Archive for the ‘Irvings Farm Fresh’ Category

From The Farmers’ Mouth – Time to Vote


My highlight reel of ‘From Local Farms‘ videos was just chosen by Daniel and Mirra of The Perennial Plate as a top-four contender in their recent video competition. I’m honored to be on the list, to say the least. The very reason I started a video series at all was directly because of Daniel and Mirra’s earliest episodes – inspiring me to pick up a cheap Flip camera, introduce myself to some farmers, and press some record button. My life, quite literally, has not been the same since.

So a big thank you goes out today to Daniel, Mirra, all the passionate farmers, and especially to you for taking the time to watch what other folks have to say about our food world. You plugging into and supporting projects like The Perennial Plate matters – it creates cracks in a food culture needing to evolve.

Please click over here to like the video on facebook, and vote for it too while you’re at it. If the vid wins the day, it will replace the regular programming of The Perennial Plate next Monday, exposing it to a very large viewership of like minded folks across many borders. That would be very cool. Even if it doesn’t, big thanks to Daniel and Mirra for your support of what I’m up to and sharing your audience.

Celebrating Spring Thyme


Irvings Farm Fresh Berk Loin Chop, Garden Thyme, Garlic + Lola Canola Honey mustard

GEH Potatoes, Onions, Mo-Na Mushroms, Garden Thyme

Saucisson Sec, Two Ways


These batches were put up on Tuesday [Mar 29]. I find I have to write about this kind of thing or I simply lose track of when they were made, which makes it a bit hard to remember how long they’ve been aging and how they’ve responded to temp, humidity, etc.

Both are essentially Ruhlman’s recipes, with two major exceptions. First, the pork version [used Irvings Farm Fresh Berkshire] has half the garlic called for, as I’m looking for a cleaner expression of the pork, less dominated by garlic. I find Ruhlman generally likes ‘flavor’ about 25% more than me, so I tone down his aromatics, generally.

The second batch was made from wild cow elk shank – trim I’d reserved in November for sausage. Because I could, I used some of the now-ubiquitous-to-me dried morel and shaggy parasol powders in this batch. I’m not sure they’ll show up, but I had to try in the name of research. And because, well, wild game and wild mushrooms in the same dry-cured sausage just plain sounds lovely.

So there they hang in the cellar, at 5C & 76%rh for at least a month.

Guanciale – Final Product


We put up 20 Irvings Farm Fresh pork jowls December 11, and it’s finally at a place I’d hope it would get – nearly 2 months later. Dense, with a light high-toned loveliness imparted by dry curing pork.

The verdict? Sliced thinly and fried is a bacon-like experience that is lovely indeed.  It fried up extremely fast [low moisture?], and my meat-hating-toddlers happily devoured their ‘spaghetti-and-bacon’. This particular variation [we did 4] was herbed [from my garden], and I think the herbs are a worthwhile addition. My conclusion simply supports my previous conclusion that jowls, and the rest of the pig head for that matter, hitting the local butcher shop bin is nothing short of sinful waste. It’s a shame. And one of those opportunities for budget minded locavores that I seek – you want cheap or in some cases even free local, ethically raised pork? It can be done.

My honesty-bone requires that I divulge that the crunchy jowl fat texture in its uncooked form is not my favorite. But that’s just me, and palates vary widely. The bottom line I’m finding is that pork is pork, whether from the head, belly, or leg when it comes to flavor. So long as there’s enough fat to bring flavors to the party, the whole hog is all good, in my opinion. Which brings me back to: if it’s tasty pork, why are we throwing it out? I think lack of awareness is the answer. Ask your local pork producer for pig head, and cheap, and you should be able to score some majorly cheap but tasty locavore eats.

Guanciale Project: Day 8. Hang Day and Innovation


Today was the day the plethora of guanciale was due to hang. They’d cured for a week, had released a couple tbsp maybe of fluid per, and a fry-up proved salty enough to proceed – not wanting to risk oversalting if we left them longer. So into a big clean sink of water they went, got a solid rub-down-rinse, then dripped dry. We then did up 5 versions: sage & thyme, bay & thyme, black pepper only,  applewood smoke only, and plain. Poked a hole near an edge, tied them, and hung them up for their long visit to my cellar. Wasn’t sure exactly how this would all go down, but it went smoothly. Now, we wait.

The new hanging setup. One more item to share. Last night, before going to bed, I had an idea pop into my head that I put into motion this morning. I had learned that tying many items to dowels above your head is uncomfortable and just plain annoying – especially when the string’s a bit wet and you’re trying to tie knots securely enough to avoid meat on the ground. Or perhaps  if you cut the string a bit short to begin with. Solution? Nylon coated galvanized strapping [Home Depot] intended for hanging pipes, with a plain old stainless S hook run through the holes. You can buy steel strapping – but for the $3 more I opted for galvanized [it's a wet environment = rust], and nylon coating for overkill. A happy surprise – the nylon coat provides a super-smooth slide on the dowel when moving items. This setup is exceedingly better than untying and retying knots, they can easily be assembled/disassembled, is overbuilt in the strength department, and inexpensive [$6 for 10' strapping, $1.28/4 S hooks]. Now when tying stuff to hang, I simply tie the item, and tie a loop on the other end. The loop gets hung on an S hook, and voila. Hang-time is no longer time consuming. Need to move stuff? No problem. Ah, simple pleasures.

From Local Farms – Irvings Farm Fresh


It’s hard to believe it was only 2008 when I butchered my first side of Berkshire pig from the Irvings’ farm. It was the beginning of an adventure in charcuterie, and as I sit here about to make another batch of saucisson sec, I can’t help but feel grateful. Since that first side, we’ve done 18 – most from their farm, all done in my garage, generally done like this.

