State of the Farm

Jolie Vue Farms - Wild Texas grass

The pleasures of farming easily outweigh the pains and that’s what keeps us going. One of the tenets of our beginnings was this - let’s make it pretty. And it is, especially in those years when we get particularly lucky and everything goes just as it is hoped and planned.

Humankind has created great works of art but from my point of view, we have never reached the sheer beauty of nature at her best. Her splendor touches our soul.
 
That’s art in its highest form, folks!  We’re living large here, folks!

Fall’s Work Is Done

The many hours, days and weeks spent on the tractor preparing and planting our winter pasture is now behind us and we plus the beeves and pigs wait for our chance to enjoy it. Planting is a tedious, labor-intensive business done in three stages and it is more expensive than the easy way out — buy a bunch of hay and put it out as needed. And our good streak continued when we registered 1.6 inches of rain in less than a week after planting. The rye and oats are jumping out of the ground and reaching for the sun.

The livestock will be rewarded by having fresh green forage all through the fall and winter and we are rewarded by watching the smiles on their faces as they grow grass-fat. Plus, it’s the pretty factor again. When the bright green contrasts with the yellows and browns as the sun goes down, we admire the scene from the porch and say, yes, it was worth the effort. Life is good on the farm.

My Quarterly Price Survey

I was surprised 3 months ago when I found $9/lb grass-fed ground beef. This quarter, it just went higher, $10.49/lb at Whole Foods. Their top steak, a NY Strip, was priced at $22.99/lb. Mind you, Ribeye and Tenderloin go higher when they have it. And the beef is not quite “local” - all coming in from New Zealand. Other cuts such as cutlets, flank steak and roasts fall in the middle of those prices. So on average, getting all of the cuts found in your cooler would cost $16.74/lb for New Zealand beef or approximately $335. JVF cost: 13.45/lb, delivered to your door.

Lamb

We have gotten our experimental lamb back - it was delicious and we think our lamb customers will be very pleased with the packages we will be offering. BUT, we have run into an unexpected obstacle . Our processing house and all of the processing houses are extremely busy this time of year. There is a bottleneck caused by the confluence of county fairs increasing the livestock coming in from the 4H auctions, deer season is in swing, and Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year celebrations increasing demand for the processors’ facility. We think we will work through this, but it may require us to push our lamb offering to Easter rather than the end of year holidays. We will keep you up to date as we work through the issue.

That caution being expressed, In the belief that we will have lamb packages to offer for our coming December/January holy days, I have begun trying some approaches to the cooking of lamb. I started with lamb chops and found this recipe at the allrecipes.com site. It is called brown sugar chops. The brown sugar label attracted me, knowing that it would put a nice and delicious crust on the meat whether grilled or in a skillet.

First make your dry rub marinade, consisting of:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon each of ground ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, and garlic
  • 2 teaspoons dried tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

(a confession: I cut ginger down from 2 t. to 1 because I have had bad experiences with ginger being so dominant it tastes like soap. Add it back if that is not your concern.)

Mix the ingredients together. Place all sides of each chop in the rub so that it is covered. It helps if the chops have been brought near to room temperature so that moisture has started to form, allowing the seasonings to attach to the meat.

When all chops are dredged in the seasonings, place in refrigerator and cover for an hour, allowing the seasonings to penetrate. 

Ready to cook? Warm your grill or skillet up to medium-high heat. Brush the grill or skillet with oil to avoid sticking, give the chops 5 minutes on each side for medium rare, more if you prefer them medium or well. But it must be a hot grill or skillet in order to get the crustiness you need for the brown sugar.

Enjoy! Really delicious.

A note to those who prefer less of the gamey taste of lamb: the more done the meat is, the less gamey it is. Medium-well chops are still tasty, but with less and less gaminess as they cook further. I like gamey, Honi doesn’t so much. But I’ve been eating wild duck and venison all my life so my palate developed a receptiveness to it. So, experiment to suit your taste.
 

The Big Fat Hen

I have nothing less than extravagant praise for the chicken raised by Jill and her boys at Jolly Farms in Santa Fe (Texas, that is). They have solved all of the many problems confronting those who have tried to raise free range chickens year round. They do it better than our several tried and failed chicken partners - and not by just a little bit. The product is just delicious while avoiding ALL of the negatives that come with industrial chicken.

After consuming the breasts, wings, legs and thighs, you will end up with a carcass that has some meat clinging to it. What signal does that give you? It’s bone broth time! Third child John Henry has come up with additions to our broth recipe (see the recipe section on our website) that adds zestiness to the result. Here goes.

For a gallon and a half of water, add the carcass plus the ingredients listed in our recipe section, and these additions á la John Henry:

  • 2 inches of whole ginger cut into 3 equal chunks, and
  • 2 whole lemons, cut in half with the skin on

Follow the rules for broth making - always a long, slow simmer to produce a pretty, clear broth. I like 24 hours but it doesn’t have to be so long. 6 hours will do and in a pinch, 3 hours will produce enjoyable results.

