Market Musings Blog

Notes from the Field – Hill & Vale Farm

Jay visits Hill & Vale 005Benjamin, one of our in-house butchers, and Jay, our West 7th meat & seafood manager, made the trip to Wykoff, MN to visit Joe & Bonnie Austin, the owners of Hill & Vale Farms. After their visit, Jay said, “We always knew that Joe and Bonnie cared about their animals but being able to talk to them face to face and see their farm really drove it home that they not only take great care of their animals, they also care deeply about their land.”

 

Wykoff MN map

Hill and Vale is a 380-acre farm in southeastern Minnesota that supplies food co-ops with beef and lamb. All of the animals are raised without the use of antibiotics or hormones. Their diet primarily includes pasture/hay, with grains added in the later growing and finishing process. Read more …

Adventurous Eating for Omnivores – Offal

Humans have eaten offal (the internal organs of slaughtered meat animals) throughout recorded history, but doing so fell out of fashion in this country following World War II, except among cooks and diners retaining traditional foodways. My Minnesota German mother and her siblings relished headcheese, blood sausage, and other foods that left my San Francisco-born sister and me faint. But we loved beef or calf liver and onions, chicken hearts and livers, and tongue sandwiches. In this, we were a minority. Only the most recent immigrants managed to keep the sale of tripe, pork intestines, kidneys, and chicken feet in somewhat lively commercial circulation, largely in their own communities’ meat markets.

nose to tale eatingAnd then, in 1999, the London chef Fergus Henderson published Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking, and the next thing you knew, every northern European and North American chef under forty, along with plenty of home cooks, rediscovered offal. And a good thing it was, because these formerly discarded odds-and-ends from the meat trade are inexpensive and very tasty.

At the same time, there’s no question that many of them are acquired tastes for those who didn’t start eating them young. Because organ meats are particularly strong in flavor, the easiest way to develop a taste for them is to take down their flavor a bit by first soaking them in lightly salted water; I’m thinking here most particularly of kidneys and liver.

Definitely the go-to offal meat for first timers is beef or calf’s liver. Fifty years ago, it made a weekly appearance on a majority of American dinner tables, accompanied by fried onions and/or bacon. Children either loved it or hated it, and most adults tucked into it with zest. Liver is very high in iron (and cholesterol), and it’s not something you want to eat daily, but it’s a terrific meat to try—low in cost (because low in demand), and because Mississippi Market’s beef liver comes from Thousand Hills’s pasture-raised cattle, it’s a powerhouse of nutrients and flavor, with less saturated fat than that from feedlot beef liver.

Calf’s liver is milder in flavor and slightly tenderer in texture, but beef liver is a better value. If this will be your first venture into cooking beef liver, here’s how to prepare it. If you’re feeling hesistant but committed, fry up some bacon along with the liver; the two complement each other beautifully.

Beef Liver for Those New to It
Soak the liver first, using 1 teaspoon of salt to 1 quart of water, for 1 hour. Pat the liver dry before searing it in a cast-iron skillet or a broiler. Beef liver and fried onions go together like salt and pepper, so be sure to include onions when you cook the liver.

Most people like to eat liver pink in the middle; the times given below are for medium-pink.

Ingredients:
1–2 slices of bacon (optional)*
¼–½ onion, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
Beef liver (4 oz. per serving)
* If you’re not using bacon, fry the onion and liver in mild olive oil.

1. In a cast-iron skillet, fry the bacon first on MEDIUM till it’s almost crisp; remove bacon slices to a side plate and cover to keep them warm. (You may want to chop the bacon up after it’s cooked.)
2. Fry the onion slices in the bacon fat until they soften and start to brown. Scrape them to the side of the skillet and add the liver.
3. Raise the heat to MEDIUM-HIGH, add salted and peppered, dried-off liver, and fry it on one side for about 2 minutes. When it’s nicely browned, turn it over and cook for 1 minute. Turn off the heat.
4. Put the bacon back in the pan and swab the slices or chopped pieces over the onions and liver. Remove the liver, onions, and bacon from the pan.
5. If you’re broiling: Broil the bacon first about 3” below the heat source, remove from broiler pan, then put onions, swabbed with olive oil, in broiler pan and cook until bubbly and slightly golden on each side. Salt and pepper the liver, then broil it for 1 minute per side; combine all ingredients off the broiler.
6. Serve with a simple side of greens (cooked spinach, chard, kale, &c., garlic, and red pepper flakes, finished with sherry vinegar or lemon juice).

