Ladies and Gentlemen:

Today, I got my pig. Well… WE got OUR pig. Part of it anyway. There was a mix up at the butcher, so I’m still minus ham, and ham steaks, and ALL THE BACON… but we’ll fix that soon enough.

Spareribs, baby back ribs, tenderloin, pork roasts, chops, shoulder steaks, sweet Italian sausage… I honestly cannot WAIT to try out all the recipes swirling around my head.

So, our visit to ION Farms in Nanjemoy was awesome! Lee and Tasha are super cool people who treat their animals a lot like pets. I got to meet a bunch of them, including the new breeding piglets. They’re all little redheads… good thing I didn’t meet this cuteness FIRST, I couldn’t stand it.

Look! Ginger piglets!

Goats, cows, chickens, guineafowl, rabbits, a mama cat and her kittens… Lee and Tasha have a cross between a menagerie and a petting zoo. As Lee puts it “we know the eventual purpose of these animals, but that doesn’t stop us from treating them like pets and spoiling them while we have them.” It sure shows too, as the animals are all just so calm, relaxed, and happy. Honestly, there isn’t a single iota of stress that shows on these animals. Also, they invite any of their customers to come and visit, see the animals, view their environment and their feed. It’s so refreshing to meet food producers with no secrets, no agenda, just the desire to bring wholesome delicious food from the farm to the table. You can read a bit about ION Farm at Eat Wild. Contact them, go see them, and enjoy your visit to the country. You’ll be impressed, I promise.

I realize also that I owe you a recipe for my ham with cabbage, apples, and carrot. So here goes… I took three organic carrots, peeled and cut them into rounds. I also peeled, cored, and diced three apples (one red delicious, one empire, and one granny smith since that’s what I had on hand). I heated up some bacon grease, and put the carrots and apples in there with some salt to let them soften. I cut half a medium cabbage into strips, and set them aside. When the carrots and apples just start to soften, I removed them, and laid the section of ham into the skillet. I laid the cabbage strips over the ham, spooned the apples and carrots on top, and then poured in enough organic apple cider to have the liquid come halfway up the sides of my deep skillet. I added a grating of black pepper and popping on the lid, I put the entire shebang into the oven at 350 degrees. I let the dish cook for a while, the liquid braising that cabbage until tender and luscious.

SO SO SO good! The apple cider, salt, and pepper added enough warmth and a hint of a spicy flavor that I didn’t need anything else. The carrots were sweet, the apples gave a tartness, and the cabbage just tasted earthy and had soaked up so much ham flavor it was incredible. It was also the perfect foil to my kale and ham hocks. The best news? There were enough leftovers that Mads and the Boy had some with mac and cheese for dinner tonight while Spouse and I went pig fetching.

OH! And in geek news, I got to help a fellow foodie @glutenfreefreak on tips to clean leeks! Look for her on Twitter and give her a follow. She’s the BOMB when it comes to gluten-free food finds. Oh, and feel free to follow me too, (@stacyo513) even though I tweet more about sports than food it seems.

Another work day awaits tomorrow, but you can believe I’ll be SO unproductive as I’m dreaming of ways to cook pork!

It’s all about Fall, y’all…

Saturday marketing has changed slightly now that the fall weather has really set in. Today’s haul included kale, apples, bacon, cheese, onions, broccoli, and salad mix.

I am already planning a full day of cooking tomorrow. I may end up putting BOTH crock pots to work since I have a craving for the kale, and I have a head of cabbage I want to get cooked up. I also have sweet dumpling squash that are so beautiful I’m not sure I want to cook them! Look at these pretty things:

It looks like a decoration, not something you’d eat. I hear they taste like sweet potatoes, so they should go beautifully with kale and ham.

Also, the apples…oh the apples! It’s that time of year and I have butternut squash in the freezer. I have been lusting for Ina Garten’s recipe for butternut squash and apple soup which you can find here. Definitely on the menu for sometime later this week.

