Meaty Minestrone Soup

 

Meaty Minestrone

I know I have been promising this soup recipe for some time now, and since many of us are still experiencing winter weather, I decided it is still relevant for the season!

This is a great way to use your homemade bone broth. It is loaded with lots of delicious vegetables and the combination of grass-fed beef and pastured pork sausage makes it very hearty. So hurry up and make some today before the weather gets warm again!

Meaty Minestrone

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound of grass-fed beef
½ lb of sausage (I used homemade Italian sausage : Pap-Pap’s Italian Sausage made with pastured pork)
3 cups of mushrooms (I used baby bellas, cut in half)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 TBS olive oil
6 cups of homemade bone broth (I used a pork and chicken combination)
5 small potatoes, chopped small
8 carrots, chopped small
1 can of organic diced tomatoes
½ can of organic tomato paste
1 cup of sun-dried or oven-dried tomatoes
2 cups of organic spinach (or other greens)
1 TBS of red wine vinegar
1 TBS Beau Monde seasoning
1TBS dried sage
salt and pepper to taste

METHOD: Sautee the beef, sausage, mushrooms and garlic in olive oil until the meat is browned and the mushroom are a little soft. Salt to taste before adding to the broth. Meanwhile, in a soup pot, bring broth to boiling and cook the potatoes and carrots for about 15 minutes. Add the beef and sausage mixture to the pot. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste and sun dried tomatoes and let cook for about 10-15 minutes. Then add the greens, red wine vinegar and seasonings. Cook another 5 -10 minutes, until flavors are incorporated and greens have wilted. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serves 8-10

Our Yearly Ritual and Making Pap-pap’s Italian Sausage with Pastured Pork!

I apologize for my extended absence these past few months. It was not an intentional blog break and I am not sure that it is over yet, either. But today I felt inspired to share with you an activity that has become a favorite family tradition for us over the past few years. This activity really kicks of the holiday season for us. It is food focused and a time for celebration with good friends.

It all started 3 years ago when we met a pair of young farmers at our local farmers market. They were growing food on a small diversified farm and had some options for meat shares. We liked the idea of buying a whole animal and then stocking our freezer with healthy meat. This is when I met Cole Ward, The Gourmet Butcher. He was doing a workshop on breaking down lambs and so Roberto and I decided to take the course using the lamb we bought from the farmers.

I have talked about Cole in the past, but I don’t think enough can ever be said about him. Over the years he has become a great teacher to Roberto and I, but those he has taught probably number in the hundreds. He has an immense wealth of knowledge being in the business of butchering for over 50 years. He has such a passion for his art and for teaching others the little known skills of breaking animals down into primal and gourmet or retail cuts. He believes in small local farms and farmers that raise animals who get plenty of sunshine, and exercise and are fed without antibiotics, GMOs and hormones.

At that first workshop with Cole, Roberto and I first met our very dear friends Corey and Kurt. We hit it off immediately – foodies can pick each other out of a crowd! Since that day 3 years ago, we have been cooking and eating delicious food with these guys and having a great time. We all care deeply about where our food comes from, and supporting local farmers and we love to cook, have fun in the kitchen and do foodie projects together.

So for the past two years we have bought a whole pig with them and have brought Cole back each time to help us break it down. After several hours breaking down the pig, we all sit down to an amazing lunch prepared with some of our fresh pork, drink some wine and share stories. Then the next day we get together again and spend the day making various kinds of sausage. Each year we experiment with different kinds so that in 10 years or so we’ll know exactly which ones to make! We grind the meat and fat, mix in giant quantities of spices (that usually cause sneezing fits), drink wine and just laugh together. Sometimes there is even dancing to German Oompah music! Or hog casing jump rope.

This year though we made the best Breakfast Sausage yet and made for the second year in a row the same Italian Sausage (my grandfather’s recipe) and Smoked Kielbasa recipe. Those I will share with you today, in a lazy sort of manner. But I just want to say, I love this yearly ritual. It is a great time to catch up with friends, be thankful not only for the friendships but sharing this task together. We talk about food and work together on something that truly has meaning. It is a way to support local farmers who are raising animals humanely and healthy. It supports your local economy and rewards people who are doing things the right way. It harkens back to the days when butchering an animal for food was a communal thing, something to be celebrated and respected. It is something I recommend to anyone that eats meat to try at least once. Maybe you’ll end up loving it as much as we do and will make it a yearly tradition of your own.

If you are interested in learning how to butcher an animal, Cole is the best in the business. If you can’t make it to a live workshop he has an amazing DVD series that goes through all the steps for various animals: beef, pork and lamb. Then he and his friend the amazing Chef Courtney Contos create delicious recipes with those cuts. He also has a blog  and a facebook page  both of which are full of lots of wisdom, tips and recipes.

