Category Archives: Food & Farm Blog

Stock for staying home and staying healthy

Recipe and article by Robin Kerber

Our flock of laying hens spend the cold months sheltered from the elements and protected by our watchdog Molly, and the long summer days on pasture, soaking up the sun and eating as many bugs as they can. They are rotated throughout our pastures and hay fields, directly fertilizing the land and eating a rich and nutritious diet that results in extra flavorful eggs with elevated amounts of vitamins, minerals, and Omega-3. 

But the pastured laying hen benefit to our farm is not limited to these eggs. We periodically cull some of our older layers to make way for new members of the flock, and in doing so are left with a byproduct of our egg production: meat!

Retired layers have a bad reputation. Their meat is often considered tough, chewy, lacking flavor and overall not worth processing. We wholeheartedly disagree, and think our retired hens make some of the best stock imaginable! Sure, even a low and slow cooking process results in a somewhat tougher-than-we’re-used-to meat, but the rich, golden yellow stock that comes from these birds is undeniably superior to that made with a broiler hen.

We cooked down one of our chickens and made a rich broth that was then turned into a classic Italian Wedding Soup using our “meatball mix” (a blend of our own pork, beef, and veal). Soup was served hot by the bowlful at our annual Sheep Shearing Day!

 

 


Homemade Chicken (or beef, veal, and kinda bones you have!) Broth

Ingredients:

  • 1 Misty Brook Farm laying hen, thawed or frozen (you can also use beef, veal, pork, etc. bone)
  • Any aromatics you want! Use up old vegetable scraps, onions, carrots, apples (they add a nice thickness from their natural pectin), bay leaves, herbs…
  • Enough water to fully cover the chicken (or bones)

 

Combine all ingredients in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer, uncovered, several hours. Strain broth and pick meat off of chicken for use, discarding remaining ingredients. Use within a week, or freeze for up to 6 months.

 

 


Italian Wedding Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1lb Misty Brook Farm meatball mix
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 Tb dry bread crumbs
  • 2 Tb grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 3 quarts chicken broth
  • 2 cups thinly sliced escarole, kale, or spinach
  • 1 1/2 cup uncooked orzo pasta
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped carrot

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Mix together ground meat, eggs, bread crumbs, cheese, basil and onion powder
  3. Form meat mixture into meatballs, about 3/4″ in diameter
  4. Place meatballs on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes
  5. In a soup pot, combine broth, greens, uncooked orzo, and carrot
  6. Cook until pasta is al dente, then add meatballs

Sheep Shearing

Article by Robin Kerber 

We had a wonderful turnout at this past weekend’s annual Sheep Shearing Day at the farm! In preparation for the upcoming lambing season, our flock was sheared by local shearing expert Jeff Burchstead from Buckwheat Blossom Farm. He brought with him equipment and a crew of ready and skilled hands who helped skirt the fleece and get them ready for processing.

The history of sheep shearing is fascinating and dates back to 3500 BCE. Wool production is the oldest trade commodity, and was the first widespread international trade throughout ancient civilizations. Wool quickly became a determining factor in who could afford to be the major power players in the world, with its versatility used for clothing, yarns, blankets, carpets and even insulation. The initial voyages of Columbus were financed through Spain’s wool trading business, and by the mid-1600’s, the wool industry was so large in Colonial America (with over 10,000 sheep producing wool), that England banned the industry all together. 

Sheep continued to become popular throughout the world, with different breeds adapting better to different environments. We love raising sheep because of their versatility: meat, wool, and milk are some of the benefits here at Misty Brook Farm. Plus, they make our pastures that much more beautiful when they’re grazing outside!

 

We are lucky to have Jeff here in Maine’s farming community. He recently took 4th place at the National Sheep Shearing Competition for blade shearing, a craft we were able to witness on a few of our sheep this past weekend. While blade shearing is the original method of shearing, it is less commonly seen in developed countries because it takes significantly longer and requires a lot of practice. Jeff mostly shears with machine shears, though credits his developed skills with blade shearing to all the practice he gets! Blade shearing is still very popular in colder climates, where the small amount of wool that is left on the sheep’s body helps keep them warm. In New Zealand, close to half a million sheep are still sheared with blades each year!

Check out Jeff’s amazing skills here: Sheep Shearing Video

RECIPE: Veal Stew with Lemon Polenta

Article and recipe by Robin Kerber

At Misty Brook Farm, we believe that humanely raising veal is a vital part of a healthy dairy farm. If you drink dairy, the responsible thing to do is also eat veal. Every year a cow has a calf in order to keep the milk flowing. About half of these calves are bull calves, and while most dairies sell their bull calves as soon as possible, we raise them here for either veal or beef.  On our farm we raise all the calves and give them the best life possible. When it comes to raising animals for meat, we like to say: they will have one bad day, or even just one bad moment, on this earth. We take pride in filling all their days with healthy soil and feed, plenty of sunlight and respect.