We got carving pumpkins for Mads and the Boy… and also two sugar pumpkins that I’ll roast and put into the freezer. Those babies will make excellent pumpkin mousse/custard on Thanksgiving day. Or maybe, just maybe, pumpkin brulee? I can’t eat pie crust anyway, but I LOVE pumpkin pie. This may be just the ticket and will give me the chance to use the brulee torch my Spouse got me earlier this year.

Fall… my favorite season, and my favorite inspiration for all kinds of cooking. Warm spices, rich greens, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, and my slow cooker. What’s not to love?

OH and got word today that TUESDAY we pick up our pork. So at some point before then, I need to make sure I get the freezers re-organized to be able to fit it all in. Guess if I’m going to get it all done, I’d better get SOME sleep. Goodnight all!

Our little piggie is going to market!

Got a call this weekend from the man who may become my #1 most favorite here in the next few months… my pig man! He does have a name, (it’s Lee) and he is wonderful. I found his farm listing (ION Farm.. short for “It’s Only Natural”, isn’t that CUTE?) on Eat Wild. Lee and Tasha raise Heritage Tamworth hogs, letting them forage through the woods and finishing them on acorns. Tamworth is known as “the bacon hog” because of its’ long body.

Bacon. More bacon than normal. Let THAT sink in for a moment. Are you smiling? It’s BACON.

So because our hog is going to the butcher tomorrow, the spouse and I filled out our cut sheet, so that the butcher knows what cuts we are requesting. We are splitting the hog with another family, so each of us will end up with about 85 pounds of pork. With any luck, a third of that will be bacon. I kid! I kid! But really… bacon.

Having never done this before, Lee was amazing helping me through the process. When buying entire animals, you are quoted a price per pound. In this case, we are paying $4.75 per pound of pork. Hogs are sent to the butcher once they reach 250 pounds or so. The price to be paid however is on hanging weight. This is the weight of the animal after the butcher does his deal, removing the head and internal organs, etc. On average the hanging weight for a 250 pound hog will be about 164 pounds. So splitting with another family, each one of us gets about 82 pounds of pork. Paying $4.75 a pound for pasture raised, organically grown, no antibiotics, acorn finished pork is a STEAL. At my local Whole Foods I priced pork at well over $10 a pound.

Now do you see why Lee is at the top of my list?

We have also ordered a grass fed cow from a different farm. That is due to come in around the November time frame. SO glad we got another freezer! With our planning ahead, we should be set for the winter with the produce I’ve frozen and the fabulous meat we’ve ordered. Maybe I should host a dinner party and let some of my friends do a taste test on the “good” meat?

A lot of folks have asked, so here are my local sources for steroid free, antibiotic free, pasture raised, grass fed meat:
Pork: It’s Only Natural (ION) Farm, Lee and Tasha Anthony in Nanjemoy Maryland
Beef: Glen Mary Grass-fed Beef, Johnathan Schmidt in Park Hall Maryland
Chicken: Zekiah FarmI, David and Cindy Thorne in Bryantown Maryland

Visit these merchants, or order online from my non-local suppliers: US Wellness Meats, and TX Bar Organics. I guarantee that once you taste the flavor of organic pasture raised meats, you’ll NEVER want to buy from the grocery store again.

And until next time… BACON!

Wow, y’all really love your meat!

No surprise, my “Sexy Meat” post was the most popular in the ten days I’ve been blogging. It says a lot about my friends, that’s for sure!

In keeping with my “we ❤ our meat" theme, I want to talk a little bit about grass-fed beef, pasture raised pork, and free range chickens.

I had been happily purchasing meat from the grocery store (steaks and pork on those Styrofoam trays, ground beef in shrink wrapped cylinders) like most of America. I shopped for bargains, I bemoaned the cost of bacon, and I grabbed boneless skinless chicken breasts every time they were on sale. Oh how foolish I was.

I looked for a way to detox my system, to rid it of all the wheat and other things that had been wreaking havoc with my digestive system and I came across the Whole 30 and Paleo Diet plans. Basically, both plans eliminate grains, legumes, sugar, processed foods, dairy, and encourage the consumption of fresh, organic vegetables and fruits as well as free range eggs, and pasture raised (grass fed) meats. You can read more about the Paleo diet here, or here or here.

