Finding food sources and nutritional science facts and fiction, anecdotes and experimenting with what we eat continue to occupy our time and mind space in our quest for activating the second brain (more on that in future posts). In this post I will explore our meat sources a little bit.
From a farm 25 minutes south of here – called La Ferme de Gaston – we get a selection of pork (including lard, sausages, feet, tails, heads and throats) from two different kinds of pig: Gascon and Basque pigs, which are rare breeds that grow slowly and get rather fat and are therefore not suitable for industrial production. Happy pigs they are, and delicious for the palate – not like any pork you’ve ever had, unless, of course, you’ve tasted them already 🙂
Dries and Tine are originally from Belgium, but they are now pig farmers and pork product producers down the road. We commenced our projects around the same time and we bought meat from their first slaughter for sale. Our business relationship is developing well and recently they did not have time to prepare and make pâté of the big lump of flesh and fat that hangs around the pig’s throat, so they gave it to us. It was probably about 10-15 kilos of high quality fat with meaty bits once we had removed the many glands and bits and pieces that don’t look like you want to eat them.
It is all getting somewhat personal, with the other animals as well, as each packet of pork now comes with a letter on it: we are currently eating “M” for Marta. Between the field, where we visit them sometimes, and our plate, there is only the abbatoir and 25 mins drive. This is pretty much as good as it gets for us at the moment.
So, it was time to make pâté and luckily we were getting beef delivery three days later. From the plateau North-East of here, which separates the Vivarais – where we are – and the large and partly industrial Rhone valley, came the old semi-retired farmer bearing gifts in addition to the 20kg beef we had ordered from his family farm’s grass-fed Salers cattle:
“The historical journey for the Salers breed, was first recorded by archaeologists as depicted from ancient drawings in cave dwellings dated some 7,000 years ago. The drawings were found near Salers, a small medieval town in the center of France. These drawings and the Salers cattle of today, which are very different from all other French breeds, bear some resemblance to the ancient Egyptian red cattle. With such a unique background, the breed is considered to be one of the oldest and most genetically pure of all European breeds.”
The cattle do get organic, homegrown alfalfa when the little ones are drinking milk. A nice little protein supplement that grazing cows otherwise seek out in times of need. The gift was a kilo or more of brains and the delivery included about 5 kilo liver and heart. It was a no-brainer: mixed with the pork fat we made 25-30 kilo of mince, with salt and turmeric powder for preservative purposes, and including 2-3 kilo tripe which he’d given us a few months earlier. To that amazing mix we added 4 to 5 kilo paleron (it’s a cut above the rest from the shoulder called the chuck, from which you get a butlers’ steak in the UK, an oyster blade steak in Australia and New Zealand, while it’s a flat iron steak in US terminology). Paleron is fantastic for stewing and mincing, but it’s been “rediscovered” as a new source for marbled steaks in recent years as well and its popularity is growing. We baked a lot of pâté out of this, kept us going for more than a week, but of course not 25 or more kilos of it. We froze a lot – in vegetable origin “plastic bags” with a zipper. Here are seven bags with approx. 2 kilos in each, flat on top of each other in a drawer, ready to go back into the freezer:
We flatten them so that they defrost quickly and that the space of the freezer is efficiently used.
Normally, we use eggs for our pâté to firm it up in the French style, rather than the Nordic and German spreadable version of the same. This time we did it differently. Dries and Tine gave us yet another present: a bag full of feet and tails. That’s a gelatine galore pumped full of glycine, alanine, proline, hydroxyproline, some of which are “conditionally non-essential amino acids”: even though the human body is in theory and often in practice able to produce these amino acids, which are instrumental for a lot of crucial processes in the body, living under stress (most people in cities surrounded by car fumes, WiFi/phone microwaves and each other) and eating poorly (most people generally) can cause insufficient production of these amino acids; which then become essential under the conditions of modern life. Pig trotters save the day: throw them in a big pot cover fully and a bit with water, bring to the boil, then let simmer for a few days, before straining (perhaps through a cheese cloth if you want it really clear and clean). Next step is to reduce it: boil without a lid until it bubbles like thick, hot lava. Let it cool and add to almost any dish. Nice for a vegetable wok and it is even possible to make wine gums out of it: add a bit of beetroot juice and honey, pour in small cake or ice cube forms. You can also freeze it.
Needless to say, the beef is very tasty and our three and a half year old loves it raw, saying “We’re tigers, Grrr”, as he rips apart a sandwich steak with his teeth.
Now the freezer is full and the hot summer sets in, so no slaughtering until September, it’s simply too hot to handle fresh meat. We are prepared.