Distracted Generation

I stumbled upon the Instant Pot in discussing roast cut sizes with a fellow Farmers Market vendor. She raises pigs and claims the only size 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 distant 80’s. A 30-somethin’ customer interested in my beef Sirloin steak claimed to cook both steaks and roasts using the “pressure cook” function . She was amazed by 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 comforts her generation in it’s forgiveness of distraction.

Intrigued by how a device with zero connectivity and otherwise no more technologically advanced than a millennium era dishwasher could enrapture an entire generation, I set out to test the outcome quality and experience of Instant Pot cooking . Believing these held the key to it’s popularity I bought a 6 qt Duo model and prepared 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, singing tribute to all that wasted steam…..

…..time grinds to a standstill – like a RAV4 in 3 foot deep mud – waiting for the pot to complete it’s eternal venting 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 fireball-ish 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 surprisingly 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 an Instant Pot zealot, 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. The convenience and time savings of Instant Pot -particularly in a single pot discipline with mid-cook additions – are grossly overrated.