Featured Cut: Spatchcocked Chicken

Nothing makes the weekend dinner table quite as welcoming as a whole, roasted chicken. But that Sunday bird requires quite a bit of preparation and cook time. Well Kettle Club members, we’ve prepared a special treat that’s going to make that chicken an easy Monday meal! We’ve spatchcocked it!

What it is Spatchcocking?

Spatchcocking is a preparation method in which the backbone of the bird is removed. This allows the bird to lay flatter when cooking. What does that mean for you? Well for starters, it cuts down the cooking time by almost half! Approximately 35-40 minutes compared to a the traditional whole bird that takes at least an hour.

How does it taste?

Ever wished you could get a more even crisp on the whole bird? Well spatchcocking does just that. Flattening allows for the entire bird to be exposed to the heat source, creating an evenly crisped skin.  It also allows the bird to cook more consistently. Breast meat can often dry out before the dark meat is finished cooking. A spatchcocked chicken will cook more evenly, leaving all your favorite pieces tender and juicy.

How about carving that bird? That’s a breeze too. Because the bird is lying flat, it’s much easier to determine where to cut without hitting any bone or cartilage. Now that you know all about the preparation, let’s move on to the best part, dinner. To roast a spatchcocked chicken, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Line a baking dish with foil and insert a rack. Place chicken on top of the rack and rub with oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper or, your favorite chicken seasoning.  Bake skin side up for 35-40 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers at 165 degrees at the thickest part of the breast. Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes before serving to seal in the juices. If you want to fire up the grill, check out this great recipe, Chicken Under a Brick.

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.

Heritage Breeds: What’s in a Name?

Our patrons often ask us about the breeds of swine we source for our delicious pork products. The simple answer, heritage breeds. But what are heritage breeds, and why are they important for genetic preservation of the swine species?

What is a Heritage Breed?

While there is currently no set definition for the phrase, heritage livestock breeds are the breeds that flourished in the agrarian societies of our ancestors. Long before the modernization of agriculture when pigs were raised primarily on pasture, it was important that these animals possessed the necessary skills needed to thrive in specific environmental conditions. Genetically speaking, we refer to these skills as traits, and keeping these traits intact ensured that our forefathers could produce a bountiful supply of meat to feed their communities.

Why are Heritage Breeds Important?

But modern agriculture has moved away from raising pigs on pasture, and hardiness, sturdiness and adaptability are no longer desirable attributes. Instead, commodity pork producers seek faster-growing animals that reach market weights in record time. The shift in genetic selection has led to an overall decrease in the swine breeds of the past. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization reports that 20% of the world’s cattle, goats, pigs, horses and poultry are currently at risk of extinction. A consequence of this potential extinction would be the loss of unique traits that could help these animals thrive in any future, harsh conditions.

What Kinds of Breeds Do We Source at Kettle Range Meat Company?

Here at Kettle Range Meats we work to source these important heritage breeds. We source these breeds not only because they’re great tasting when compared with commodity pork, but we also want to support the farmers who work hard to keep these breeds intact for the future success of our agriculture systems. Let’s look at just a few of the breeds we serve up:

Duroc

Originating in the United States, the Duroc is one of the fastest-growing heritage breeds. They tend to put on a lot of intramuscular fat making them knows for the tender shoulder roasts.

Red Wattle

Characterized by a fleshy wattle on either side of their neck, these breeds are best known for their rich textured and delicious hams.

Hereford

Developed in the United States, this breed was named for its shared coloring with Hereford cattle. Their pork is tenderly delicious due to a high proportion of intramuscular fat.

Berkshire

This breed is sometimes referred to as kurobuta, which is Japanese for black pork due to their hair color. They are known for their savory, umami flavor.