Saturday, March 28, 2015

Welcome Farm to Table Folk! 

Peruse the site. If you're a social media aficionado follow us for daily photo/vid posts from the Ranch (links top right of page here)!

Thanks for your interest, support, and we look forward to getting to know you better.

Oliver 'n Jodi...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Cooking with Pork Blood: Black Pudding

I’m excited to write this post, as I wanted to cook with blood for a long time.  So many old recipes use blood, but in the U.S. it’s incredibly hard to find.  When Oliver and Jodi mentioned they sold pork blood, I jumped at the occasion and purchased ten pints.  Before that, I had only occasionally seen small tubs of frozen pork blood at Asian markets. I was hesitant to purchase any because the packaging had little information, like date or place of origin.  Finding local, pasture-raised Berkshire blood was an absolute thrill.
 North Woods Ranch Berkshire Pork Blood and Back Fat
Although it might seem exotic, cooking with blood is easy. When cooking with blood for the first time, I recommend making a British-style black pudding.  It’s a delicious introduction to cooking with blood and it requires no special equipment.
Use an old cutting board - blood stains are a pain!
To make British-style black pudding, start with two pints of pork blood, a half-pound of pork back fat, 2 cloves minced garlic, and a cereal binder.  I like to use Anson Mill’s red flint polenta, but different regional recipes use various forms of starch, from Scottish and Welsh oats to Eastern European buckwheat groats to Scandinavian mashed potatoes.

The blood will cook quickly, so it is important to give the garlic and back fat a head start by precooking them.  I dice the garlic and fat finely, then gently cook the back fat in a skillet over medium-heat.  Once the back fat begins to turn translucent (about 10-15 minutes of cooking), the garlic goes in and both are sautéed for another two minutes.  Some meat processors salt their blood, so I don't add any seasoning until the end, when all the ingredients are in.

Once the fat and garlic is cooked, it's time to start heating the blood. A double boiler is perfect to use if you have one, but I just pour the blood into a pyrex mixing bowl and set it on top of a simmering pot.  Then I add in the polenta, being sure to stir it regularly to keep it from clumping. The reason the blood is first heated on the stove top is to help thicken the blood and polenta.  If cornmeal  and back fat are added to the raw blood and then baked in the oven, the fat would float to the top of the pudding and the cereal grains would sink to the bottom. By first cooking the blood in a bowl over simmering water, the mixture will begin to thicken and set, holding all the ingredients in an even suspension.
After 10-15 minutes of heating over gently simmering water, the blood will be coagulating and the polenta will be thickening. The mixture is done when it thickens up as if it were a cook-and-serve pudding.  For seasoning, I like a generous spoonful of chile flakes and about 1/2 of dried thyme.  Black pepper can be used instead of red pepper for a milder blood pudding. Now is the time to taste and check the seasoning, adjusting if necessary.
When the pudding is seasoned to taste, the cooked garlic and back fat  are stirred into the thickened blood mixture, which is then poured into a greased loaf pan lined with plastic wrap to ease in removing the pudding from the pan. 
Cover the pan with a lid or foil and bake for 90 minutes in a 350 F oven in a water bath.  I let the pudding cool overnight to firm up, which makes for neater slices; hot out of the oven the blood pudding is delicious, but it is a bit crumbly.
For serving, I love blood pudding served with fried eggs. Just grease a skillet and fry a slice or two of blood pudding on both sides.  The pudding is fully cooked, so this is only done to warm it up and to get a crispy crust on each side; two minutes per side on medium heat should be perfect.
Black Pudding, Eggs, and Buckwheat Toast
Recipe at a Glance:
Two pints pork blood
8 oz diced pork fat
1 cup polenta, cornmeal, or steel cut oats
3-5 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried thyme

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Saute the diced pork fat over medium heat until the fat begins to turn translucent but does not brown.  Add garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes, until garlic just beings to brown.  Set pork fat and garlic mixture aside to cool.  Save the lard that rendered out from the backfat for greasing the pan later on.

Over a double boiler, slowly heat the blood and polenta.  Stir often to keep the polenta from clumping.  When the blood takes on the texture of a thickened pudding mix in the back fat, garlic, spices, and pepper.