Hey, cat lovers – Eat Local Month’s not just for humans

It’s not at all uncommon for people to pamper their pets, sometimes by way of treats, toys, special grooming, or young children (oh, I already said toys). Among these other ways, our cats are also pampered in their everyday food.   When we adopted a pair of sibling kittens just about a year ago, we did some research into what the healthiest and most natural food out there was (and one that would still fit into our budget).  It seemed clear to us that the way to go was to simply make our own raw meat cat food at home.

Cats are, by design, hunters—pull out a feather toy or laser pointer or watch them around a bug and you’re sure to see the instincts kick in—but their teeth and digestive tract are set up to process raw meat, and little else.  We read over and over that dry-only diets are the worst for cats, and are the leading cause of obesity and other health issues…because they simply didn’t evolve to eat such stuff.  Canned wet food is a step up, no doubt, but even the varieties we sell at Mississippi Market have filler and are bound to utilize meat scraps and some form of preservatives, and this highly processed mush doesn’t give a cat’s teeth the same cleaning that chewing into fresh meat does. We discovered that it’s really not difficult to make a simple, chicken-based chow that our kittens really enjoy.  And when I say ‘really’, I mean they complain quite vocally if we run out and substitute canned food instead.

Most ingredients for making your own cat food can be found at Mississippi Market.

Most ingredients for making your own cat food can be found at Mississippi Market.

The recipe we work from we found online at Cat Nutrition and it’s pretty simple, almost everything is available at Mississippi Market, and all of the meat and eggs are locally produced!

-Raw muscle, bone-in meat:  We usually use Kadejan or Schultz whole chickens.  We’ve also made a batch using a rabbit from LTD Farms, but that was some costly meat.  Dark meat is more nutritious than white meat, so adding in some leg quarters is wise.  Essential nutrients are found in bones, and if you don’t grind these in, additional dry supplements will be necessary.

-Organ meat: cats will usually eat their entire kill, and vital vitamins, minerals, and proteins are only found in certain organs.  US food laws only allow sale of whole animals after certain organs have been removed, so you’ll need to get some chicken hearts and livers to supplement; Kadajan also offers these, and can be found in the meat freezers or special ordered.  Our cat Porter really enjoys a plain heart as a treat, too!

-Egg yolks: we almost always buy Schultz eggs in bulk.

-Water: while cats will drink water from a bowl, much of their hydration should come from food (one reason the dry-only diet isn’t ideal).

Cat food #2

A meat grinder is necessary. We found one online for about $120, it works great & has uses for human food, too.

-A variety of vitamin and mineral supplements: since skin, hair, and many organs have been removed from the meat we grind, essential oils and other nutrients won’t be present in the above ingredients alone.  Of what the website lists, almost everything is either readily available in the Wellness section of our stores or can be special ordered.  I think the only part of this recipe we couldn’t buy at Mississippi Market was the glandular supplement, but this is relatively inexpensive to order online.

-Lastly, a meat grinder is necessary.  We bought a simple stand-alone unit (as in not a Kitchenaid attachment) for about $120 online, and it has worked flawlessly for us, bones and all, for the past year.

The recipe calls for mixing the yolks, water, and supplements into a slurry, which is then mixed in with all the ground up meat (we use a medium-size grind head).  When using whole birds, we remove the skin to cut excess fat out of the recipe when there’s white meat included….and this helps the grinder from getting clogged up.  I’ve had friends around during the process who’ve asked what I was making because it looked quite good.

Cat food #3

Need a reason to buy Talenti gelato? Their containers work great for reusable storage!

If you’re busy or don’t want to walk through the entire process multiple times a month, it’s simple stuff to store and freeze. We usually make a double batch of this recipe, and that’ll last us right about a month for our two still-young cats. And, what better reason to buy Talenti gelato? The sturdy plastic containers are excellent for re-using for storage (Heads-up – Talenti will be on sale for part of September! Perfect!) Each of these containers is about two days-worth of food for two cats, at two-servings a day.

