Thursday, October 20, 2016

Vegetable Feature: Sorrel...In the fall?!

By Laurel Blomquist
     Sorrel is one of those vegetables we generally associate with the arrival of springtime. However, this hearty vegetable has a long growing season, and is perfectly at home brightening up the heavier, richer dishes we are starting to prepare this time of year.
     Sorrel is a perennial herb of the family Polygonaceae, which includes rhubarb and buckwheat. Taste a tiny bit raw and you will soon discover the tart power of sorrel leaves. Combining sorrel with other greens (such as spinach or arugula) or pairing it with rich, fatty foods (such as heavy cream, meat, fish or cheese) is recommended to tone down its strong flavor. The calcium and casein in dairy products neutralize the oxalic acid, the source of the tartness.
     Sorrel contains a lot of Vitamin A, which will lower your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. It also contains Vitamin C, which is great for the immune system. It is high in potassium and magnesium, which can lower your blood pressure and increase blood circulation. Sorrel, especially raw, contains high amounts of folate, an essential vitamin. Folate consumed in food is absorbed better by the body than synthetic supplements. Folate can decrease your chances of getting stomach, colon, pancreatic, cervical and breast cancers.
     Sorrel is popular all over the world and can be found in numerous cuisines. Green Borscht is found in Russian, Ukrainian, Ashkenazi Jewish, Belarusian, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Romanian and Polish cuisines. Along with sorrel, it usually contains whole eggs, potatoes, carrots and parsley root and is topped with sour cream. In Nigeria, sorrel is used in stews along with spinach. In Croatia and Bulgaria, it is used in a traditional eel dish. In Greece and Albania it is paired with spinach and chard for a robust spanikopita. In Belgium, preserved, pureed sorrel is mixed with mashed potatoes and bacon for a hearty winter dish. It is one of many herbs used in Vietnamese cuisine. In India, it is used to make soups or curries with lentils.
     It is easy to see that in many countries, sorrel is used to counter the heavy, rich flavors of fall and winter. So let’s welcome it into our kitchens while we can. Before you know it, we’ll be craving its triumphant return in the spring.

Chicken with Sorrel

Yield: 4 servings
2 Tbsp butter or extra virgin olive oil
1 whole chicken (2 ½ to 3 pounds), cut into serving pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 large or 2 medium onions, peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices
6 cups loosely packed sorrel, about ½ pound, trimmed and washed

1. Put butter in large skillet, preferably nonstick, and turn heat to medium-high. When butter begins to melt, swirl it around the pan.  When its foam subsides and it begins to brown, add the chicken, skin side down. Cook, rotating pieces after 3 or 4 minutes so they brown evenly. As they brown on the skin side, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and turn them over; sprinkle skin side with salt and pepper as well. If necessary, lower heat to medium to prevent burning. Remove chicken to a plate when chicken is completely browned all over, in 10 to 15 minutes.
2. Immediately add onions to pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften but still hold their shape, about 5 minutes. Add ½ cup water and cook for a minute, stirring occasionally, until it reduces slightly. Return chicken to pan, turn heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes. Uncover, add sorrel, stir, and cover again.
3. Cook about 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and sorrel is dissolved into onions and liquid. Serve hot, with rice or crusty bread.

Recipe by Mark Bittman, as featured at NYT Cooking (

Sorrel Mashed Potatoes

Yield: 4 servings

Sorrel with Purple Viking Potatoes
1 pound russet or gold potatoes**
4 ounces sorrel (about ½ of a bunch)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
½ cup heavy cream
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

**HVF Note:  The purple Viking potatoes in this week’s box are an excellent choice.**

1. Peel the potatoes and steam or boil them until they are tender.
2. Meanwhile, wash the sorrel and cut the leaves into thin strips, using a stainless steel knife. Heat the butter in a frying pan and add the sorrel. Stir over low heat for a couple of minutes, until it has wilted. Add the cream and heat through.
3. Mash the potatoes. Stir in the sorrel puree and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Recipe by Moira Hodgson & featured at NYT Cooking (