Using the reserved lard, grease a loaf or terrine pan.  Place a sheet of plastic wrap inside the loaf pan, with enough overhanging the edges to wrap completely over the top of the pudding.  This will help with removing the blood pudding later.  Pour the thickened blood pudding into the pan and cover with the excess plastic wrap.

Place the pan into a large oven-safe dish or roasting pan and fill the larger pan with hot water to come half way up the sides of the loaf pan.

Bake at 350 for 75-90 minutes, until the pudding reaches 165 F on an instant read thermometer.

The pudding can be sliced and enjoyed warm, or once cooled it can be sliced and fried in a skillet to crisp both sides.

More Recipes for Pork Blood Using North Woods Ranch Berkshire Hogs:

French Boudin Noir Sausage

Polish Kiszka Sausage

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sirloin Tip Roast with Stout Beer

For St. Patrick's Day I wanted to do something a bit different for dinner, but still stay true to the classic pairing of beef, potatoes, and cabbage.  Many classic recipes are heavy braised dishes, like corned beef or lamb stew.  Due to the surprisingly warm March weather here (50+ F!), my thoughts moved away from a robust, wintery braised dish and began to think of something more spring-like.
Seeing this beautiful sirloin tip roast from North Woods Ranch's Scottish Highland cattle, I immediately decided to keep things simple and prepare a roast beef dinner for St. Pat's.  With a cut of beef this great, I'm sure St. Patrick wouldn't mind it coming from Scotch cattle.
Scottish Highland Sirloin Tip Roast
The sirloin tip roast is cut from the sirloin, slightly below where sirloin steaks are cut.  Just like the steak, this lean roast is perfect for searing and finishing in the dry heat of the oven.  Plus, at a weight of about three pounds, it's perfect for a small family and won't take hours to roast.
To begin I salt the roast all over and sear it in an oven-safe skillet greased with butter and olive oil.  While the roast is searing on all sides, the oven is preheated to 350 F.  After each of the sides of the sirloin have developed a nice brown sear the beef and skillet go into the oven. 
Again, the roast will not take very long to roast, so check it after 40 minutes.  This roast was pulled out of the oven at 130 F, and then the residual heat brought the temperature up to 135 to finish.
Buck Snort Stout

Now, for a bit of an Irish twist, I decided to make pan sauce from the beef drippings using a dark stout.  Although Guinness or Murphy's Irish Stout might be more traditional, I wanted to stay local.  I chose Buck Snort Stout, brewed by North Country Brewing in Slippery Rock.

To make the pan sauce, I put the skillet from the sirloin back on the stovetop to heat up while the beef rested.  Since the stout is very robust I added a tablespoon of cracked black pepper and a sprig of rosemary to the pan for a sharp pop of flavor.  Once the drippings from the beef were simmering I poured in half a can of Buck Snort Stout.  From here the stout just simmered and reduced with the drippings until it was reduced by half.
Depending on the bitterness of the beer used, a teaspoon or two of dark honey or molasses can even out the sauce if it's a bit too bitter to taste.
In Goes the Buck Snort Stout
 To serve, slice the sirloin tip roast thinly and drizzle on a bit of the reduced stout gravy.  Serve with your favorite potato and cabbage recipe, plus plenty of good beer. Sláinte!

 Recipe at a Glance:
- One Sirloin Tip Roast (3-3.5 lbs)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 can Buck Snort Stout, or your favorite dark beer.
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon black pepper, coarsely ground or just cracked with a rolling pin

Rub the sirloin roast with salt and pepper on all sides.  Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Put the oil and butter in an oven-safe skillet and heat over medium-high heat until the butter foams.  Sear the roast on all sides until mahogany brown.

Once the roast is browned on all sides, roast in the oven for 40-60 minutes, depending on desired level of doneness.  This roast hit an internal temperature of 135 for medium rare.

Remove roast the roast from the skillet and place on a plate.  Cover the roast with foil to keep warm.

While the roast rests, heat the skillet on the stovetop until the beef drippings begin to bubble.  Remember to use a towel to handle the oven-heated skillet handle!

