Sausage of the Month: Blueberry Brat

While we may duke it our on the field or court, we can all agree that Michigan has its talents. They can grow some fantastic blueberries. It’s berry season for our western neighbors, and our butchers have incorporated these sweet delicacies into this month’s featured sausage, the Michigan Blueberry Brat!

Check out these fun facts about Michigan blueberries.

• Michigan grows around 100 million pounds of blueberries annually, making it one of the top producing state
in the U.S.
• Michigan produces 30 different varieties of blueberries.
• 21,000 acres of Michigan are dedicated to growing blueberries. Most are produced in Western Michigan in
near the Lower Peninsula where the sandy soil by the lake provides excellent conditions for growing berries.
Each acre produces around 5,000 berries.
• Blueberries are a super food. They contain more antioxidants than any other fruit and packed with vitamins
A and C.

Enjoy, Kettle Club!

Sausage of the Month: Bulk Breakfast

We’ve prepared our most delicious and versatile sausage for Kettle Club members this month, bulk breakfast. Heritage ground pork with flavorful hints of mace and sage. Grab the family and gather round the table for a hearty breakfast. Follow these simple and easy instructions for scratch sausage gravy.

Ingredients:
1 lb. Kettle Club Bulk Breakfast Sausage
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 to 4 cups whole milk, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, more to taste
6-8 Biscuits, warmed, for serving

 

Instructions:

  1. Crumble sausage into large skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until browned and no longer pink, stirring frequently.
  2. With wire whisk, stir in flour, salt and pepper. Gradually stir in milk. Cook over medium heat until mixture begins to thicken. Stir often.
  3. Remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes. Serve over your favorite biscuit!

Cinta Senese: The Tuscan Beast

We’re featuring a special heritage swine breed for Kettle Club members this month, Cinta Senese from our friends at Curly Oak.

Originating from the woodlands of Tuscany, the breed is characterized by its black coat and white stripe (cinta in Italian) and genetically designed for free-range living. Their long snouts allow them to fulfill their passion for dirt digging while floppy ears protect them from any branches that might hinder their mission.

The breed is tightly tied to Italian tradition and is now listed among those culinary excellencies that render Tuscany so famous around the world.

How does it taste?

You’ll find rich flavors in the featured cuts from the Cinta Senese breed. The meat tends to be richer in color and contain a higher concentration of unsaturated fatty acids like Omega 3 and Omega 6. These concentrations give it a smooth consistency and intense, meaty flavor.

Interesting Fact

The breed was a focal point in a painting produced by Italian artist, Ambrogio Lorenzetti in 1338. The painting is now featured in the town hall of Sienna, Italy.

Did you know? By purchasing meat from Kettle Range Meats you’re keeping heritage breeds like Cinta Senese from becoming extinct?

Meat quality and environmental adaptability were important genetic traits desired by our agrarian ancestors. But today, commercial agriculture calls for a faster-growing pig, pushing heritage breeds like the Cinta Senese on to the endangered species list.

At Kettle Range, we understand that the preservation of heritage breeds is important for genetic diversity and the future of our agriculture systems. That’s why we support family farms who work hard to keep these species intact.

 

Recipe: Cajun Pork Shoulder W/Maque Choux

It’s Mardi Gras season! And we’ve got a great Cajun recipe for your Kettle Club pork shoulder. Marque Choux (pronounced Mock Shoe) is a classic Southern Louisiana dish comprised of braised corn, tomatoes, peppers and spices. Though traditionally served as a side dish, you can create a fantastic entrée in your slow cooker with this Cajun pork shoulder recipe. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Ingredients:
2 lb. Kettle Club Pork Shoulder
1 tablespoon Cajun or Creole seasoning seasoning
1 10 – ounce package frozen whole kernel corn
1 large green sweet pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon bottled hot pepper sauce
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 14 1/2 – ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

Directions:
1. Season pork shoulder with Cajun or Creole seasoning coasting all sides of the meat
2. Place meat in the slow cooker. Add frozen corn, sweet pepper, onion, sugar, hot pepper sauce, and black pepper. Pour tomatoes over mixture in cooker.
3. Cover; cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours.
4. Remove meat from cooker. Drain vegetables, discarding cooking liquid.
5. Serve meat with vegetables.

