Featured Cut: Beef Chuck Roast

For those of you that receive beef roasts in your Kettle Club share, we have a classic and versatile cut for you this month, the chuck roast. Let’s learn a little more about his flavorful cut.

What is a chuck roast?

Before we get into the anatomy of the steer, let’s talk about flavor. We’ve all heard the term, “beefy” used to describe certain cuts. Of course it’s beefy. It’s beef, right? What we’re really talking about here is the presence of Umami. Considered the fifth taste (alongside salty, bitter, sweet and sour) Umami simply refers to the taste of protein and translates to “pleasant flavory taste” in Japanese.

The presence and amount of Umami in beef cuts is determined by the type of muscle and how much exercise it gets. Now back to anatomy, imagine a herd of steers grazing happily on pasture. They’re continually walking forward to get the freshest and tastiest bites of forage available and relying heavily on strong muscles from the shoulders and hips to move them across pasture. This constant exercise tones these muscles and results in an increase in the amount connective tissue and blood flow to the area, thus resulting in the presence of Umami.

The chuck roast comes from, you guessed it, the shoulder of the steer giving it that great Umami flavor. The trick to cooking this well flavored cut is to break down that connective tissue by roasting or braising slowly.  This transforms any toughness into a tender roast you can pull or serve by the slice.  Think beef roasts are only a rainy-day or winter-time meal? Check out this fantastic summer recipe for BBQ Beef Sliders.

Grazing for Greener Pastures

We’re all familiar with the health benefits of grass-fed beef. Lower in overall fat and calories, higher in Omega-3 fatty acids. But what about the health benefits shared between grazing animals and their ecosystems? How do cattle improve the health of the land, and how does the land reciprocate?

Imagine a lush prairie speckled with wild grazers like bison and deer. The symbiotic relationship between flora and fauna allowed these ecosystems to prosper in their natural state for thousands of years. Animals grazed on native forages for short periods and moved (or were chased by predators) on to greener pastures. The brief time spent grazing each area stimulated root growth and increased species diversity necessary for protecting against elements like drought and flooding.

Grass-fed cattle producers understand that delicate balance and do their best to recreate a similar environment with livestock. This sustainable practice is referred to as rotational grazing and promotes both plant and animal health. Farmers set up small paddocks of pasture and move cattle often, allowing grasses to recover and grow. Moving herds frequently mimics the natural movement of animals on prairie.  Let’s take a more detailed look at the benefits of managing pastures using rotational grazing.

Soil Quality and Plant Diversity

In 2011, a devastating drought swept the southwest United States. Conventional cattle producers struggled to keep animals healthy amidst fluctuating grain prices. But one Texas grass-fed producer, Joh Taggart, managed to keep cattle on pasture, even improving soil quality in the process.

“I’m proud to say that we harvested cattle every week of the year through that entire drought,” Taggart told ABC News in a recent interview.

Taggart attributes his success to a diversified plant population. An increase in the number of species can reduce weed invasion and create strong root systems for plants. These root systems are important for surviving drought conditions. Cattle act as catalysts for increasing plant diversity by digesting and depositing seed in different paddocks. They further increase the health of forages in rotational grazing systems by leaving more plant stubble and forage residue that can be beneficial for insect and soil microbe populations.

Environmental Benefits

Grass-fed systems are also better for the environment. Studies have shown that well managed systems can increase soil carbon sequestration. The grazing process, which causes plant roots to continually die back and deposit their carbon in the soil, allows for plants to draw significant amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. The CO2 is then deposited in the soil as organic carbon, reducing the levels in the atmosphere.

Bringing It All to the Table

As a Kettle Range customer, we know you want the best and most responsibly raised meats for you and your family. That’s why we partner with producers who champion the highest standards of environmental stewardship and animal well-being. Thanks to your support, our producers can raise healthy protein in a sustainable manner that promotes our shared values. Thank you, Kettle Club!

Recipe: Shepherd’s Pie

While our own Chef Erik is sometimes reluctant to give out all his secrets, in light of this delicious holiday, he’s agreed to share his recipe for one of our most popular heat-and-eat meals, Irish-inspired Shepherd’s Pie. Enjoy, Kettle Club!