Brassicas to Fight Cancer

Baby Bok Choi
By Laurel Blomquist

     Welcome to another article in the anti-cancer series. This anti-cancer diet also combats neurological, immunological, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and metabolic disorders, as well as the process of aging. It’s pretty amazing that we can heal ourselves by making healthy food choices. Today we’re going to dive into the brassica family, commonly known as cole crops. Except where noted, all references are from Foods to Fight Cancer.
     The Brassica Family is one of the most represented on any CSA Farm, and with good reason. This large family includes broccoli, cauliflower, romanesco, broccoli raab, kales, collards, arugula, radishes, turnips, rutabaga, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, mustards and bok choy to name a few. Cabbage is probably the oldest cultivated vegetable, dating to at least 6,000 years ago (p. 69). Ancient peoples must have indeed revered it, because most of the varieties we eat have been cultivated through selective breeding from one species of wild cabbage. Hippocrates,circa 400 BC, called it “the vegetable of a thousand virtues” (p. 71). Marcus Porcius Cato, circa 200 BC, held cabbage as a universal remedy against sickness and a virtual fountain of youth. He wrote in De Agri Cultura, On Farming, “Eaten raw with vinegar, or cooked in oil or other fat, cabbage gets rid of all and heals all.” (p. 72).  He recommended cabbage for hangovers, and even used it as a poultice to treat cancerous ulcers. 
     Modern medicine has proven time and again that brassicas have a preventative effect on cancers of the bladder, breast, lung, stomach, colon, rectum, and prostate (p. 72). Brassicas contain the largest variety of phytochemical compounds with anticancer activity. Just what makes them so powerful?
     One such molecule is called a glucosinolate. You have probably tasted them without knowing it; they are responsible for the slightly bitter or pungent flavor that these vegetables tend to have. Glucosinolates are stored in the molecules of a brassica vegetable until it is chewed, chopped or cooked. As the cell walls break down, glucosinolates mix with myrosinase, an enzyme. Upon mixing with the enzyme, glucosinolates are converted to isothiocyanates. These molecules are what fight cancer directly (p. 73). In broccoli, for example, the isothiocyanate is called sulforaphane. This sulfur molecule is what you smell when you overcook broccoli. 
     In order to get the full benefit of the isothiocyanates, there are a few things to keep in mind. Glucosinolates are very soluble in water, and myrosinase is sensitive to heat. The authors suggest that briefly steaming brassicas, stir frying or eating them raw are the best ways to preserve these compounds, as opposed to boiling (p. 74). Of course, these methods will also preserve the bright green (or red) color of the vegetable and have the added bonus of tasting better. The practice of blanching and freezing brassicas as a way of preserving them is actually not recommended if you want to retain these beneficial molecules. Because of the heat and amount of water involved with this process, the amount of bioavailable glucosinolates is reduced and the myrosinase enzyme is denatured. If you absolutely must boil your broccoli, I would recommend a soup as the soup base may retain more of the benefits. 
     Different glucosinolates are found in different brassicas, producing different isothiocyanates which have varying amounts of anti-cancer properties. Sulforaphane in broccoli is one of the most powerful. One serving of broccoli contains about 60 mg of sulforaphane, and one serving of broccoli sprouts contains 600 mg (p. 75)! Personally, I started making my own broccoli sprouts, from organic seed, of course, and adding them to my daily salad when I learned this information. Sprouts are very easy to make in your kitchen, and a nice addition to your winter menu when fresh, local broccoli is not available. 
     Sulforaphane increases your body’s ability to remove toxins linked to cancer. This reduces the occurrence, number, and size of tumors. Sulforaphane also directly attacks cancerous cells, triggering apoptosis, or cell death (p. 75). Sulforaphane also has antibiotic and antibacterial properties, particularly against Helicobacter pylori, which causes gastric ulcers. Exposure to this bacteria and resulting ulcers will increase your chances of stomach cancer 3-6 times over (p. 76).
     Of course, broccoli is hardly the only brassica with beneficial molecules. Watercress and Chinese cabbage contain phenethyl isothiocyanate, or PEITC, which protects against esophageal, stomach, colon, and lung cancers. PEITC also directly attacks leukemia, colon, and prostate tumors through apoptosis (p. 76).
     Brussels sprouts and our hero broccoli also contain indole-3-carbinol, or I3C. Actually, most brassicas contain at least some I3C, but these two have it in the largest amounts. I3C causes modifications in estradiol, which in turn reduces the ability of estrogen to promote cell growth in the breast, cervix, and uterus, thereby preventing cancer in those tissues (p. 77).
Baby Kale Mix
     We should not forget about kale and collards, which have had a popularity resurgence in recent years. Kale production rose 60% between 2007 and 2012 according to the USDA (Martin), and collards are picking up the slack, since demand for kale has overtaken supply (Krogh). In addition to containing beneficial isothiocyanates, they are good sources of iron, folic acid and Vitamins A and C. 
     The doctors recommend 3-4 weekly servings of brassicas to reap their medicinal benefits. Harmony Valley Farm has done our part this season (and every season) to make sure you are getting your RDA of brassicas. So far this season, you have received brassicas every week except one, and sometimes received 4 varieties in one week! You have received sauté mix, baby arugula and baby kale, watercress, hon tsai tai, kohlrabi, baby bok choi, cauliflower, cabbage, baby white turnips, bunched kale, green top spring radishes and broccoli no less than 9 times, possibly more if you got it as a bonus item. In total, we’ve delivered 53 brassica selections over the course of the past 25 weeks, most of which amount to 3-4 servings each, and the season’s not over yet! Frost doesn’t stop brassicas, in fact it sweetens them, so we can enjoy these all the way to the end of the growing season. To your health!