Makes: 4-5 servings

Recipe: Autumn Pork Stew

Ingredients:

1-pound fingerling potatoes

3 carrots, cut into 2-inch chunks

2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch chunks

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

3 bay leaves

1-2 lb. bone-in pork shoulder

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes

 

Directions:

  1. Combine the potatoes, carrots, celery, garlic and ginger in a slow cooker. Toss in half of the flour and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the bay leaves over the vegetables.
  2. Season the pork generously with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the thyme and allspice and toss with the remaining flour to coat. Place the pork over the vegetables in the slow cooker. Add 2 cups water and the tomatoes, cover and cook on low 8 hours.
  3. Discard the bay leaves. Remove the pork roast and slice or pull the meat off the bone into large pieces. Serve in bowls with the vegetables and broth.

Pork Chops 101: Know your Chops

Sirloin chops, rib chops, porterhouse chops. You’ve seen them all in your Kettle Club share. That’s because we like to ensure you’re getting a variety of our premium heritage pork cuts. But we understand all the different names can be daunting. So, let’s talk chop.

What is a pork chop anyway?

All pork chops are cut from the loin, the section of the pig that runs from the shoulder to the hip. Here’s where things can get a bit confusing. Each pork chop goes by a different name depending on the area of the loin it’s cut from. Let’s start with a few popular chops from the front end of the loin and work our way towards the tail.

Rib Chop

Sometimes referred to as the center-cut chop or rib end cut, this chop is cut from the center of the loin near the rib area. It will contain a large eye of lean meat with no tenderloin. The rib chop is primarily cut bone-in, with the bone running along the side.

Boneless Chops

Our featured Kettle Club chop for August is the boneless chop. Sometimes referred to as the New York Chop, these cuts are located near the top of the loin. These chops are lean and taste amazing after a good brine bath.

Porterhouse Chop

Porterhouse chops are cut from the lower back behind the rib chops. They are identifiable by the centered bone that divides the meat from the tenderloin muscle. These chops can present a challenge when cooking as the tenderloin tends to cook faster than the loin section. But the intense flavor and beautiful presentation is worth mastering. Be careful not to overcook. A brine also works well for these delicious chops.

Sirloin Chops

These chops are cut from the hip area towards the back of the loin. Despite the fact that this chop packs a ton of flavor, it’s often overlooked because of its appearance. The cut contains various muscle groups, giving a bit of a mismatched look. The sirloin chop takes quite well to braising and will take on a ton of flavor from your favorite marinade.

Tips for the Perfect Pulled Pork

Time to say goodbye to those savory slow cooked roasts and hello to everyone’s summertime favorite, pulled pork sandwiches. Lucky for you Kettle Club members that receive pork shoulders in your shares, you’re equipped to make everyone’s summer a little more delicious.

Check out our simple tips for perfect pulled pork that will have your BBQ guests putting in special requests for every summer come.

Season that Shoulder!

Don’t be so tense! It’s only dinner. Nothing helps loosen those muscles quite like a massage. Your pork shoulder agrees! A spicy rub down with a salt-based seasoning can help tenderize your shoulder while adding some delicious flavor. Salt is comprised of sodium and chloride ions that denature or unwind the proteins of highly worked muscles. These altered proteins can then retain more water, keeping the meat moist during the cooking process.  Check out one of our favorite BBQ rubs, perfect for a smoked pork shoulder.

Fat side up

Let gravity do its thing! Whether your smoking, braising or slow cooking, the fatty cap of the shoulder will add incredible flavor and tenderness to your finished product. Set your shoulder fat side up and let the flavor rain down!

Use your trusty tools!

Dare we say it again? Okay, we will, use your thermometer! Whatever your cooking method, 225 degrees is a solid sweet spot for cooking low and slow. We recommend checking your shoulder often until it reaches 180-185 degrees. This is the temperature in which the fat will begin to render adding flavor and tenderness. For a 2 lb. roast, this will take around 4-5 hours depending on your cooking method.

Let it rest

Resist the urge to jump right into that amazingly cooked roast. Give the shoulder 20 minutes to lock in the juices and flavors. You won’t be sorry!