After our first batch, we cost it out to see if it would be a cost-effective venture to keep up with. Not counting the grinder (which can be used for a plethora of other human-food tasks!) or Talenti, buying all the raw food and supplements works out to be about the same as buying a similar quantity of any of the cans of cat food we sell when they are on sale. And if you snag meat or supplements when they are on sale or otherwise discounted, all the better. The whole process (cutting apart the chicken through the final cleaning) for a batch the size we make is usually a two hour process at most, but we only need to do it about once a month.

Finding the benefits of raw cat food isn’t hard, from helping avoid kidney and weight issues, a healthier coat, a more active personality, to just knowing what’s going into the food this extension of your family is eating. Oh, and they won’t be able to get enough.

Cat food #4

We discovered that it’s really not difficult to make a simple, chicken-based chow that our kittens really enjoy. And when I say ‘really’, I mean they complain quite vocally if we run out and substitute canned food instead.

*Disclaimers: While cats’ systems are tuned to digest raw food, all precautions should be taken with making sure what they eat is as fresh as possible. Only thaw what they will eat within 2-3 days, and be sure to clean all hands, surfaces, containers, and implements that come in contact with raw meat immediately. Transitioning a cat from a dry-only or canned food diet should be done gradually. There is always the risk of injury from a bone fragment being too big or sharp, but this is nothing that a cat wouldn’t also risk hunting on their own outdoors.

Co-written by Ben & Jess Zamora-Weiss, staff members and bloggers for Mississippi Market’s Eat Local Challenge. You’ll also find Ben at the Selby store keeping the shelves stocked with the best locally baked breads we can find and Jess at the Selby store’s juice bar, making things run smoothly and taste amazing!

Locally-raised goat? Perfect for stew!

While my role at the Market is the Frozen and Bread Buyer for the Selby store, I was also raised as a meat-and-potatoes guy…and with the freezer doors right next to the meat cases, my eye always catches on sale signs and discount stickers.  This week, I saw the Shepherd’s Song ground goat meat marked down, so I thought I’d give it a try.

local goatMy project for this afternoon was to find something I could do with the goat and our large selection of CSA produce before leaving town for the weekend.  Peppers and onions were plentiful on our counter and we had almost a fridge bin full of a variety of greens, so a simple stew came to mind.

Four diced hot peppers (jalapeno and Serrano), a pair of bell peppers, three small sweet onions, and a few cloves of garlic made for an aromatic kitchen once cooked in with two packages of the goat meat, some salt, a few diced tomatoes, and a healthy dose of garam masala.  This cooked for about an hour or so on medium low heat.

My wife turned me on to sautéed greens…the preparation for I’ve come to really enjoy: fold the leaf, cut the spine off, stack a couple leaves, roll, and slice into strips.  Fill a large pot, we usually use a 2-gallon model (I’m not even joking), with the green ribbons, a bit of extra water, and a pinch of salt (sometimes I’ll add onion, garlic, or turmeric to the greens, too), and wilt it all down to al dente.  To add a third color to the meal, we halved then sliced four summer squash to salt and sauté. Enjoy!

Ben Zamora-Weiss is a staff member and blogger for Mississippi Market’s Eat Local Challenge. You’ll also find him at the Selby store keeping the shelves stocked with the best locally baked breads we can find.

You want cheese on that burger?

Get the coals, make the lemonade, unfold the lawn chairs, get out the boom box, and put the beer on ice. It’s time to bust out that grill and cook up some burgers – sun, or no sun!

No offense to our lactose intolerant and vegan friends, but for me a plain hamburger just won’t do. It’s gotta be a CHEESEburger.  A hamburger without cheese is just like early eighties musical duo Hall and Oates… each excellent on their own, but unmistakably magical when paired together.  While American slices will always be a burger’s best friend, you might want to think about classing your beef, turkey, or veggie patty up with some of our favorite burger toppers.  Here are some of our favorite burger companions.