Beliveau, Richard, and Denis Gingras. Foods to Fight Cancer. 2007
Krogh, Josie. “Popularity of Collards Reaching Beyond the South.” April 19, 2015. 
Martin, Andrew. “Boom Times for Farmers in the United States of Kale.” May 9, 2014. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Monsanto Tribunal: October 14-16, 2016

Photo Borrowed from the Monsanto Tribunal Website
By Andrea Yoder
     This weekend an important international event will take place in the Netherlands, it’s called The Monsanto Tribunal. “The Monsanto Tribunal is an international civil society initiative to hold Monsanto accountable for human rights violations, for crimes against humanity, and for ecocide. Eminent judges will hear testimonies from victims, and deliver an advisory opinion following procedures of the International Court of Justice.” The Tribunal will be held at The Hague in the Netherlands and from October 14-16 individuals from all over the world will gather with the goal of exposing Monsanto, the US based company responsible for producing GMO seeds as well as toxic agrochemicals. Monsanto’s products, which include PCB’s, 2-4-5 T (a dioxin that was part of Agent Orange), and RoundUp (which contains glysophate), have brought direct harm to many farmers and communities across the world causing irreversible damage to human health and our environment. As is stated on the website for the Tribunal, “Monsanto promotes an agroindustrial model that contributes at least one third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions; it is also largely responsible for the depletion of soil and water resources, species extinction and declining biodiversity, and the displacement of millions of small farmers worldwide. This is a model that threatens peoples’ food sovereignty by patenting seeds and privatizing life.”
     How has Monsanto gained such an upper hand in our agriculture and food systems to the detriment of our own health?  They are tricky and have managed to intertwine themselves by strategically influencing lobbying regulatory agencies and governments, by financing biased and fraudulent scientific studies which produce results in their favor, but not results that are meaningful or reliable and by manipulating independent scientists as well as the press and media through lies and corruption. “The history of Monsanto would thereby constitute a text-book case of impunity, benefiting transnational corporations and their executives, whose activities contribute to climate and biosphere crises and threaten the safety of the planet.”
     A citizen’s tribunal is a community-led, court-like litigation event that is conducted according to the laws and standards applied to legal proceedings of a similar nature. While this tribunal will not have the power to result in binding legal decisions or to bring justice through their verdicts, the judges hearing the cases presented will use their expertise to deliver a written verdict of guilt or innocence which will serve as a platform for future legal cases. The tribunal “aims to assess these allegations made against Monsanto, and to evaluate the damages caused by this transnational company. The Tribunal will rely on the ‘Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’ adopted at the UN in 2011. It will also assess potential criminal liability on the basis of the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2002. The Tribunal shall also assess the conduct of Monsanto as regards the crime of ecocide, which it has been proposed to include in international criminal law. It shall examine whether the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court in force since 2002 should be reformed, in order to include the crime of ecocide and to allow for the prosecution of individual and legal entities suspected of having committed this crime.”