Get your hands dirty

Okay, so maybe for your guest’s sake, use gloves. But, under no circumstances should you begin cutting up that beautiful roast you just worked so hard on! Use your hands to gently pull the meat apart and separate through any connective tissue. Every bit of your sandwich should melt in your mouth.

Easy on the sauce!

Don’t get us wrong, we love our BBQ sauce, but we love the taste of heritage pork even more! Getting too heavy handed on the sauce can hide the delicious flavor of the pork and your yummy spice rub. Let eaters choose how saucy they get with it.

Underrated Cuts We Love!

Let’s hear it for the underdogs! Those beautiful little hidden meat gems that are often passed over for a thick cut beef ribeye or pork tenderloin.  Check out our favorite underrated cuts!

Beef Cheeks

Talk about a well worked muscle! Cows can chew up to 7,000 times per day! This means a ton of flavor for those cheek muscles. For best results, chargrill or cook direct for up to 40 minutes with constant movement. Try this as a substitute protein for beef tacos!

 

The Chuck Eye

Often called the “poor man’s ribeye” the chuck eye steak is located at the rear of the steer’s shoulder just in front of the ribeye primal. Because of its close proximity to the ribeye, it shares many qualities and characteristics. It’s tender and flavorful just like it’s close relative, but petite in comparison. A perfect meal for one!

 

 

Pork Brisket

Not quite as popular as the beef brisket, this cut is just as tender and flavorful. It responds well to a slow and low environment on the grill or a perfect fit for your smoker.

 

 

Pork Skirt Steak

Cut from the inside of the spare ribs, this cut is extremely versatile. Give it a nice soak in your favorite marinade and a hot, fast ride on the grill. Serve over rice and veggies or top a fresh salad.

Featured Cut: Beef Cheeks

We have a fantastic cut lined up of those of you that receive regular steaks in your Kettle Club share, grass-fed beef cheeks! Not only are they healthier than many traditional and familiar beef cuts, cheeks pack a ton of flavor! Let’s take a deeper look at what makes this cut so versatile and delicious.

The Chew about Cheeks

Cows love to chew! Unlike other mammals, cows have the unique ability to digest cellulose, or plant fibers such as those found in grass. Structurally, these fibers are super strong, and take a bit of work to unlock their viable nutrients. Cows accomplish this quite well with the use of two important body parts. The rumen, a compartment of their stomach that acts as a fermentation vat to break down strong plant fibers, and their mouths. Ever notice that when you see a cow it’s chewing? Cows chew a bit harder than other animals because food needs to be chewed twice before entering the fermentation vat of the rumen. This helps break down the fiber and unlock nutrients faster. Cows spend nearly eight hours every day chewing their food. This can total upwards of 40,000 jaw movements per day!!!

What’s this mean for cheek muscles? They’re super strong! The continuous chewing movement means more blood flow to the area and toned muscles that result in an enormous amount of flavor for the cut!

 

They’re Healthy!

It’s almost swimsuit weather! And we’re all looking to cut a few calories we might have gained over this long winter. Substituting beef cheeks for more traditional cuts can help! Beef cheeks are lower in fat and calories, and higher in protein when compared to most roasts and popular steaks. Cheeks also have more immune-supporting vitamin C and vitamin B and more than 200% more iron! Check out the nutritional comparison below:

Beef roast: (100 g)

  • Calories: 244
  • Fat: 18 g
  • Protein: 19 g

 

SWAP FOR

Beef cheeks: (100 g)

  • Calories: 145
  • Fat: 4 g
  • Protein: 25 g

 

How to I cook them?

Unlike other muscles that don’t get as much of a workout like tenderloin and shoulder (chuck), these cuts need proper preparation to break down strong muscle fibers for fall-off-the fork tenderness. We recommended braising, or cooking with a mixture of both quick, high, heat and low, slow heat. Check out this recipe for Braised Beef Cheek Tacos!  A fantastically fresh and healthy meal for spring!

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:

Cinta Senese

This native Tuscan hog is prized for its delicious, extremely tender, buttery flavor and intense marbling. A favorite of chefs and charcuterie makers, the cinta is extremely rare. As recently as the ’90s, the Cinta was considered to be endangered, but a few dedicated farmers, including our partner Ken Kehrli, are working hard to bring it back.

 

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.

 

 

 

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.