Rendering beef fat to soothe the sad heart

If you follow me on Twitter, you most likely are aware that my Grandmother died on Christmas Eve. She was 100 years old and the most magnificent woman in the world. And that is not an exaggeration. She was truly amazing. She was the first person I remember telling me how important it was to get an education and engage in a fulfilling career. She was the person who taught me to cook, taught me to pray and taught me to be proud of my Lebanese heritage. She taught me to be progressive, never stagnant. Despite her age, she never rested on her laurels. Always moving with the times, trying new thing and embracing change….all the while holding on to her faith, heritage and traditions passed down from her parents. She was the youngest of four sisters, daughter of Lebanese immigrants and a pioneer in this city. She and two of her sisters owned and operated a restaurant and tavern in North St. Louis at a time where not only women didn’t own business but rarely worked and had just earned the right to vote. She was generous and philanthropic, continually giving to charities close to her heart such as St. Jude’s Hospital and American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities. She was a devout Maronite Catholic and a champion for her parish, St. Raymond’s Church. But above all, she was most proud of her family and harbored a love for us that saw no end. It was a love that I will cherish until the day I die…and one that I hope to shower upon my children and grandchildren someday. Continue reading

Broken Arrow Ranch: Texas Hill Country

I lived in Austin for 3 years. While I was there, I spent most of my time eating and drinking….the latter being the more prominent. However, my carnivorous ways were honed and encouraged while living in the Hill Country. BBQ was a way of life….meat with every meal. I was lucky enough to have come in contact with this amazing ranch. Broken Arrow Ranch is a one of a kind, truly free range wild game meat. Until recently, Broken Arrow Ranch has slipped my mind. Micheal Ruhlman reminded me today of the beauty that is Broken Arrow Ranch.

As a supporter of sustainable agriculture efforts, we work with about 100 ranches around Texas as an integral part of their game management plans. Without proper population management, ranches can quickly become overpopulated with wild deer and antelope resulting in overgrazing and, eventually, starvation for the entire herd. Our field harvesting methods helps ranchers maintain naturally sustainable deer and antelope populations, which preserves the herd and land as a future resource.

Our field harvesting facility is comprised of several separate trailers that can be moved to any location on the ranch to minimize the time lapse between harvesting and processing. The ranch is quietly searched for deer and antelope. Animals are harvested in the field from long-range using a sound-suppressed rifle and a Leupold scope.”

We have undertaken these unique field harvesting procedures in order to reduce stress during slaughter, which is a major factor in controlling meat quality. An animal that senses a threat or unusual situation will react with an increased flow of adrenaline which in turn creates a rapid increase in lactic acid within the muscles. This acidic condition causes the meat to become tough, strongly flavored, and reduces the shelf life of the meat. Farmed deer are slaughtered by loading them into a trailer, taking them to a slaughter house, and running them through an apparatus where they are killed and processed. Even though these deer are domesticated and relatively tame, there is certainly some stress introduced during this process. The purpose of our field harvesting technique is to ensure the animals are never under any stress and the resulting meat quality is the highest possible.

The first time I had meat fielded by Broken Arrow was while dining at Cafe Annie in Houston. It was an amazing meal and one of my first introductions to sustainable agriculture. The liver for NYC’s Head to Tail Dinner at the Astor Center was sourced from Broken Arrow. What a bunch of lucky folks.

In regards to their mobile ‘butcher shops’: Gordon Ramsay had a similar type of slaughter performed on the turkeys he and his children raised for Christmas Lunch on his BBC show “The F Word”. I found it interesting how the slaughter of the birds took place at his home in the garden. A quick electric shock and they birds were dead…feathers plucked and cleaned. and before you knew it….they were in the oven. Now that is fresh. See STLBites spot on “The Butcher”.

Mobile butcher shops might just be what our local farmers need.