     While Monsanto and other biotech companies want us to believe their “advances” in technology will help us “feed the world” and benefit society, their motives are actually to gain power and control over our food supply with the end goal of increasing their profits. Political decisions have been based on biased research meant to “slide” things through regulatory agencies. Products have been released into the market without proper evaluation of their safety and all of us, without consent, have been part of the largest human health study ever conducted. Their chemicals are irreversibly changing our landscape. We now have to worry about chemical drift and genetics from altered plants and animals spreading into non-GMO species; and there’s no turning back. Novel proteins are in our food supply and are causing a myriad of devastating health problems. Farmers’ health and livelihoods have been destroyed, children have been born with birth defects, farmers in India and around the world are committing suicide because they see no other way out of this tangled web of deception they’ve been drawn into.
     The tribunal has been organized by a steering committee of individuals who, in a variety of ways, have been instrumental in protecting people and the environment against the harmful effects of biotechnology. Some come from a legal background while others have been involved in scientific research, human rights defense, environmental protection and more. The full list of indivduals as well as more thorough background information about The Monsanto Tribunal and the five judges who will be delivering the verdict may be found at the official website: The proceedings of the Tribunal may be viewed at this website as well and will be streamed live once the proceedings are underway. The court will hand down its decision in December 2016.
     This is an important event and, while Monsanto is the example, they are not the only biotech company responsible for these allegations. We’ll be reporting more information about the Tribunal as it becomes available, but we also encourage each of you to take a look at the tribunal website and educate yourselves on the background behind and potential impact of this important event:

Vegetable Feature: Radishes

Bunched Red Radishes
By Chef Andrea
     Radishes are one of the oldest cultivated plant foods. There are two classifications of radishes--”Table” or “Spring” radishes and “Storage” radishes. Table radishes are one of the first crops we plant in the spring, with harvest just 4 to 6 weeks later. Green top red and French breakfast radishes are the two varieties we grow. They are tender with a thin skin and are meant to be eaten within a week or so after they are harvested. We actually plant them all throughout the summer and into the early part of the fall. 

     The other type of radishes we grow are storage radishes which include daikon, Black Spanish and beauty heart radishes.  Winter radishes are more sturdy, with a longer growing season, thicker skin and more dense flesh and they store very well. You’ll be receiving some of these varieties in some of the last boxes of the season.

Black Spanish Radish
     Radishes are eaten extensively worldwide. Often they are pickled, cured, dried or fermented to preserve them. Historical reports date back to 2000 BC where radishes are thought to have been included in the daily ration, along with onions and garlic, for the people building the Egyptian pyramids. With a history like this, there has to be something good for us in a radish! Radishes are a good source of vitamins A, C and B6 as well as magnesium, calcium and potassium. In traditional Chinese medicine, radishes are used to promote digestion, break down mucus, soothe headaches and heal laryngitis. They are beneficial in helping to cleanse and detoxify the body and it is thought that they help prevent viral infections, such as colds and the flu, when consumed regularly. 