Add the rosemary and black pepper to the drippings and cook for a minute to release the aromatic oil from the peppercorns. Pour in half a can (6 oz) of stout beer and stir the pan vigorously to deglaze any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet.  Cook for 5-7 minutes until volume reduces by half.  Discard rosemary sprig and adjust salt to taste.

Serve stout reduction over sliced beef, or alongside in sauce pot.

Note:  Some brands of stout may be on the bitter/hoppy side.  If you find your sauce has more bitterness than you like, you can add a small amount of dark honey or molasses to correct the bitterness.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Quick Petite Tender Steaks

For a weeknight dinner, it’s hard to beat a petite tender steak.  Along with the simple luxury of sitting down to a sizzling hot steak for dinner, petite tenders are only 4-5 oz in weight and cook up quickly in a pan with little added prep time.  There’s no need to fuss with searing a hulking 16 oz ribeye on the stove, only to later finish it in the oven.  As an added bonus, it is easy to whip up a simple side dish in the skillet while the steaks rest on the plates.
Scottish Highland Petite Tender Steak
As delicious as they are, petite tenders are not often seen in grocery stores.  Trimming these steaks takes a butcher's time and finesse to extract from the chuck primal.  Much like the popular flat iron steak, the petite tender is taken from the shoulder of the cow (the flat iron actually sits right above it).  By working with small, independent butchers, North Woods Ranch is able to offer this unique steak.  For any steak lover this petite tender is a cut worth trying.

Before cooking the steaks, they should be removed them from the fridge for about 20 minutes to help take off the chill.  I use this time to begin preparing a side dish.  Start by chopping up a small onion, some mushrooms, and 4-5 stalks of Swiss chard.  Saute the onion and the stalks of the Swiss chard until the onion turns translucent, then add the mushrooms and the sliced leaves of the chard.  Cook down until the chard leaves are wilted and the mushrooms begin to brown around the edges, about 5 minutes.  
Next it's time to fire the steaks.  Put the sautéed vegetables aside and heat the pan up to high for the petite tender steaks.  The steaks should be cooked very quickly, so a hot pan is very important. Make sure there is a bit of oil or ghee in the pan (the fat will shimmer in the pan when it is very hot).  Season the steaks on both sides with salt and cook about 2-2.5 minutes per side.
Since the petite tender is cut out of the shoulder, it should be served in the range of rare-to-barely medium to avoid a dry and tough texture.  I like to aim for medium rare.  After searing, remove the steaks from the pan and cover to keep them warm.  Let the steaks rest for 5 minutes so the juices can redistribute within the steaks.
North Woods Ranch Petite Tender Steak
To finish the steaks, I garnished them with a mixture of cream and whole grain mustard.  Pouring the cream/mustard mixture into the skillet helps to deglaze the pan and infuses the cream with a rich, savory flavor from the beef drippings.  Then pile up a mound of vegetables, place the petite tender off on one side, and garnish with the cream sauce.  A deluxe, one-skillet dinner in 30 minutes!

Recipe at a Glance:
2 Petite Tender Steaks
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

1 small onion, sliced
4 ounces mushrooms (here I used shiitake), sliced
Small bunch of Swiss Chard (about 4-5 stalks)
Oil or Ghee to cook

Remove the leaves from the stalks of chard.  Slice the leaves into strips and cut the stalks into small 1/4" pieces.  Heat some oil or ghee in a skillet and saute the onion and chard stems.  Cook until the onions turn translucent, then add the mushrooms and the leaves of the chard.  I like to cut everything into strips, so there's a weave of vegetables all twisted together, creating a bed for the steak.  Season everything with salt and pepper, and cook until the leaves have softened and the mushrooms are beginning to brown.

Set vegetables aside on a warm plate.  Wipe out the pan and add fresh oil or ghee.  Heat pan to high.  Season steaks on both sides with salt and sear in the hot pan.  Cook to your desired degree of doneness, then remove and place on a plate covered with foil to keep warm.  While the steaks rest, whisk cream and mustard into pan, lowering heat to medium.  Scrape up browned bits from bottom of pan, stirring all the time.  Taste the sauce and adjust for salt or pepper if needed.

Put half of the vegetable mixture on each plate, then place a steak on one side of the vegetables.  Top with mustard cream sauce and serve.