Ingredients for Mashed Potatoes:

2-3 large, Russet potatoes

Kosher Salt

3 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup heavy cream

 

Ingredients for Filling:

3/4 cup chicken stock

1 lb. ground beef

1 small, yellow onion diced

1 large carrot, diced

4 garlic cloves, crushed or diced

 

¼ cup dry red wine

2 teaspoons fresh thyme chopped

1 bay leaf

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

 

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1-pound peas

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

For Mashed Potatoes:

Peel and rough-cut potatoes. Transfer to a large pot and cover with cold water by at least 2 inches. Season water with salt. Boil 10-15 minutes until potatoes are easily pierced by knife. Drain potatoes in colander and transfer into large bowl with butter. Whip on high until light and fluffy. Turn mixer to lowest setting and slowly add cream until smooth (you may not need all the cream).

For Filling:

Heat oil in large Dutch oven over high heat until shimmering. Add ground beef and cook until browned. Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook stirring and scraping bottom of pot until vegetables are softened (about 4 minutes).

Add red wine and bring to a simmer over high heat. Cook until wine has almost evaporated. Add chicken stock, thyme, bay leaf and Worcestershire. Sprinkle corn starch over mixture in pot and stir. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce has thickened (about 20 minutes). Discard Bay Leaf. Stir in peas and season with salt and pepper.

Cool filling and cover with mashed potatoes. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Enjoy!

Sweetheart Strip Steak

Preparing a Valentine’s Day meal for that special someone? How about a steak dinner? Better yet, a heart-shaped steak dinner. Create a beautiful presentation by butterflying your Kettle Club premium New York Strip Steak into a heart. Follow these easy instructions to impress your carnivorous companion. We’ve even prepared a savory tarragon and red wine steak butter to top off your masterpiece. Enjoy!

  1. Place the steak fat side down on a cutting board
  2. Cut the steak in half length-wise without cutting all the way through to within ½ inch of the edge of the fat
  3. Open the steak by pressing each flat side down
  4. Season the steak with salt and pepper and cook to the temperature of your liking
  5. Top with Chef Eric’s savory red wine and tarragon steak butter
  6. Enjoy!

Ask the Butcher: How Can I Get the Most from My Roast?

This month’s Ask the Butcher question wants to know, “What else can I do with this beef roast?”

Hey, we get it. You’re tired of eating the same old traditional pot roast. We’re here to help. Here’s a few ideas on how you can take stretch that boring beef roast into some easy and delicious weekday meals!

Sunday: Cook Your Roast

Cook your beef roast on Sunday for easy prepping throughout the week. A good rule of thumb for cooking a roast in a crock pot is three hours per pound of roast (6 hours for your 2 lb. Kettle Club roast) on low.

For oven preparation, preheat oven to 350 degrees and cook 20 minutes for each pound of roast (about an hour for your Kettle Club roast).

Be sure to season your roast with salt and pepper and add liquid to tenderize and enhance flavor. Our famous Kettle Range beef bone broth works wonderfully for this!

When your roast has cooled, shred for easy preparation throughout the week. Store the beef in an airtight container with a little of the cooking juices to keep it tasty and tender.

Monday: Philly Cheese Steak Dip

Mondays can be rough. Make dinner easy. First, dice an onion and green pepper. Sauté the veggies in a hot pan with oil. When the onions are translucent, add 8 oz. of cream cheese and stir until the mixture reaches a creamy consistency. Add ½ cup sour cream and about 1 cup of your cooked, shredded roast (more if you’re wanting a meatier dip).

Dip using crackers or toasted French bread.

Tuesday: Beef Tacos

Ever wonder why taco Tuesday at Kettle Range is one of the most delicious days of the week? Probably has something to do with the amazing shredded beef our chefs use to create our heat and serve meals. What cuts do we use you ask? Roasts, of course! Shredded beef roasts make fantastic tacos and unlike traditional ground beef tacos, shreds can take on a ton more flavor when heated with your favorite taco seasonings.

Wednesday:  BBQ Beef Stuffed Potatoes

Is your twice baked potato missing something? Turn that side dish into a filling meal by adding BBQ beef.

Rub 2 potatoes with oil and salt and bake at 300 degrees for 90 minutes or until tender. Split cooked potatoes lengthwise and spoon out insides. Combine potato mixture with 2 tablespoons of sour cream, cheddar cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Add your favorite BBQ sauce to the cooked shredded beef. Combine the BBQ and potato mixture and return to potato skins. Cook at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until warm. Enjoy!

Ask the Butcher: Are Your Cows 100% Grass-Fed?