Beauty Heart Radish
     Radishes may be eaten raw, pickled, cured and also may be cooked. When cooked, either sauteed, stir-fried, braised or roasted, radishes lose their peppery flavor and become mild and slightly sweet in flavor. If you are one that shies away from radishes because you are still learning to like their peppery bite, consider cooking them. Don’t forget to eat the radish greens as well as they are packed full of nutrients! Radish greens may be added to stir-fries, simply sautéed alone or with other greens and dressed with salt and a splash of vinegar. They are often incorporated into soups and can also be eaten raw in salads. Quick pickled radishes make a nice condiment to enjoy on tacos, alongside grain dishes, lentils, beans or layered onto a sandwich.
     We hope you will look at radishes with a new set of eyes and take advantage of all they have to offer to your diet and your health.

Dal with Radish Raita

Yield: 6-8 servings

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter or ghee
2 ½ cups chopped onions 
1 ½ cups diced carrots 
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
½ tsp ground cayenne
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
2 cups red lentils, rinsed
6 cups water
2 cups canned tomatoes
1 ½ cups packed chopped spinach or other greens (chard, radish tops, kale, etc)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice 

French Breakfast Radish
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (½ lemon)
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
3 radishes, finely grated
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh mint

1. For the dal: Melt the olive oil and butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until soft and translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the carrots, salt, ginger, cayenne, cumin, turmeric, lentils, and ½ cup of the water and cook, stirring often, for another 5 to 7 minutes. Add the rest of the water and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices to the pot, squeezing them with your hands to crush them. Continue to cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are cooked and the soup is thick, 30 to 45 minutes. Stir in the spinach or other greens and lemon, remove from heat, and add salt to taste.

2. While the soup cooks, make the raita: Stir together the yogurt, lemon, olive oil, salt, radishes, and mint in a small bowl. Serve the soup with a dollop of raita in each bowl.

Recipe borrowed from Alana Chernila’s book, The Homemade Kitchen.

Radish Top Pasta with Chickpeas & Parsley

Yield: 3-4 servings
6 oz fettucine pasta
3 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, small diced
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt plus more to taste
1 ½ Tbsp stoneground mustard
½ cup dry sherry
Radish greens from 1 bunch radishes, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 cups spinach or other greens, cut into bite-sized pieces (Kale, Chard, etc)
1 cup small diced spring radishes
½ cup parsley, finely chopped
1 cup cooked chickpeas
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Parmesan or other hard cheese, for serving

1. First, cook the pasta.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until the pasta is al dente.  Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the pasta. Set aside the reserved pasta water and the pasta until ready to use.
2. Melt butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat.  When hot, add onion and garlic and sauté until the onions are soft and translucent.  
3. Stir in 1 tsp salt and the mustard.  Stir to combine, then add the dry sherry.  Simmer for about 2 minutes, then add the radish greens and spinach or other greens.  Cover and continue to simmer for a few minutes, just until the greens are wilted.
4. Remove the cover and add the diced radishes, parsley and chickpeas.  Stir to combine and then add the pasta to the pan.  Bring everything to a simmer and then add about ½ cup of pasta water to the pan.  Allow the mixture to simmer for a few minutes to ensure everything is heated through. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking with salt and black pepper.  Add additional pasta cooking water as needed to adjust the consistency of the sauce to your liking.
5. Serve warm, topped with freshly grated Parmesan or other cheese of your liking.

Recipe by:  Andrea Yoder

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Harmony Valley Farm Meat Clubs

Thai Beef Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing
     We are focusing our blog on sharing with you the different aspects of the meats we offer through our CSA – from how it is raised to how to best cook our certified organic, 100% grass-fed Angus beef and organic pastured pork. So what’s the best way to get some of this delicious meat into your freezer at home?

