Ask the Butcher: What is Your Favorite Holiday Meal?

Many of you know Joe Parajecki, our master butcher and head of production. Joe works tirelessly to prepare amazing goodies for our customers to enjoy with their families. But this holiday season, we want to know what Joe is having for dinner.

I come from a Polish family deep rooted in tradition—especially when it comes to holiday meals. Fresh Polish sausage, sometimes with sauerkraut, sometimes with fresh grated Horseradish, has always been a staple at our holiday table. I remember fondly the smell of garlic and marjoram filling the house as my grandmother made sausages on the days that would lead up to Christmas. The smell would linger on and we’d wait in full anticipation during Wigila Dinner Christmas Eve (a tradition including foods that come from the four corners of the earth: forest, sea, field, and orchard).  But, we would have to wait until after Midnight Mass to enjoy it.  Each year I continue this tradition with my family using the time-honored recipe passed down from my grandmother. And this season, I’d like to share it with you. I’ve prepared fresh polish sausage using my grandma’s recipe for our Kettle Club members this month. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have over the years.

Dziękuję Ci (thank you) , Joe!

Featured Cuts: Flank and Skirt Steak

Flank and skirt steak are back for the holidays! We received some amazing feedback this summer after featuring these cuts in Kettle Club shares that included regular steaks. Since you’ve all become flank and skirt experts, we’re taking your skills a step further this month.

Holiday feasts are all about presentation. Imagine how impressed your guests will be when cutting into a tender roll of skirt or flank to reveal an exquisitely tasty stuffed center. What they will know is that it’s delicious. What they won’t know is how easy it was. Be the shining star of your holiday gathering with this easy steak pinwheel recipe.

Ingredients

1  lb. flank or skirt steak, pounded
1 clove garlic, cut in half plus 1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 (1 pound) bag spinach, sautéed
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 small red bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed, cut into small dice (1/4 cup)
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups packed freshly grated Italian cheese  (Asiago, Parmesan, Pecorino, or Mozzarella)
Kitchen twine as needed
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

  1. Place the steak between two pieces of plastic wrap. Using a meat tenderizer, pound outthe steakto 1/4″ thickness. Remove the plastic wrap and place the steak on a cutting board
    2. Make a marinade by whisking together oil and vinegar. In a zip-lock bag or container large enough to accommodate steak, let meat marinate in vinaigrette at least two hours and up to six, refrigerated, turning once.
    3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    4. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the spinach by the handful and toss with tongs until it wilts (3 to 5 minutes). Mix spinach with minced garlic, egg, rosemary, bell pepper, bread crumbs, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.
    5. On a flat surface, lay out steak and spread out so the grain is running in front of you, left to right. Evenly press spinach mixture into entire flank steak. Sprinkle and press cheese mixture into spinach mixture, then tightly roll up, jelly-roll style, into a log.
    6. Cut a long piece of twine. First, wrap around the length of beef then wrap around the roll, securing it every couple of inches. Knot the twine and cut off dangling ends.
    7. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat oil over high heat. Sear flank steak on all sides, about 5 minutes total cooking time. Place flank steak on foil or parchment-lined cooking sheet and roast on center rack of oven 25-30 minutes, or until cooking thermometer registers 135 degrees, for rare and medium rare pieces.
    8. Remove to a cutting board with a well, and tent with foil. Let rest 15 minutes. Remove foil and, with a sharp knife, cut into 3/4-inch pieces. Remove twine and serve.

Lard: The Comeback Kid

What used to be a household staple has gradually disappeared from kitchens in recent generations. But don’t worry, pork lard is making a comeback and new research shows that it may be healthier for you than its recent substitutes.

Why pork lard?

Lard is High in Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a key role in calcium absorption and keeping our bones healthy and strong. Lucky for us, we can get this essential mineral from a delicious source, lard. Lard is the second highest food source of Vitamin D, after cod liver oil. The catch? The pork lard must come from pigs raised outdoors. This allows pigs to access sunlight to synthesize considerable amounts of Vitamin D to store in their fatty tissues.

Lard is neutral flavored

Coconut oil has become a popular choice for cooking because like lard, it’s extremely heat stable. But how about the taste? Many find that although coconut oil has a mild flavor, the taste doesn’t mesh well with every meal. Lard on the other hand has a very neutral flavor and can sustain elevated temperatures needed for frying without smoking up your kitchen. It also tends to bring out amazing flavors in baked goods like pie crusts (more about that later).

Cooking with lard is sustainable

At Kettle Range we believe in sustainable utilization of the whole animal. That’s why we’re your go-to source for pasture raised pork lard. As a whole animal butcher, we use every delicious part of the animal. Especially the fat!

Lard is great for baking

The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without traditional apple pie. That’s why we’ve prepared a special treat for our Kettle Club members this month. We’ve packed each of your shares with 8 oz. of pork lard and a delicious apple pie crust recipe. We hope you enjoy this traditional classic as much as we do!