This month’s Ask the Butcher questions wants to know, “If your cows are 100% grass-fed, what do they eat in the winter when there’s no fresh grass available?”

Great question! This is another question we receive quite frequently. We love our Wisconsin summers, and so do our cows. During the spring, summer and fall months, our cows graze on the luscious rolling hills that make our state so beautiful. But winters can be rough. That’s why our producers work hard during harvest season to ensure cows are meeting their nutritional requirements in colder months without supplementing grains. This is done by producing hay and haylage. Let’s take a deeper look at some of these feeds and how they’re produced.

Hay

Hay is a great way to preserve fresh grasses and keep cows healthy in winter months. In Wisconsin, farmers typically seed with a mix of clover, ryegrass, alfalfa and fescue. When forages are at their peak nutritional value, they’re mowed and dried in the field for 3-5 days. Ever heard the adage, “If the sun is shining, make hay?” The sun is an important part of drying the freshly cut forages for storage. Hay typically has a moisture content of 15-20 percent. This ensures that it is dry enough to keep from producing harmful bacteria, but wet enough to avoid combustion. The dried grass is raked in the field and formed into bales for winter storage.

Haylage

Haylage is made much in the same way hay is, but dried for a shorter period. It typically has twice the moisture content of hay, about 40-60 percent. After the grasses are cut and baled, they are wrapped to eliminate exposure to air. The high moisture levels and airtight environment results in a fermentation process. The fermented forages produce natural acids that preserve the feed throughout the winter. The entire preservation process results in a high-quality feed that provides more nutritional supplementation for cattle.

Thanks for this month’s question regarding winter feeds! Keep those questions coming, Kettle Club Members!

Farmer Spotlight: The Schlimgen Family

We like to think of our Kettle Club members as family. Which is why we would like to introduce you to some of our extended family, the Midwestern producers who work tirelessly to ensure you have access to the healthiest, most sustainably raised meats. Meet the Schlimgen family!

Walk through the lush pastures of Dreamy 280 and you can see why Lisa and Dennis Schlimgen chose the name. The picturesque rolling hills speckled with content cattle roaming and ruminating on the nutrient rich forages are what makes Wisconsin farms so special.

“We feel that it is our responsibility to be good stewards of the land and implement sustainable beef raising practices,” Lisa explains. “The beef we produce is humanely raised without animal by-products and is hormone and antibiotic free.”

Raised on farms only miles away from where they currently reside, Lisa and Dennis shared a passion for agriculture and continued to make farming a family affair. They purchased Dreamy 280 near Blue Mounds in 1989, and began raising a few head of cattle along with a family.

Their three children, Julie, Patrick and Hope took an interest in showing off their superior cattle and have been stacking the family’s trophy room with ribbons and plaques for years. Though now grown, they are still actively involved in the family business. Patrick takes a special interest in genetics, sourcing the best cows for their herd which is comprised of angus and a few shorthorn.

The Schlimgens are the epitome of responsible husbandry and environmental stewardship. We thank them for not only what they do for Kettle Range and our customers, but for the sustainable agriculture community.

Kettle Club Sausage of the Month: Italian Beef

Joe the butcher has created a unique twist on a Chicago delicacy for our Kettle Club members this month. June’s Italian beef sausage has been prepared with mozzarella, fresh basil, oregano, and hot giardiniera. It makes a great sandwich right off the grill, or incorporate the flavor kick to your favorite pasta or pizza recipe.

What is Giardiniera?

Before you begin enjoying June’s distinctively delicious sausage, let’s talk a little about giardiniera. First off, let’s all say it together, “JAR-DIN-AIR-AH.” There, that’s better. Originating in Italy, the word giardiniera translates loosely to “female gardener” or “one who pickles vegetables.” And why not with all its fresh ingredients? Recipes differ, but most variations of the condiment include hot or mild peppers, celery, carrots, cauliflower and olives. Italians used the method of pickling to preserve vegetables for the winter. It is thought that giardiniera was introduced to the United States in Chicago during the late 19th century following a wave of Italian immigration. The fiery condiment quickly became synonymous with Chicago’s famous Italian beef sandwiches and made its way into the hearts and refrigerators of area residents. For years, Chicago chefs and foodies have been perfecting their recipes and pickling techniques to bring giardiniera lovers a more heated version of the Italian original.

So, let’s tip our hats to our neighbors to the south and enjoy some great sausages this month!