     Let us introduce you to our Meat Clubs! No worries, there is no password or secret hand shake to this club – all are welcome equally. So what are these meat club shares that we are so excited about? Our meat club shares allow individuals to sign up for multiple 15 or 25 pound meat packages to be delivered throughout the year. With the meat club you are able to sign-up for these deliveries with one easy purchase and at a discounted price! We deliver our meat shares three times a year: May, November and December. You can choose to start whenever it is convenient for you! The packages will contain either all beef (May) or a mix of beef and pork (November & December). 

     Why sign-up for our Meat Club? There are plenty of reasons! Here are a few that we think are worth highlighting:

  1.  Save money - When you order up front, you’ll save money versus buying individual packages before each month’s delivery.
  2. Order once and be good to go for the year – No need to pay attention to deadlines for sign-up. You’ll be scheduled across a whole year so you can sit back and relax
  3. These shares were designed to better meet the needs of smaller households or for those with limited freezer space - 15 pounds takes up very little space in your freezer but it will always be stocked with freshly frozen meat.
  4. You can spread your payments out over 6 months when you sign up for our meat club.

     So now that you know all the reasons why the meat clubs are a great option, what comes with each of these deliveries? We have preselected different meat packages for each meat club option. Below is a list of the different packages for each club and their delivery month (The descriptions of these different packages can be found here.)

3 Delivery Meat Club (15 pounds each delivery - 45 pounds total):
May: All-Beef Mixed Pack
November: Beef and Pork Variety Pack
December: Beef and Pork Family Pack

3 Delivery Meat Club (25 pounds each delivery - 75 pounds total):
May: All-Beef Mixed Pack
November: Beef and Pork Family Pack
December: Beef and Pork Variety Pack

     We sometimes hear people voice concerns about their freezer space when it comes to the different meat packages. We’re here to ease any of those worries! Take a look below – You’ll first see a freezer that has a 15-pound meat share in it. The 15-pound share fits in a 10”(L) x 10”(H) x 14”(depth) space. In addition to that, we also wanted to share a picture of a 25-pound meat share. This share took up 16”(L) x 10”(H) x 14”(Depth). These pictures are in our very own standard freezer in the kitchen. We hope that if the size of these various meat packages seemed intimidating at first, you now feel like you can confidently order and know your freezer will suit you just fine!

 Here we have a 15 pound Beef and Pork Variety Pack (contents may vary):
 1 pkg of T-bone or Rib Steaks (2 steaks per pkg)
1 pkg Beef Sirloin Steak (1 steak per pkg)
1 Beef Chuck Roast
2 pounds Ground Beef
3 pkg Pork Chops (2 chops per pkg)
2 pounds Ground Pork
3 Pkgs Bacon

Here we have a 25-pound Beef and Pork Variety Pack (contents may vary):
1 T-bone Steak (2 steaks per pkg)
1 Beef Sirloin Steak (2 steaks per pkg)
1 Beef Chuck Roast
1 Package Beef Stew Meat
4 pounds Ground Beef
3 pkgs Pork Chops (2 chops per pkg)
3 pounds Ground Pork
3 pkgs Bacon
1 Fresh Ham Roast

     In addition to our meat clubs, we also offer the option sign up for one-time deliveries. We have several different packages to choose from. Like our meat clubs, you can sign-up now for a delivery in November, December and/or May.

To sign up for either our meat club or an individual delivery, find our Meat Order Form Here.

What To Consider When Cooking Grass-fed Beef

The way in which animals are managed and raised does directly impact the qualities and characteristics of meat.  It is important to realize this because it will directly affect how you cook your meat to get the best quality end product.  Grass-fed beef from animals that have led stress-free lives grazing on pastures tends to be more lean and flavorful when compared to conventionally raised, grain-fed beef.  If you are accustomed to cooking conventional, grain-fed beef, or have had less than delicious results cooking or eating grass-fed meat previously, there are a few things to consider that might make a difference in your end result.


