Friday, December 10, 2010
Keep In Mind
That the people who raise your meat products are not the only ones responsible for their awesome flavor. I see/hear folks rave about the cured items (ham, bacon and such) they got from this farm or that, and how it was the best they've had. Which is great. I love giving credit where credit is due. We love our meat sources-right now Ebersole Cattle Co for beef and Crooked Gap Farm for pork and Foxhollow Farm for turkey-but I think someone important is getting left out here. Having done some curing myself (and, well I knew this before hand and have had this post bouncing around in my head for some time), I can attest it is an art. Just like cooking anything really well. Or making a primo vino. Or any fine culinary talent. Who usually does this? I decided to do some at home this year-all but half the bacon, in fact, just so we had some in reserve while I was perfecting my recipes. The locker usually does this. I never hear folks say, "That bacon I had processed at Milo Locker was the best ever". It's always the farm. Good meat is the only way to make a good cured product, it's true, but I've had meats from other lockers who are not as talented. Choosing the right locker for the job is just as important as choosing the farm. We use Milo, as they have won awards for their curing jobs, and they are close. There are other excellent lockers out there. But there are less than great ones, too and I doubt you'd be singing the praises of your meat if you had gone with them instead of one of Iowa's choice ones. We had some ground beef processed at a different locker a few years back and I knew the difference right away. Holy cow. Their aging process apparently was different. Or they didn't clean their utensils right. Or any number of things. The beef was from my tried and true producer, so that part was constant, but the locker was different, and once you find a good one, I recommend you stay with it. The beef was very tallow-y tasting, something I really do not like. My husband noticed,too. It was a battle to get through our great pastured beef because of the locker. On the other hand, this beef processed at the current locker is excellent. Well packaged. Cured meats taste and look great. And it is because of them. I think we often overlook these very important people in our local meat choices, and it isn't fair to them. Credit to the farmers for giving them a great product to start with, but then credit to them for giving that product back to us in clean, well processed form for our enjoyment. The next time you're saying thank you, be sure to shoot one their way, too.