Our veal calves are called rose veal because of their color. The calves are all raised on their mothers or nurse moms. They are rotationally grazed with their moms and have plenty of sunshine. With all this great food and attention, our Jersey bull calves make superb rose veal. The veal is delicate in taste compared to beef and takes seasoning well.

This recipe is rich and savory, but the flavors are subtle enough to not mask the delicate flavor of the veal. Enjoy with polenta, pasta, or any grain side!

Veal Stew with Lemon Polenta

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tb olive oil
  • 2 lb veal stew meat
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Tb salted butter
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 Tb tomato paste
  • 1.5 cups red wine
  • 2 cups canned whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 Tb fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 Tb fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 Tb Italian parsley, chopped (save 1 tb for garnish)
  • 4 cups water, broth, or stock
  • 1 cup Italian cornmeal
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Tb finely grated lemon zest, half used for garnish

Instructions:

  1. In a enamel cast iron casserole pot, heat 1 Tb of the olive oil
  2. Add veal, salt and pepper
  3. Cook over high heat until browned, then remove from pot
  4. Add 1 Tb butter to pot and put over medium heat
  5. Add celery, onion, carrot and tomato paste                      
  6. Cook until softened, then add wine and tomatoes
  7. Reduce down until thick, then add fresh rosemary, thyme, and 1 Tb of the parsley
  8. Add cooked veal meat and turn heat down to a very low simmer
  9. Cook until veal is tender, simmering and covered for about 1 hour
  10. For polenta, bring liquid to a boil
  11. Slowly whisk in cornmeal                                             
  12. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 25 minutes, switching to a wooden spoon when polenta becomes thick
  13. Season with salt, pepper, and half of lemon zest
  14. Serve hot veal stew with cornmeal, garnished with lemon zest and remaining parsley
 

Rendering Veal Fat

Article by Robin Kerber

Lard, tallow, butter… these words have a dirty reputation thanks to mainstream claims that these natural fats are bad for our health and our hearts. But if we take a  closer look at these exaggerated ideas, many originated from a time when wealthy and powerful processed food companies like Crisco and Parkay (makers of hydrogenated vegetable oil) had a lot of influence in the American diet. 

These companies began mass producing hydrogenated vegetable oils that behaved similarly to their natural, animal fat counterparts, except they had an increased shelf life, were inexpensive, and contained nasty trans fat. In an attempt to inspire all American housewives to swap out their tubs of lard for highly-processed and chemically-manipulated shortening, Crisco and Parkay in partnership with national health organizations ran a successful marketing campaign that bashed animal fats and successfully persuaded cooks across the country that saturated animal fat is an unhealthy option. 

While shortening was deemed a revolution in health food and a healthier alternative to animal fats, more recent studies have shown that this highly processed food deserves no place in our kitchens, homes, or bodies.

Thankfully the use of lard, tallow, and butter has seen a revival in American cooking. With this re-discovery has also come an interest in sourcing high quality, organic and local ingredients from farms that practice sustainable and regenerative agriculture.

While your great-great-grandmother rendered lard and tallow and didn’t have access to refrigeration like we do, I still recommend that you store your finished fat in the fridge or freezer. Even the finest strainer or cheesecloth will allow bits of impurities pass through with the fat. These sometimes microscopic pieces of meat, cartilage, etc. can spoil the fat and cause it to go rancid – unless you store in the fridge of freezer! So why risk it?

Whether your cast iron skillet is brand new or just in need of a deep seasoning, I always use rendering animal fat as an opportunity to heat and season my pans. The low heat of the oven paired with multiple hours of slow rendering and fat absorption is ideal for cast iron. Plus, when you’re done, you have a hot, fatty skillet ready to fry up supper!

Best uses for animal fat:

  1. Fried chicken (or anything deep fried… tallow and lard has a very high smoke point)
  2. The flakiest pie crusts and biscuits
  3. Any old recipe that calls for shortening – swap it out for lard!
  4. Traditional refried beans or tamales
  5. Seasoning cast iron
  6. Adding a savory flavor to just about anything!
  7. Roll set tallow into a tray of birdseed and hang from tree branches to feed your outdoor friends

How to render veal or beef suet into tallow:

  • Chop cold suet into equal-sized pieces (or leave whole like I did, if you’re feeling lazy)
  • Fill cast iron skillet with suet chunks and place in oven
  • Turn oven up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit 
  • Suet will slowly melt and separate from the solid, non-fat particles
  • Check on the melting suet every hour, stirring occasionally
  • While suet is melting, set up your sterilized jars or food storage containers. Once melted, you will need to work quickly to fill the containers before the fat cools and solidifies. 
  • When the tallow has fully melted, carefully remove skillet from oven
  • Strain through fine mesh chinois or cheesecloth into a liquid measuring cup or something you can easily pour from

  • Fill sterilized jars or clean food storage containers with hot tallow
  • Allow fat to fully cool and solidify before capping
  • Store in refrigerator or freezer. The exact shelf life will depend on how many impurities you were able to strain out, but most tallow will last a VERY long time in the freezer.