Burger toppings

(Recommended Grilling Soundtrack)                                  (Very solid layering of burger ingredients)

joe widmer

(excellent early 90’s cheesemaker pose from Joe Widmer)

Widmer’s Two Year Cheddar,Wisconsin- Joe Widmer has been cranking out award winning cheeses for decades. He originally started helping out at his grandpa’s plant when he was six years old. The plant itself has literally been home to three generations of cheesemakers, living directly above the plant. Joe is a certified Master Cheesemaker and we think his Two Year Cheddar is the bee’s knees on top of a burger. Sharp and meltable, this crowd pleasing cheddar will not get lost in a burger that is piled high with your other favorite burger toppings.

Roth Kase Buttermilk Blue, Wisconsin- Roth Kase Buttermilk blue is exactly what it sounds like. A tangy, piquant blue cheese that is mellowed out by a buttery smooth finish thanks to milk from predominantly Jersey cows. Forget about crumbled blue cheese, grab a thick slice of this Raw Milk blue – your gonna want a lot. Blue cheese not really your thing? Try cutting the blue with one of Minnesota’s favorite condiments…mayonnaise.

Somerdale Red Dragon, United Kingdom- This Burger Topper Cheese is a triple threat. Threat No.1- It is fantastic high-moisture (good for melting) cheddar from across the pond. Threat No.2- It already has whole grain mustard seeds in it. The mustard seeds provide all the tang you need for your burger. Threat No. 3- It has beer in it. My personal grilling drink of choice is grained into this multifaceted cheddar. Less is more with this cheese. Full flavored and packed full of mustard, this cheddar can be the predominant flavor of your burger if you’d like.

Abbott’s Gold Carmelized Onion Cheddar, England- This cheese is seriously rich. No need to chop a bunch of onions and painstakingly caramelize them on the stove top. You can skip that step because Abbot’s Gold does it for you. Of our recommended Burger Toppers, this is the cheese that screams…Give me bacon!

And remember, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Take yourself on a culinary adventure and experiment with other cheeses. If you find any keepers please make sure to stop back into the Market and let us know!
- Kevin L., Selby cheese buyer & cheeseburger connoisseur 

So now you know how we feel about burger toppings, but what about the burger itself? Jay C., our West 7th meat & seafood manager, recommends trying local ground beef from Hill & Vale. The grass-fed, grain-finished beef is super tasty and the flavor is a good balance between 100% grass-fed and 100% grain-fed.

For non-meat-eaters, try a local Trempeleau Walnut Burger on the grill. Or, a grilled portabello mushroom is always delicious on a bun with your favorite burger toppings.

Flavors for Cinco de Mayo

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!Cinco de Mayo is about more than just Mexico’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla- It’s a celebration of Mexican heritage and traditions! This year, we’re highlighting some of our favorite Mexican flavors.

Visit our deli between May 1-6 to pick up some of these delicious salads and entreés:

  • Mango black bean salad
  • Chipotle potato salad
  • Southwestern enchilada pie
  • Green chicken enchilada pie
  • Roasted red pepper quesadillas
  • Pesto chicken quesadillas
  • Tres Leches cake

Saturday and Sunday, May 4 & 5, our deli will be serving a Taste of Mexico in the hot bar – try a variety of Mexican entrées and sides for lunch or dinner.

Our cheese department has sales on Queso Fresco and Cotija - authentic Mexican cheeses to add to your meals.

Plus, our produce departments are stocked with avocados and tomatoes for all your guacamole needs. Tired of your everyday salsa? Try mango salsa! Our mangoes are perfectly ripe and ready for salsa!  Just add diced mango to some minced onion, jalapeño and cilantro and squeeze fresh lime over everything for a fresh way to get your fruits and veggies.

Meet Whole Grain MillingConfused about how to properly cut an avocado or a mango?  Our produce managers show you how in these videos: avocado | mango  

Grab a bag of Whole Grain Milling or La Perla chips – they are both made locally and both work well for scooping guacamole and salsa.

Want to spice up any dish?  We recommend our Mississippi Market Made Chorizo.  Perfectly spiced, this sausage can be added to scrambled eggs, nachos, spicy tortilla soup or anything that needs a kick!

 

Autumn means pot roasting!

