Monday, October 06, 2008

Eating Local Beef

Mark and I went on a little adventure a few weeks ago that I am just now having time to write about. We drove up to Lake County to pick our ¼ of an all natural pasture raised/ grass feed steer for our freezer.
After reading Omnivore’s Dilemma this summer, I’ve been unable and unwilling to eat any beef without knowing exactly where it came from. I hate the idea of supporting feed lot practices in any way. This has seriously reduced the amount of beef that I’ve been eating to just about none. While perusing Craigslist, I came upon an ad for all natural grass fed beef and since Mark and I already own a chest freezer to store it in we thought it might be worth exploring further.
I called up the Rancher Eric and he told me that he would have a Steer ready to process in about 2-3 weeks. The grass fed steers are really lean and a lot smaller than grain fed. The cost was $3 per pound on the hoof and ¼ steer would be around 125 lbs. Mark and I decided we would give it a try, and a few weeks later Eric called back to see what cuts of meat we wanted. Since I have never ordered meat this way, I was not quite sure what to ask for. He kindly went over all of the different cuts with me and told me that it would dry age for 18 days and then he would be individually wrapping it and freezing it.

About 2 months after ordering it (slow food) we got a call that it was ready to pick up. The directions to Eric’s house involved miles of dirt road and I was excited to see where our steer had grown up. It was a beautiful drive about an hour from home. The area was once volcanic and there is obsidian rock scattered all over the road. We met Eric, his wife Nora and 4 of their 6 kids. They had quite the menagerie of animals, cats, dogs, chickens, running around their yard. I felt instantly at ease since it reminded me of my house. Eric told us a little about his history, he used to be a Sherriff, but had to retire after an injury. He had worked as a butcher as a teenager and decided to go into ranching. He took us down to the pasture where his grazing cattle live. The grass was starting to dry out, but I was surprised at how tall it was and how green some still was despite the hot weather. I asked where they get their water from and he explained that there is a stream running thru the pasture area. They actually have 1100 acres they can roam around on. We stopped by a farm stand on the way home and I bought a box of the most gorgeous Okra EVER to pickle (see Okra Pickles post). It was a great trip and Mark and I have enough meat to last all winter and spring. I’ve made some steaks and used some hamburger in meat sauce (we have over 20 lbs bags of it). So far so good. The meat is so lean that there is almost no fat in the pan when cooking. I am looking forward to coming up with some fun and creative recipes for all of it.