Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Braised Scottish Highland Short Ribs

Autumn’s falling leaves and dropping temperatures always make me excited for braised dishes.  Slowly simmering all day, filling your house with savory aromas, it’s wonderful to be greeted by such classic comfort-food after raking leaves.  Of all the meats your can braise, I find short ribs to be the most user-friendly.  This cut, as you can guess by the name, comes from trimming off the ends of the ribs.  Short ribs come in tidy little squares or rectangles with a large cube of meat attached to a plank of bone.
What’s great about short ribs is that they’re easy to portion (one per person for a light lunch, two for dinner, or three if you’re feeling extravagant) and they reheat very easily.  At home, it’s just my wife and I, so I’ll usually cook up a pot of eight or twelve ribs on a Sunday, then during the week we can quickly warm up a pair at a time for a nourishing and near-effortless dinner.  Unlike a roast, there’s no carving, and don’t worry about the bone; it easily pops out after cooking, like pulling a stem from a grape.

To get started, season the short ribs generously with salt and pepper.  Then sear in a hot, oven-safe pan using oil or lard until they become deeply mahogany colored.  As the short ribs brown in the pan, chop up some onion, celery, and carrots.  I usually do: 2 parts onion, 1 part celery, and 1 part carrots. When I cooked the short ribs here, I had six short ribs and used two medium cooking onions, two ribs of celery, and a large carrot. You don’t need a lot, just enough to add some extra flavor and sweetness into your braising liquid—feel free to scale up or down to taste.  As you’re prepping the vegetables, flip the ribs around in the pan to brown all the sides.
Once the short ribs have browned, remove them from the heat and cook off the chopped vegetables in the pan with the short rib drippings.  This will help to add another level of savory flavor to the dish.  After the vegetables are browned and softened, pour in some beef stock and scrape up all the browned bits at the bottom of the pan.  While I love using my homemade stock, these short ribs also work particularly well when using boxed stock.  Notice how the ribs are cut across the bone to expose the interior?  That helps pull out the flavor from the bones during cooking, just as if you were making a mini batch of stock.  

Nestle the short ribs back into the pan with the cooked vegetables and top them up with stock so they’re just covered.  I like to add some fresh thyme and bay leaves, but rosemary, dried mushrooms reconstituted in water, or dried chilies would all be great variations.
So that’s it for the heavy-lifting required for this recipe.  Cover the pan and pop into a 325°F oven for 5-6 hours and you’re done.  Conventionally farmed short ribs only take 3-4 hours, but these Scottish Highland cows have been building up their muscles, hiking up and down the pasture.  That makes their meat more flavorful, but it also means they’ll take longer to become tender.  Normally, I’ll start these in the morning and let them spend the day in the oven, turning it down to 300°F after about an hour in the oven and 275°F another two hours after that, just hot enough to keep the meat at a gentle simmer. The meat will be more than happy to luxuriate in its braising liquids for a bit longer, because short ribs have a good deal of intramuscular fat and collagen. So if you have the time, a slow, 8-10 hour braise would really allow the fat to render out, the collagen breaks down into gelatin, and just make a meltingly tender dish. As you might imagine, this is a fantastic use for a crock pot, if you have one. 
Braised Scottish Highland Short Ribs
When serving the short ribs, you could make the dish hearty by piling two ribs and a ladleful of the sauce over a plate of Pennsylvania Dutch egg noodles.  However, I find that we enjoy pairing the short ribs with cooked vegetables as a nice foil to the intensely-flavored short ribs. Blanched leeks are probably our favorite, as they collect all that wonderful sauce in their numerous overlapping layers, and nicely complementing the richness of the meat.

Finally, like all braised dishes, these short ribs only get better the next day.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Introducing Ranch Friend Nick Benard

We’re excited to introduce a ranch friend, Nick Benard, as a new member of the North Woods Ranch community.  Starting this month, Nick will be contributing to our blog by writing about his favorite recipes and culinary adventures with North Woods Ranch beef and pork.
Nick has a lifelong passion for food and writing. He spent nine years working in the specialty food industry at a cheese importing company.  Today, he works at the iconic Nittany Lion Inn at the Penn State University, where Nick handles their in-house curing, sausage making, and charcuterie.  In between, Nick has worked to learn as much as possible about food and the process behind traditional, artisan foods.  This has taken him to visiting artisanal cheese makers from Wisconsin to the mountains of Switzerland.  