Alan and Nicola are wonderful, hard working folks tackling not only the animal husbandry business, but the meat processing  side as well – specializing in British sausages and cured products they grew up with. They’ve filled a void in the charcuterie game around here, no question, and it’s keeping them busy. So busy that a lot of the pork they process is from other local farms – something Nicola talked about on camera, but didn’t make the edit.

In this video, Nicola talks about Berkshires, feed, what got them started, and shares some frustration about a general lack of understanding on the consumer’s part about nitrites [which I share]. One piece that got me quite excited is their plan to start rotational pasturing their pigs on their 80 acres – when they do, I’ll be writing about it.

Cinder & Ella - our fall pigs

Saucisson Sec Follow Up


It’s been 3 weeks since I put up this batch, and the thinnest of them are just starting to become ready to go. The thicker ones – the game ones being especially thick, won’t be ready for another week or two at least.

My first successful batch is all but a memory, now long gone. It was lovely. This second batch was about twice as large. I’m making another today – pork from two local farms. I’m trying to have the resolve to put up a batch once per month – enough to have a continuous stock. Not too difficult to have the resolve when the product’s so dreamy.

For the  geeks. Modified my drying setup. You can see the dowels the small sausages are on – 3 rows 48″ long. I can make links the length of a half sheet pan, and make two per string – my solution to the links not touching each other. Then there are two dowels running perpendicular across the end of the room, also 48″ long. It multiplied my hanging capacity by about 500%. Still have some tweaking to do for ease of use, and may increase my capacity further down the road, but for now I’m thoroughly pleased. 5C 63% humidity. I’m still shocked that at this time of year I actually have to tone down the humidity in the space – it easily can climb into the 70′s if I allow the salt water wicking from a pail to pool on the floor. The rest of the house is sub 20% humidity. I’m likely going to have to knock it sub 60% RH before loading the space with all those jowls and new batches of saucisson sec, which will bolster it upward.

Guanciale Project: Day 1


Today was day 1 of a pretty major charcuterie project – the dry curing of pork jowl. Not that jowl is tricky to cure, what makes this a big project is that we did not one jowl, not a pair of jowls, but 20. Yep. 20 pig jowls. Why? A friend wanted to do some R&D on having the cured product available for commercial use. Plus, it was essentially a waste product as sadly, most of the pig heads around here go in the bin at the kill site. What a waste. A good example of how food abounds, but just isn’t distributed properly. I’ve calculated about 5-7 lbs of meat off the head. The 10 pigs these jowls came from would have had 50-70lbs of usable food in the head. At least we spared the jowls.

These jowls were unlike any I’d seen – and I buy whole pigs from this farmer regularly. The difference: the place they have their pigs butchered cut big slashes into the jowl – which seemed tragic at first. You can see them in the photo below. My current theory is they do it for inspection, as the jowl has lots of glands – I’ve seen most pig kidneys slashed like this for inspection when you get a side. The plus side is it will cure quickly. Another plus side is it allowed us to easily locate and remove the many, many glands I’m fairly sure we’d have missed had the slashes not been made. Begs the question of edibility of the glands if the jowl’s left whole for this preparation. The only downside I can think of so far is aesthetic and potential inconvenience at slicing time.

So today was trim, gland removal, and cure day. They will spend up to 3 weeks curing in my root cellar at 2C before being removed, rinsed, and hung to dry cure for roughly 2 months in my curing room. We used this recipe, minus the herbs which we’ll add to some pieces pre-hanging for dry curing. Now we wait.

Pig Butchering, Round 3


First pig of the year was from Nature’s Green Acres. Second from Peck N  Berry Acres. This third round was from Irvings Farm Fresh – this time 2 pigs. This is decidedly my last pig butchering of the year because quite frankly, I’m tired of butchering pigs. Thankfully, it went extremely quickly – nearly twice as quickly as expected thanks to Allan‘s help. For those wondering why on earth we eat so many pigs, only one of these was our ‘annual pig’. The other, a friend’s. Last pig cutting was somebody else’s pig. And the first, we took about a side – last year’s lack of calf moose resulting in increased pork consumption. I’m thinking one pig a year should do us.

I am in the process of editing the footage from my visit to Irvings Farm Fresh, and was really glad to get the opportunity to visit the farm, ’cause man are they busy. I got to meet the pigs that we butchered too, which is an interesting consumer experience. To add to the fun, the pigs we got were Cinder and Ella – the resident pigs from Fort Edmonton Park, believe it or not. So those little piggies my girls [and many other folks] played with during the summer at the park will be feeding our family through the winter. No, we have not told our toddler girls just yet.

Below – part of our November ‘al fresco’ butchering day lunch I won’t soon forget.

BBQ Oven Action


I’ve posted about this setup before. But then in all my wisdom, I nearly deleted all of my new wordpress blog-post-blogger-transition. I don’t recommend it. So some of the content from that post, well, died. Permanently.

No matter. I had a good friend coming over for lunch today as I live close to his new City TV gig downtown, and figured the garden salad  on the menu might not tide him through his day. I had a bowl of dough in the fridge – Anita’s Organics stoneground ww, and unbleached white. So some tasty flat bread hopped on the menu. Then one thing led to another, and I’m glad I picked up the HD camera throughout, as it made for a good overview of my eccentric, atypical use of my formerly-propane bbq. And yes, this is the same setup I use to smoke and grill – minus the masonry.

Although I still intend on breaking ground on my wood fired oven project one of these days, this setup certainly made me pause to consider the low-cost, easy access, minimum time investment, sufficient, and sensible approach that can be had with free stuff. I heart kijiji.

Don’t burn your house or somebody else’s down trying this at home and blame it on me. I don’t have propane or natural gas attached, near, or even friends with my bbq. I’m just sayin’.