How to eat it: strip the remaining meat from the carcass and add it back along with your choice of vegs and a starch if you like; drink it straight from the pot; use it to make rice or pasta; or any combination of the above.

HoniAnn and I make 4 dinners from the one 4 lb. hen grown by Jolly. That’s not only great eating but also a wasteless and therefore frugal use of your package.
 

State of the Farm

Ridiculous! The only way to state this banner year for grass (“it’s what we do”) is truly “ridiculous”. We have never seen such abundance in our primary crop as we have this year. Makes us sort of keep looking over our shoulder wondering if some calamity is on the way to offset the largesse we find sitting in our lap, a lap of grass luxury. So how did this happen and is it repeatable?

First, how did it happen? It started with a decision to under-graze our seven pastures and eight pig paddocks in the spring. The goal was to maximize our chance of having good ground cover when we reached the hotter, dryer periods of the summer. This wasn’t a new goal - we are always taking steps toward that goal. The difference this year is that we took it to the extreme. We were leaving ungrazed grass behind on our rotations to new pastures, and that was the extension of our normal process. So instead of “no cow gets her second bite”, it became “no cow gets her first bite every time”. That meant leaving grass behind that had not been touched. And that meant more protection of the soil, which in turn resulted in more growth. How’s that? Soil protection from heat and the preservation of moisture therein results in healthier, ever-growing grasses. Even as the rain was drying up, we could feel that softness in the soil that tells us that moisture is being stored.

Is it repeatable? Well, longer term predictions in the agriculture business is a risky thing. Each year brings differing issues, especially in a climate that is more volatile than any we have known over 28 years of taking a shot at predictions. But the theory is sound, so we will stay with it so long as there is a chance that we call it correctly.

For this year, it has been heaven-sent. We literally have grasses that are reaching chest-high in September and so thick that I have had to slow the tractor down by 2 gears and increase RPMs by 300 revs just to do mowing in the pastures that are set aside for winter planting. And the tractor still bogs down at times trying to get through the abundance.

Besides benefitting the harvesters (cows and pigs), this abundance has even more value to the payers (Honi and Glen). If the fall weather holds up, warm weather grasses will feed the eaters well into the end of the year. That translates into less planting of winter pasture, saving us tractor time and seed cost. We might even make a profit this year!

We’re living large here, folks!

French Chicken

I got a tantalizing article from one of you (thanks, Trish) about the joys of eating chicken in France where the caged chicken does exist but is largely spurned in favor of free range chicken roasted on an outdoor rotisserie. Made me want to fly straight to France to eat a chicken. The taste and succulence of a properly raised bird cooked on a rotisserie is the right way to eat, but you cannot underestimate the contribution of a rotisserie cooking method to enhance any chicken. We take one of our fine Jolly Farms chickens, put it in our handy-dandy countertop, electric rotisserie, let it rotate for a bit over an hour, and I assure you, this makes a great tasting and juicy chicken. The rotisserie is not terribly expensive and you will never go back once you try it. Jolly does such a fine job of raising chicken and the rotisserie finishes the job. My hat’s off to both, but I still want one of those French chickens. 

Pre-Salted Beef

We put forth my son’s accidental discovery of the benefits of salted beef left in the refrigerator to settle for 3 days. We were so impressed by the result in our own experiment that we added the step with our butcher. Specifically, we instructed that he salt the steaks immediately after cutting them and before packaging. I picked up one NY Strip in its hard frozen state on my way back to Houston on Friday to test the result. Arriving in Houston at 3 pm., I set the steak on our counter to partially thaw in order to re-start the process of salt osmosis; that is, when it had only a slightly frozen area in the middle of the steak but still cold thawed areas, I then put it into the refrigerator to thaw completely at a 34 degree temperature.

Sunday noon, the test began. After removing the package and leaving the steak on the counter for 30 minutes to bring it to room temperature, I cooked the steak in a medium high iron skillet, the bottom of which was coated lightly in olive oil and butter. In went the NY Strip for 4 minutes while the down side was developing a nice sear; when that happened, I flipped the steak, poured in just a bit of water, covered the skillet with my dutch oven lid, and removed it from the fire. It sat for another 7 minutes and I ate it. Clearly more tender, clearly even more flavor. Total time from the partial thaw on Friday to the skillet on Sunday: 45.5 hours. Had we had it for dinner instead of lunch, it would have added about 6 hours to the process. My guess is it would only get better with the added time.

So let’s review how this can be. I had heard years ago that allowing salt to sit on a steak started a process whereby the salt penetrated the muscle and turned the tendons within into liquid form. That explains the added tenderness. What about added flavor? my guess is this - we know that the tendons are pure protein so they are going to have a protein flavor. But that is not perceived when they are in their hard, tough form. It is only when they liquefy in reaction to the salt that taste and additional juices are released.

Please let us know if you have the same experience with our meats marked with “Himalayan Salt”. You can find me at glenboudreaux85@gmail.com. Thank you all from the Boudreauxs and the entire crew at JVF.  Our very best regards to and gratitude for you. You make it happen for us.