These are the books we use to make sausages:

Home Sausage Making: How-To Techniques for Making and Enjoying 125 Sausages at Home

Mastering the Craft of Making Sausage

RECIPES:

Pap Pap’s Italian Sausage

Ingredients for each pound of pork/fat mixture. For sausage your meat should contain 30% fat:

1 level tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 TBL fennel seed
pinch of cayenne pepper

METHOD: Knead well until thoroughly mixed. Sausage can be eaten right away but tastes better if it sits in the fridge for 24 hours for flavors to marry. Store in fridge or separate into smaller packages and freeze.

********************************************************

Best Breakfast Sausage

****************************************************************

Smoked Kielbasa

 

Black Pudding Stew and Bannocks

 

January is a big month for those of us with Scottish heritage. We start the month off with the celebration of Hogmany or Scottish New Year. This tradition comes from the intermixing between the Norse and the Scottish in Scotland. The 12 Days of Christmas, actually comes from the original 12 days of Yule , and Hogmany is the end of that celebratory time, as the new Gregorian year was rung in.

Then January 25th is Burn’s Night when Scots and those of Scottish ancestry the world over celebrate the life and poetry of Robert Burns by celebrating Burns Night and hosting a Burns Supper. I hosted my first proper Burns Supper in a long time last year and plan to do it again this year.

So in the meantime I would like to share with you this dish inspired by one of my favorite foods that I don’t get a chance to eat very often- black pudding, or blood pudding/sausage. I know a lot of you are probably gagging right now. But blood pudding is truly a sacred food. As the name implies it is made from the blood of a slaughtered animal. Usually sheep, sometimes pigs but it can also be made from cattle, duck and goat. This food really exemplifies nose to tail eating and as a farmer, I believe in using the entire animal, and that includes its blood. I have not had a chance to make it yet, but I do plan to in the future.

I must admit, the first time I had black pudding, I didn’t know what it was. I think that helped my taste buds truly enjoy it without thinking that I was supposed to think it was gross. I am so glad no one told me and just let me enjoy it.

The making of blood sausage is common the world over and can be found in nearly every culture. Generally it is made of the blood, some kind of fat and fillers depending on the culture – in France it is known as Boudin Noir, made with chestnut flour and cream, it was made on the Navajo reservation where I lived, prepared by the women with blue cornmeal, in Norway I ate Blodpølse as part of Christmas Eve traditional fare where it is served with other cured meats and Rømmegrøt. So although it might not be very popular in certain places and have a high “yuck” factor among many, it is part of the traditional diet of probably all of our ancestors and to be respected.

Last year when I ordered my Haggis from Scottish Gourmet USA for our Burns Supper, I also bought some of their black pudding or Marag Dubh. It can be eaten fried up for breakfast and served with eggs, or used in dishes, like this stew I made with beans and mushrooms, creating a wonderfully flavorful dish with a certain je ne sais quoi coming from the addition of the black pudding. It is just like anchovies in Italian Puttanesca sauce, if you don’t tell people it is in there, they will love it, licking their dish, while swearing how much they hate anchovies.

I served the stew with another traditional Scottish favorite, gluten free Oat Bannocks to sop up all the delicious sauce.

Open your mind and be adventurous this new year! Join us for a Burns Night celebration and try some black pudding!

Black Pudding Stew

INGREDIENTS:

2 TBS of butter
2 slices of bacon
¼ large onion diced
1 clove garlic
½ cup re-constituted dried mushrooms (save the water)
½ lb black pudding, crumbled
¼ cup red wine
½ cup mushroom water
1 TBS Flowers of Scotland
¾ lb Christmas Limas, cooked
1 cooked potato diced

METHOD:

Be sure to cook your potato and beans ahead of time. Melt the butter in a hot skillet (preferably cast iron). Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook with the onion, garlic, mushrooms and black pudding. Once the bacon is browned and the onions soft, add the wine, mushroom water and cooked beans. Simmer on low for 25 minutes over low heat, covered. Take off lid and add the flowers of Scotland and cubed potatoes. Reduce liquid until the stew is nice and thick. Serve with bannocks. Serves 4.

Bannocks

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup GF oat flour
½ cup coconut flour
¼ cup tapioca flour/starch
¼ tsp salt
2/3 cup of yogurt/kefir/buttermilk
1 egg
2 tsp baking powder

METHOD:

Mix first 5 ingredients together and allow to sit on the countertop for 8 hours, or overnight. Next day place it in a food processor and add the rest of the ingredients, pulsing until the dough is nice and crumbly. Preheat oven to 400F.
On a floured surface press dough into an eight-inch circle about ¾ inch thick. Bake at 400F for 12- 15 minutes. Serves 6-8.

