Thursday, September 5, 2013

Taste-Tested

This summer we taste-tested our way through pounds and pounds of local, mostly grass-fed, bacon, chicken, and beef and bison. Our farmers markets supplied most of the tasty beasts, and we came to some interesting conclusions. While it was great tasting these locally and humanely raised meats, it was even better knowing that we were supporting our local farmers.

Our favorite bacon comes from Prairie Pride. I could polish off a package of their apple-cinnamon, naturally aged, nitrate-free bacon in one meal. I certainly have tried, but the sweet-salty-pork-goodness-frying-smell wafting through our house always wakes T and he heads for the kitchen to join me eating the sizzling hot slabs right out of the pan.

A friend turned me on to Otis Family Farm. She swears by their lamb. Otis usually has a walk-through stand on Saturday mornings at St. Paul's Farmers Market, and we've tried their bacon (very very good, and comes in both thick and regular slices), chicken (breast, thighs, and wings), steaks (several styles), and ground beef. Otis produced the best chicken and steaks we ate all summer (Although I do love those Amish chickens from Kowalski's. They come from Ohio so don't count as local, otherwise they'd be easy winners in the chicken category. I especially appreciate the option of purchasing just the "drummies" for wings).

True Embarrassing Confession: a few years back I asked someone from Eichten's Hidden Acres bison farm about the buffalo they milked to produce such great mozzarella. The polite farmer had to fight his laughter as he gently explained to me that bison are not dairy cows. "They have milk, but I'd like to see you try and milk them. You'd lose your arm, probably your life." He kind of sputtered as he stifled a snicker. Since that moment of enlightenment I've learned to google my farming inquiries. Since that moment I've also been bringing an increasing number of bison products into our kitchen. Eichten's was our favorite local grass-fed ground beef (technically bison but still our winner) this summer, and since we discovered that fact I've also purchased their flank steak (another favorite) and various other cuts.

We've been so busy tasting ground beef that we haven't had enough time to test non-bacon pork products. Thankfully there is still time left in the season to taste all of the roasts, ribs, and chops available from our local pig farmers. Meanwhile, check out my recipe for a burger that mimics a stuffed pepper crossed with a Juicy Lucy. I make them using Eichten's ground bison, but you can use your favorite ground meat. I feature these burgers over at Called to the Table today.




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