Farm Spotlight: Clover Hill Harvest LLC

On a crisp March morning, Jen Brevard fires up the UTV she has nicknamed “the feed cart” and heads towards the pastures of the family’s 120-acre farm outside of Helenville, Wisconsin. Her pigs are anticipating her arrival and run to greet her.

“I love watching them dance through the pastures when they hear me coming,” Jen says. “They look as if they’re about to take flight!”

Remember those impossible tasks you promised to do when pigs sprouted wings? Well don’t worry folks, you’re still off the hook. Jen is referring to the sizable floppy ears her heritage pigs, Large Blacks, are known for. This unique feature helps protect their eyes while rooting and foraging on pasture.

“This breed was really built for utilizing forages,” Jen explains. “We keep a mix of red clover, alfalfa and pasture grasses, which they really like. They also enjoy munching on dandelions and thistle. So, they actually help keep the pastures healthy by doing a little weeding for us.”

Jen keeps her Large Black pigs on pasture year-round. The pastures are equipped with straw porta huts, so the pigs have a cozy spot to go in inclement weather. She says she has noticed a considerable improvement in the pastures since she started raising pigs in 2014.

“Every year the pastures seem to get a little better,” she says. “We move pigs frequently to ensure that manure is dispersed evenly in each area. The pigs have really helped turn this piece of land around.”

Jen became interested in raising heritage pork after reading a book about backyard homesteading. She’s now a full-time farmer and says she really enjoys spending time with her pigs.

“Aside from just being able to do what I love, there’s a real preservation aspect to raising these pigs. The demand for these unique breeds ensures that producers can continue to raise animals in a sustainable manner and keep these breeds from being eradicated. It’s a healthy environment for the pigs and a healthy product for consumers.”

Meat Our Team: Chris Scallon

Ever wonder who’s working behind the scenes at Kettle Range Meats? Well wonder no more! Our entire staff works hard to ensure you’re getting the highest quality, best tasting meats in Wisconsin. And we want you to meet them all. First up, Chris Scallon. Chris has become somewhat of a local celebrity in the chili world. With a Golden Ladle from Potawatomi’s Chili Bowl, and a first place win from WMSE’s Rockabilly Chili contest, he’s made Kettle Range synonymous with great chili in 2018.

What do you do at Kettle Range?

I guess my title would be sous chef. I do a lot of food preparation for our heat-and-eat meals. Cutting, slicing, dicing, chopping, packing. I also assist in menu creation, so we can keep adding new items to our overall menu. Oh, and I man the cauldron. The cauldron is what I call our large industrial kettle. It’s where we make things like chicken and beef broth. It’s essentially where the magic begins.

What inspires your award-winning chili concoctions?

I get a lot of inspiration from the incredible products we have access to. Right from the start, we’re sourcing quality meat from local farms. We have a talented butcher staff here that can create amazing products from those meats, like sausages. Those flavors inspire innovative ideas for meals, chilis and side dishes. The Ropa Chili (Rockabilly Chili contest winner) stemmed from one of our heat-and-eat meals, Ropa Vieja. The distinct flavors were incorporated into what turned out to be a delicious and unique chili.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The freedom to create new things. We love getting feedback about our meal program. It’s a great feeling to put out a new meal and get a positive response from our customers.

Thanks for all you do, Chris!

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!

Sausage of the Month: Kettle Range Hot Dogs

We’ve officially hit the half way mark of winter! And we want to celebrate by bringing back our famous Kettle Range hot dogs. Just because it’s still a bit chilly for grilling doesn’t mean we have to miss out on these house-made specialties. Stay warm indoors and try this delicious twist on the classic corn dog.

Ingredients:

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 egg, beaten

1 cup milk

1/4cup canola oil

1 can green chilis

1 package Kettle Range Hot Dogs

½ cup Cheddar Cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin pan or line with paper muffin liners.
  2. Dice Kettle Range hot dogs into bite-size pieces. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add egg, oil and milk; stir gently to combine.
  1. Add diced hot dogs, green chilis and cheddar cheese.
  2. Bake 15 minutes or until cooked through.

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!

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!

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.

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!