As soon as the geese start strafing the skies in formation and the sumac begins turning scarlet, I start to think about pot roasting. Food professionals often refer to this technique as braising, but English speakers more commonly call it pot roast, and because this term is less intimidating, let’s use it here. Concocting pot roasts is one of the easiest and most tasty forms of cooking imaginable in our brisk climate, and after you’ve made one pot roast, you’ll see all the possibilities for combining different meats and vegetables, dried fruits and tasty liquids, until you’ve created a pot roast that’s distinctively your own.

Pot roasting rewards you for using inexpensive cuts of meat. The gristle and connective tissue in these cuts (most commonly found on the shoulder, neck, tail, and other hardworking parts of an animal) make them undesirable for quick forms of cooking like grilling and pan-frying but perfect for pot roasting. When you roast these meats low and slow in a heavy, closed pot, the moist, steamy air eventually melts the connective tissue and gristle, which bathe the muscle meat in velvety gelatin, producing fork-tender food. You don’t get much sauce, but what sauce!—you just want to bury your face in the pot and lick out every last bit of the concentrated, memorable juices.

The West 7th store’s meat & seafood manager, Gabe Burns and his team are happy to answer questions and make special cuts for you. Just ask!

Thanks to Mississippi Market’s questing chief, Gabe Burns, we offer cuts for braising that you won’t find in supermarkets. Two especially lovely beef cuts are flank steak ($9.99/lb.) and the rarely seen flatiron steak ($7.99/lb.), available on special request. The latter is uncommonly tender, despite the part of the steer they come from (the chuck). If you remove—or ask our butchers to remove—the thick center line of gristle, flatiron steaks grill up beautifully. When the thick line of gristle is left in, the flatiron becomes the perfect beef steak for pot roasting. Skirt steaks and chuck roasts also work just as well in the recipe below.

Another terrific, inexpensive choice is the pork roast known variously as pork shoulder, Boston butt, or picnic shoulder. Like the beef steaks I’ve just described, the pork shoulder has plenty of connection tissue, and long, slow cooking turns it into something so silky and delicious that you’re unlikely to have many leftovers. We stock this invaluable and inexpensive cut of meat, too.

            So what do you need to do to create a pot roast that will have neighbors clawing at your window screens, begging for an invitation to dinner? It’s very simple:

  1. Preheat the oven. Anything between 250° and 350° will be fine. At the lower end of that scale, you roast will take longer to cook, but you’ll be able to leave the house for a few hours.
  2. Heat up a heavy pot on the stovetop, add butter or oil, and brown the aromatics (for example, leeks, onions, celery, onions) first; remove them from the pot.
  3. Brown the meat thoroughly on all sides; remove it from the pot. (Thorough browning will take at least 5 minutes, if not 10.)
  4. Deglaze the brown bits left in the pot with wine, beer, or stock, and reduce the liquid by half.
  5. Return the meat and aromatics to the pot.
  6. Add any long-cooking vegetables and fruits (for example, boiling potatoes, fennel, carrots, and, in the case of pork roasts, prunes).
  7. Add enough tasty liquid to come up about 1/3 of the way on the meat (for example, wine, stock, beer, tomato juices—preferably a combination).
  8. If you’re using a tall-ish pot, crumple up some baking parchment and place it lightly atop the roast—that way the meat will be bathed continuously in steam rather than having condensed water drip on it from the lid.
  9. Make sure the lid of your pot is absolutely leakproof—you’ll be cooking your roast for a long time (anywhere between 2 and 4 hours), so you don’t want any steam escaping. If your pot’s lid seems wobbly or ill-fitting, place a big piece of baking parchment across the top of your pot, put on the lid, and crimp the paper down around the pot’s sides. That always works.
  10. Depending on what temperature you cook the meat at, start checking the meat’s tenderness when wonderful smells come from the oven. After the meat becomes fork tender, remove the roast and the vegetables from the pot, cover them with a bowl or aluminum foil, and return the pot to the stovetop.
  11. Turn the burner to MEDIUM-HIGH, and reduce the liquid in the pot by about 1/3. Taste the sauce, and if you want to add a bit of thickening, toss in little pellets of 1-to-1 butter and flour that you’ve kneaded together; they will thicken up your sauce and add flavor, too. You can add a bit of schnapps, port, sherry, or other flavoring if you want. Taste again, add salt and pepper, and return the meat and vegetables to the pot; spoon the sauce over them, and serve it forth. Your wonderful pot roast is ready for eating.