Bringing Home the Sausage, Part 2

Delicious Maple Smoked Bacon and Pork Loin

 

Before I get to the “meat” of my post, I want to give a great big THANK YOU to Rachel and the team from ThriftCultureNow.com for featuring me and this blog, as the Thrifty Blogger of the Week . You can follow them on facebook and get their Thrifty Tip of the day, on their facebook page I have to hand it to Rachel for painting me, the blog and our lifestyle in such a wonderful way. So please check out the article, and their website for more great info!

 

So last week, I shared with you a comprehensive post about breaking down a whole pig into useable parts, the genius of my friend Cole Ward, The Gourmet Butcher (who was also nice enough to give me a shout out on his blog, recently) and the making of fresh sausages.

 

This week in my Value Added Products class at Sterling College, our instructor, Chef Anne Obelnicki showed us about the art of curing, fermenting and smoking meats. We pretty much used up the rest of the pig yesterday. It was a long day – 10 hours of standing, cutting, simmering, mixing, grinding and stuffing in a hot and humid kitchen. I totally lost count of how many times I washed my hands in the first 5 minutes.  When I got home around 7, Roberto had dinner ready. I scarfed it down and went to bed shortly after. Dealing with a whole animal, even when you break it up into two days, is hard work, but it is also FUN. You get such a huge feeling of accomplishment from the whole process! Plus it is really fun working with a few other people feverishly to get it all done!

 

 

Yesterday we hot smoked the maple bacon and brined pork loins we started curing last week. We also smoked the hocks and the bones. Nothing on this pig went to waste. We trimmed the jowls to start curing guanciale and used the second shoulder to make fermented sausages – spicy sopressata and hunter’s loop. We also made another brine for the 2 hams – we injected the brine first and then placed the hams in the leftover brine to continue curing. These products will have to ferment and cure for several weeks, so I am not sure I will be able to taste the outcome. But the preparation was an education in and of itself, and has led to a lot more questions for me, mainly about the use of nitrites.

 

“Pink Salt”, spice blend for spicy sopressata and wood chips soaking

 

I guess it is a good thing that I don’t want to make sausages for a living, as Roberto and I have been avoiding foods with nitrites for several years now. I did a lot of reading this week about charcuterie, and it seems that if you are going to age anything that will not be cooked at some point, nitrites are used.  For example, you don’t need nitrites to cure bacon, since that will be hot smoked once it has cured. But you do use nitrites to make salami, sopressata and various other cured meats that will not be cooked.

 

Apparently nitrites are naturally occurring and can be found in dirt, rocks, etc as well in an abundance of vegetables, most notably beets and celery, which is what some producers of cured meats use in the place of “pink salt” ( “pink salt” is salt mixed with a smaller amount of powdered nitrites that is dyed pink so that you don’t sprinkle it on your eggs by mistake) when curing.  So even “Nitrate Free” foods still contain nitrites, even if it is just in the form of celery juice, because nitrites are naturally occurring.

 

Nitrites do two things when curing – preserves the food and contributes to aesthetics – namely color and taste. It reacts in the meat to form nitric oxide which retards rancidity and suppresses the growth of harmful bacteria, like the ones that cause botulism. However, nitrites react with amino acids in our digestive tract to create nitrosamines, known DNA-damaging chemicals.  Not only that, but you know it is harmful when it is suggested to use gloves when working with “pink salt” and other forms of curing salt. Yes, it is supposed to convert to something less harmful through the aging process, but can something like that ever be truly safe?

 

According to Harold McGee, the author of famed book : On Food and Cooking, The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, “…yet at present there is no clear evidence that the nitrites in cured meats increase the risk of developing cancer…” yet he also exclaims in the same book when comparing the difference in taste between grass and grain-fed beef that “another important contributor to grass-fed flavor is skatole, which on its own smells like manure!” and also, “the saturated fats typical of meats raise blood cholesterol levels and can contribute to heart disease”. So personally, I think I will take his lax attitude towards nitrites with a grain of sea salt.

 

This issue of nitrites is something I definitely need to explore more. Like, is there a difference between naturally occurring nitrites, like celery juice and sodium nitrite which is added to many processed foods.  Luckily we don’t eat much cured meat or any processed foods.  Just bacon once a week…and our favorite prosciutto – Prosciutto di Parma which I also learned in the Harold McGee book,  is cured with sea salt not nitrites.

 

But the fact that an old and revered food art, like charcuterie has a long use of nitrites in its history is a little disheartening and I was pretty bummed to learn about it. I guess you can’t assume just because it is a traditional art, or because it is “natural” it is good for you.  I guess in the case of cured meats, it is the lesser of two evils – botulism or nitrites? I am not sure I like the odds.

 

If you have more information about nitrites, the differences (or NOT) between naturally occurring and things like “pink salt”, I want to hear about it! So please leave a comment.