In researching the Paleo diet, I read a LOT about the way our meat animals are raised in most commercial operations. The cows we eat may be pasture animals when they are young, but once they reach a minimum weight they are transferred to feedlots where they cannot roam around, and instead stand there being fed a diet high in grains. This diet causes stress to the animal’s liver, and producers have to administer antibiotics as a routine course of action to prevent illness. I remember seeing feedlot cattle when I drove across California’s Central Valley region, and I can tell you, those “happy cows come from California” commercials could NOT be filmed there. Wikipedia has an article about feedlots, or do your own research. It isn’t pretty.

The same kinds of practices are in place for pigs. In fact one of the cruelest practices in the food industry is the use of gestation crates for sows. Many big companies including McDonald’s and just today, MEGA GIANT wholesaler Sysco announced it is no longer going to purchase pork from pigs raised in gestation crates. This isn’t just a victory for the pigs, it’s a victory for us as well.

You can see where this is going. Industrializing doesn’t exactly work with animals. You take the animal out of it’s natural state, give it cheap, poor quality food it isn’t used to eating, put it under stress, and heavily dose it with mega antibiotics to keep it from falling deathly ill… how healthy do you think that animal is really? How healthy is the meat that comes from that animal? Why would you feed it to your family? The meat from stressed animals is high in Omega 6 fatty acids. These fatty acids are indeed essential but an overabundance of them, especially in proportion to the preferred Omega 3s can have serious negative impact on our health.

Plus, it just skeeves me out to think of eating a sick animal. Really.

So I discovered the wonderful world of grass-fed and pasture raised meat and poultry. It didn’t take long before I realized what I had been missing. I had beef that tasted like BEEF. No seasoning needed except a little salt and pepper. How did I not realize that the meat I had been eating was all but tasteless? I had been compensating with seasonings, rubs, marinades, sauces, and the meat itself was nearly flavorless. The grass-fed beef was amazing. A steak tasted like STEAK. My husband made hamburger patties and added just a teeny bit of Old Bay to the burger mixture… I could have died and gone to heaven. Bacon, nitrite free and coming from pasture raised pork tasted like all that is good and right. I said goodbye to bacon that was mainly fat, very little meat, and mostly tasted like salt and fake smoke flavoring. Instead, breakfast became an almost religious experience….and it was GOOD for me. ALL HAIL THE BACON!

AND EGGS! Let us not forget the eggs. An egg from a free range, cage free chicken who is given high quality feed, and allowed to eat grass, and scratch for bugs, and eat what a chicken would eat in the wild is something to behold. The white is clear and thick, and the yolk is so dark yellow it is nearly orange. The taste is fresh, rich, not at all sulfuric, and anything you make with that egg is going to taste so much better. The next time you eat a pale yellow scrambled egg, rest assured that chicken did not have a happy chicken life.

I urge you to do the research yourself. Read articles like this one and this one. Then, either seek out a source for grass-fed, pasture raised meat and TRY it. One of the best local sources I have found is Eat Wild where you can find local sources in nearly every corner of the US. If it’s convenience you want, I can personally vouch for US Wellness Meats and Fossil Farms. I can guarantee you, your relationship with meat will NEVER be the same.

Feel free to drop me a comment letting me know where you get YOUR meat. I believe in sharing the tasty love!

By the way, I haven’t forgotten, tomorrow is Farmer’s Market Friday, and I’m going to celebrate by going to the Loveville Produce Auction. I’m not looking for pallets of food, but definitely in the mode to start looking for what I’m going to fill my freezer with. I’d like to have enough frozen produce this winter to stay away from the grocery stores. I admit that I’ve gotten spoiled, we’ve got incredible farmers here in Southern Maryland, and for that I am eternally grateful. I think I’ll base tomorrow’s articles and recipes on what I score at the auction. Only one guarantee: It won’t be cucumbers.

And it just might be meat.