Local flavor – Minnesota meets Thailand

SUMMER STIR-FRY WITH THAI BASIL SAUSAGE

Mississippi Market uses Pastures A Plenty pork in the sausages that we make in-house.

 Makes 2 large or 4 small servings.

This makes a lovely summer dish that you can serve hot or, if you hold back the fresh herbs until you are ready to serve it, as a room-temperature or cool meal. The version below is a dry stir-fry, meaning that it isn’t particularly sauce-y. If you prefer a more heavily sauced version, simply mix up 2 tsp. cornstarch, ¼ c. of soy sauce, 2 Tbs. of fish sauce, 2 tsp. vinegar or lime juice, and 1 tsp. of sugar; add this to the stir-fry at the very end, and stir until the sauce becomes glossy and transparent.

 

 

Ingredients:

4 qt. cold water          
8 oz. dry rice noodles
2 Mississippi Market Thai basil sausages, cut in ½” rings or squeezed out of their casings
up to 3 Tbs. cooking oil
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves of soft-necked or 2 cloves of local garlic (Georgian Fire is extra-good!)
2 c. greens (lacinato kale, bok choy, or chard)
2–3 Tbs. soy sauce
1 tsp. fish sauce
¾ tsp. white or brown sugar
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1–2 fresh Thai, habanero, or cayenne peppers, whole, slit down one side (optional)
½ coarsely chopped peanuts (optional)    

To add before serving:
¼  c. cilantro leaves
¼ c. mint leaves
¼ c. Thai or Italian basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 fresh pickling cucumber, seed pocket removed, coarsely chopped

  1. Bring water to vigorous boil; add rice noodles; boil, uncovered, for 4–5 minutes, until texture pleases you; run cold water over noodles to stop their cooking; drain and set aside.
  2. Heat wok or heavy pot on MEDIUM; when hot, add sausage. Allow it to sit for about 60 seconds to sear, then stir occasionally until nicely browned. Scrape out and set aside.
  3. Reheat wok or pot on MEDIUM-HIGH, then add onion, stirring occasionally until it softens slightly. Add garlic, give it a few stirs, then add greens.
  4. Stir-fry greens only until they turn a brilliant, deep green. Swiftly add soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, salt and pepper, hot peppers, and peanuts, if you’re using them.
  5. Add cooled noodles; stir around until they’re thoroughly coated with the scant sauce. (You may want to add a bit more soy and fish sauce.)
  6. Add fresh herbs and cucumber, stir through once, and serve immediately, lest the greens become overcooked.

 

Double up on local with the St. Paul Porter Brat

by Nathan Walker, West 7th Meat & Seafood Department

Working at the West 7th meat counter this summer, I’ve found plenty of time to stay cool. The job requires frequent trips to the cooler and freezer to replenish our meat selection. But of all the delicious assortments of meat and fish available, no item has required more trips to the back-of-the-house then our Saint Paul Porter Brat. Since being introduced in early June, they have been flying off the shelves

Made fresh on site, by Perry, our West 7th sausage guru, the Porter brats are a delicious combination of Pastures A Plenty Ground Pork from Kerkhoven, Minnesota and the very tasty Summit Porter Ale, brewed right here in Saint Paul.

Every time I cook up a batch of these for in-store samples, I do some quality control testing and eat a few pieces. Well, okay, maybe more than a few. After every bite, I’m always struck by just how tender the meat is. Thanks to the generous amount of beer added to each batch, every chunk melts in my mouth. It’s oddly comparable to eating a Krispy Kreme Doughnut, and has a similar addictive effect.

Complementing this deliciously soft pork is the warm, nutty taste of Summit Porter, which Perry offsets by throwing in a dash of cane sugar into each pork mix. This sweet addition blends wonderfully with the rich flavors of the beer and leaves a slight caramel aftertaste that causes me to briefly fantasize about throwing off my apron, grabbing a few brats, and going to the park to grill them.

But, alas, when I awake from this brief moment of dreaming, I’m face to face with chicken livers that still need to be packaged for the freezer. I haven’t tried the livers yet, but I bet they would be pretty good if I soaked them in beer.