The first thing to remember, and possibly the most important, is do not overcook the meat!! Grass-fed beef is more lean and has less marbling than grain-fed beef.  Since fat is an insulator, and grass-fed meat is so lean, it will cook faster than grain-fed meat and may be less forgiving without the fat to cover up a little bit of overcooked meat.  When you are reading recipes, take the guidelines for how long to cook a piece of meat with a grain of salt.  The time it takes to cook a piece of meat will depend on other variables including the size and thickness of the piece.  There are other ways to test the doneness of a piece of meat as well.  One way is to test the doneness of some pieces of meat, such as a chuck roast or stew meat, to see if it is “fork tender.” When a fork is inserted into the piece of meat, the meat should slide off the fork easily.  If it does, the meat is done.  If the fork doesn’t come out easily, the meat needs to cook longer.  Other ways to judge the doneness of meat include touch and temperature.  Learning to judge the doneness of meat by touch takes practice and time to master.  If you’ve ever wondered why chefs are always poking meat on a grill, it’s because they are feeling the resistance the piece of meat gives to touch.  The more the meat is cooked, the more firm the meat will feel.  This is something you will just have to practice and master over time. 

Checking the internal temperature of a piece of meat while it is cooking is a more reliable way to monitor the degree of doneness.  The USDA recommends cooking beef to a final internal temperature of 140-170° F, however most chefs would recommend a range of 120°F for rare meat and an upper range of 165°F for well-done meat.  You can use a simple meat thermometer or meat probe to test the internal temperature.  Insert the thermometer into a thicker, more centrally located place on the piece of meat.  If the piece you are testing contains a bone, make sure the thermometer is inserted away from the bone.  Also, remember that meat continues to cook even after you remove it from the heat source.  This is called carry-over cooking.  Don’t forget to take this into account when you are cooking and remove the meat from the heat before it reaches your final desired temperature.  Smaller pieces of meat, such as a rib steak, will continue to carry-over cook for about 5 to 10 minutes and the temperature can increase another 5 degrees.  If you are cooking a larger piece of meat such as a roast, the meat can continue to cook for an additional 15-30 minutes after being removed from the heat source.  The temperature of a larger piece of meat can rise as much as an additional 10-15 degrees. 

The next thing to remember is that you control the flame.  What I mean is that you have control of the temperature at which you are cooking your meat.  Remember, grass-fed meat doesn’t have as much fat to insulate it so it will cook more quickly.  If you are cooking grass-fed beef over a high temperature, you can cook the meat too quickly and cook the moisture and fat right out of the meat, making it dry and tough.  


Another important factor is to choose the correct cooking method for the cut of meat you are preparing.  Cuts of meat that come from a part of the animal that is used and exercised more will be tougher.  To tenderize these cuts you should use a moist heat cooking method which will use a longer cooking time and added moisture or liquid to help tenderize the meat. 

  • Moist Heat cooking methods include braising, stewing, boiling or cooking in a crock-pot. 
  • Tougher cuts of beef include the following:  Chuck Roast, Arm Roast, Rump Roast, Round Steak, Stew Meat and Short Ribs.

Cuts of meat that come from muscles of the animal that are not as active will be more tender.  These cuts of meat can be prepared using dry-heat cooking methods

  • Dry Heat Cooking methods include grilling, sautéeing, roasting, broiling, stir-frying, pan-frying, and deep-frying. 
  • More tender cuts of beef include the following:  Rib Steak, T-bone Steak, Sirloin Steak, Sirloin Tip, Flank Steak and Skirt Steak. 


Finally, lets talk about flavor.  Yes, it will ultimately come down to a matter of personal preference.  Grass-fed beef has been described as having more of a juicy, rich, robust “beefy flavor” in comparison to grain-fed meat.  The flavor of grass-fed meat has also been described as “clean” in comparison to grain-fed meat.  The higher fat content and marbling in grain-fed meat may leave more of a coating in your mouth and an after-taste that you won’t experience with grass-fed meat, which may be why some people describe the flavor as “clean.”  Animals that are grass-fed have a distinctive, sufficient flavor that can stand on its own without a lot of additional seasonings and sauces.  Let the natural flavor of the meat stand out by using simple salt & pepper seasonings or simple herb rubs for starters.   For braised dishes such as pot roast, the flavor of the meat will be infused into the cooking liquid creating a flavorful rich stock or sauce.  As you begin to experience the flavors of grass-fed beef, we encourage you to keep it simple so the true flavor of the meat comes out and you can taste the difference for yourself.