On the meat side of things, Nick spent a week shadowing the charcuterie specialists at the Underground Meat Collective in Madison, Wisconsin.  He also participated in Mosefund Farm’s Pigstock, a three day on-farm workshop of slaughtering a Mangalitsa pig, cleaning and preparing the offal, and seam butchering the carcass, all under the watchful eye of Christoph Wiesner, Butcher and President of the Austrian Mangalitsa Breeders’ Association. Nick is an avid cook book reader and enjoys writing about his own cooking experiences.
Nick with Two of Our Berkshire Hogs
Expect to see a range of new posts coming, using our Scottish Highland Cattle and Berkshire hogs. Blog posts will range from simple weeknight dinners to larger projects for home chefs looking to make their own bacon, kielbasa, pate, and ham featuring North Woods Ranch on his personal blog the Culinary Pen.  In the meantime, feel free to check out some of Nick’s past posts featuring North Woods Ranch on his personal blog.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

New cowies on ranch!

Mercury and Red joined the fold yesterday from friend's farm: 

They're settling in well and it's great to see new faces! These two beautiful cows will add to the herd's genetic diversity as well as contribute more cowpower to improving the soils and forages for all. 


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Flehmen Response

Val checks out the baby while dad Fergus does his Elvis impression.

That lip curl is called the Flehmen Response and allows the bull to better detect the hormones from the heifer or cow and whether or not she is in heat 'n such. It's also used for other inter-herd communication. Sooo many ways to figure out what's going on! 

#flehming #calf

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Michael Pollan comes to Pittsburgh for a conversation

We're honored to be invited to A Conversation with Michael Pollan at the Hillman Center this Saturday evening. We'll be sampling North Woods Ranch fare before the event and look forward to seeing other like minded folk. 

As Michael Pollan's 2006 The Omnivore's Dilemma was my "lightbulb" moment it is quite the thrill to see Michael who has been such an instrumental voice in fostering the local sustainable food movement right here in our backyard. 

While the pre-event VIP Locavore Supper has been sold out (still click on the link to check out the awesome chefs queued up) there are still a handful of seats in the way back available for the interview portion of the evening. 


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"Our Region's Business" TV Segment

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North Woods Ranch was recently featured on "Our Region's Business" TV show w/ Bill Flanagan on WPXI television (over the Thanksgiving weekend). They've now made the show available via YouTube; here's link:

This is certainly not your grocery store variety of beef and pork. North Wood Ranch's ultra-organic animal rearing practices are producing some of the healthiest and tastiest meat you can find anywhere. The Marshal Township ranch is the brainchild of Oliver Griswold, a one-time aeronautical engineer who decided to create the ranch after reading the "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan.
To further our message we're very grateful to Bill and his show for this exposure. That said, it was an experience well outside of this rancher's comfort zone <g>. But, certainly a neat experience and I'm very grateful to show producer Don Gawryla's wonderful enthusiasm and determination to visit on ranch and film our animals directly for the show. Don was extraordinarily comfortable with our big critters and that shines through in the video he shot!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Pork Roast with Sweet Potatoes, Pears and Rosemary

Pork Roast with Sweet Potatoes, Pears and Rosemary
I finally tried my friend Amy's recipe and it is a real keeper.  It is simple, and as her husband says, "good enough for company!"  Also, I substituted with red potatoes and apples, because that is what I had on hand - but I think the sweet potatoes and pears would add even more delicious flavor.  

5 lb. bone-in, center cut loin roast
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary, plus more for serving (or 1 tsp dried)
Salt and pepper
3 lbs (about 8 medium) sweet potatoes , peeled, cut lengthwise into

4 firm/ripe Bosc pears, cut lengthwise into quarters, cored
16 oz of apple cider or hard cider, or a mixture of 1 cup apple juice and ½ cup dry

Preheat oven to 450 F. Rub pork with oil. Mix rosemary, ¾ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper in
bowl. Rub mixture over pork.

Place pork, bone side down, fat side up, in large roasting pan. Roast 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 350 F. Roast 15 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and pears to pan, stir gently to coat with
pan juices or use basting bulb. Season with salt and pepper. Roast, occasionally stirring sweet potato mixture, until thermometer inserted in center of roast reads 145 F and potatoes and pears are tender, about 1 hour. Transfer pork to carving board and let stand 10-15 minutes.
Place sweet potato mixture into ovenproof bowl and tent with aluminum foil. Keep warm in turned-off while pork rests.

Heat roasting pan over high heat. Add cider, bring to a boil, and scrape up browned bits
in pan with a wooden spoon, boil until reduced to ¾ cup, about 5 minutes. Pour into
sauce boat.

Carve pork. Transfer to serving platter and surround with sweet potato mixture, drizzle
with 3 tbsp of cider sauce and sprinkle with rosemary. Service with remaining sauce on
the side.