Recipe: Pie Crust with Lard

YIELD: Makes 2 pie crusts with lattice topping

INGREDIENTS

5 cups unbleached all purpose flour

3 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoon salt

1 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 cup chilled pork lard, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

10 tablespoons (or more) ice water

PREPARATION

Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter and lard; using on/off turns, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Add 5 tablespoons ice water and mix with fork until dough begins to clump together, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dry. Gather dough together. Divide dough in half; flatten each half into disk. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. If necessary, soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.

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.

September Featured Cut: Top Round London Broil

For those of you who receive regular steaks in your Kettle Club share, we’ve prepared a mouthwatering spin on a timeless dish, London Broil.

Origins

Despite its name, the dish isn’t English at all. In fact, it originated right here in North America and is said to have popularized in Philadelphia around 1931. The name actually refers to the method of preparation and not the cut of meat itself.

The original method of preparing London Broil used flank steak, pan seared medium rare and cut across the grain to be served. Today’s London Broil is typically marinated and prepared from a variety of cuts including top round, sirloin tip and chuck steak.

Cooking Tips

Your Kettle Club London Broil comes from top round and arrives pre-marinated in Joe’s famous Black Diamond marinade that includes soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar and a variety of other seasonings.

To enjoy the traditional dish, preheat the grill or broiler and place the meat on a rack 5 inches from the heat source. Cook for 8-10 minutes on each side to achieve a perfect medium rare temperature. Remove the meat from the heat and place on a cutting board to rest for 2 minutes. Slice the meat thinly remembering to cut against the grain to loosen any tight tendons that might cause the meat to be a bit chewy. Enjoy!

Sausage of the Month: Door County Cherry Bratwurst

As Wisconsin as cheese curds and beer, Door County cherry picking is a time-honored tradition. And Kettle Range is excited to incorporate these delectable gems of the peninsula in this month’s Kettle Club shares. Our butchers have prepared a seasonal bratwurst with tart cherries straight from Wisconsin’s cherry mecca.

Door County Cherries

The history of cherries in Door County runs deep. The first European settlers to the peninsula could rely on vegetable crops for sustenance farming but due to the rocky terrain of the landscape, found it challenging to yield anything more than what they needed to get by. The search began for a cash crop that would flourish in the rocky soils of Door County.

In the late 1860’s, a Swiss immigrant named Joseph Zettel arrived on the scene discovering that fruits like apple trees prospered in the area because the shallow soils left only a few feet from the roots to the bedrock. This provided adequate drainage for such fruits that are prone to root rot, a devastating plant disease.

The success of the apple trees attracted two University of Wisconsin horticulturists who began experimenting with other fruits such as plums, strawberries, raspberries and the most famous, cherries, which proved especially efficient at growing in Door County.

Door County cherry production continued to prosper and hit its peak in the 1950s with 700 cherry producers growing nearly 50 million pounds of cherries annually. Today, the Montmorency cherries that grow in Wisconsin account for 90% of all the tart cherries grown statewide.

Like Door County cherry picking season, these brats have a small window of availability. Don’t miss out on these seasonal Wisconsin delicacies in August!

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!

Recipe: Perfect Pulled Pork

Let’s all enjoy the heritage pork breeds featured at Kettle Range this month and cook up a summer favorite, pulled pork! Check out this recipe that includes our own Chef Jeff’s famous BBQ rub.

Perfect Pulled Pork

Ingredients:

1 pork shoulder

Chef Jeff’s BBQ Rub, or any other that you are fond of

Brine Solution

  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons dry rub mix

Directions:

FOR THE BRINE SOLUTION

  1. Add salt to cold water, and stir very well until all the salt is completely dissolved. Then add the brown sugar, dry rub, and bay leaves, and stir well to combine.

PORK SHOULDER PREPARATION

  1. Rinse the pork shoulder, and place in a large container. Pour in the brine solution until the shoulder is completely covered. Cover the container, and place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
  2. Remove pork shoulder from brine solution, and pat dry with paper towels. Place the pork shoulder in a baking pan that is at least 3 inches deep and that is bigger than the shoulder by at least an inch in length and width. Sprinkle dry rub onto the surface of the shoulder and massage in such that it adheres to the surface. Coat all sides. Make sure the fat layer on the shoulder is facing up before cooking! Place baking pan uncovered in a 225° F oven on the middle rack. Insert a probe thermometer into the center or thickest part of the shoulder, but not touching the bone. Monitor the temperature throughout cooking (a digital thermometer with an alarm function is the easiest way to do this). Do not remove from the oven until the center of the shoulder reaches 200°.
  3. When the shoulder has reached 200°, shut off the oven and let the roast cool for a couple of hours before removing from the oven. If the bottom of the pan is dry (or crusted with dried spices) then cover the pan with foil to retain internal moisture of the meat during the cooling period. When the temperature drops to 170 degrees or slightly lower, remove from oven. Place on a large, clean work surface such as a cutting board, and remove the large sheet of crusted fat on the top. Pull apart with two forks, it will pull apart very easily. Serve for friends and family!