This video clip from The New York Times and Mark Bittman discusses and shows you some of the differences between cooking with grass-fed and grain-fed beef. This video does a great job of  highlighting some of the differences that we have mentioned in this post.

There are a lot of resources available to guide you in your endeavors to cook grass-fed beef.  One of our favorites is Shannon Hayes’ book called The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook.  You can also check out her blog, The Radical Homemaker.  She offers a lot of really simple, down-to-earth and resourceful ways to successfully prepare grass-fed beef. 

What To Consider When Cooking Pastured Pork

     Just as with other animals and food crops, the way in which an animal is raised is directly related to how the meat tastes when it gets to your plate.  Our pigs are very active and eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and roots in addition to their organic grain.  As a result, the meat they produce is often darker in color with a rosy hue and is very flavorful.   If you are accustomed to eating conventionally raised pork, you will notice a difference in not only the appearance and flavors of certified organic pastured pork, but also in the way it cooks.  Here are a few things to consider when cooking Certified Organic Pastured Pork.

Tip number one...Don’t overcook the meat!
      Pastured pork is very flavorful and juicy, but you can easily overcook it by using too high of heat or cooking it for too long.  Don’t forget that meat continues to cook with the residual heat held within it even after you remove it from the heat source.  If you think your pork is not quite done, remove it from the heat right then.  By the time it finishes cooking it will likely be perfect.  Checking the internal temperature of the meat is a good way to gauge the degree of doneness so you know when to take it off the heat.  The USDA recommends cooking pork to an internal temperature of 170°F, but that will likely result in a very dry piece of meat.  A range of 145-165°F will give you a juicier, more tender piece of meat. 

Tip Number Two…Choose an appropriate cooking method!
     The second important thing to keep in mind is to make sure you are using the right cooking method for the cut of meat you are preparing.  There are two main cooking methods, moist heat cooking and dry heat cooking.  

     Cuts of meat that come from a part of the animal that is used and exercised more will be tougher and may have more intramuscular connective tissue and gelatin.  To tenderize these cuts, you should use a moist heat cooking method which will use a longer cooking time and lower temperature with added moisture or liquid to help tenderize the meat.   As the meat cooks, the connective tissue and gelatin in the meat will melt down making the meat tender, moist and very delicious. 

  • Moist heat cooking methods include: braising, stewing, boiling or cooking in a crock-pot. 

  • Cuts of pork that are most appropriate to use with this cooking method include: Pork Shoulder (Roast or Steak), Country Style Short Ribs, Spare Ribs, Ham and Pork Hocks.

     Cuts of meat that come from muscles of the animal that are not as active will be more tender.  These cuts of meat can be cooked for shorter periods of time at higher temperatures. 

  • Dry heat cooking methods include: grilling, sautéeing, roasting, broiling, stir-frying, pan-frying and deep-frying. 

  • Cuts of pork that are most appropriate to use with this cooking method include: pork chops, pork tenderloin, bacon and ham.

Tip Number Three….Let the meat speak for itself
     Don’t forget that pastured pork is very flavorful, so let that flavor work in your favor.  Use simple seasonings, herb and spice rubs or just a little salt and pepper to season the meat.  Simple marinades and sauces are nice accompaniments to pastured pork as well.  Whenever possible, make the sauce in the pan that the pork was cooked in, or cook the pork in the sauce or braising liquid.  The flavors of the pork will seep into the sauce adding a fuller pork flavor to the sauce.