It's a holiday weekend, and family will be around, and you may need a great item for brunch! This bacon and goat cheese frittata is terrific, pretty easy to make AND -- you can get the ingredients at a Farmers Market or in your own garden! BONUS -- Bacon is on sale! [ ... ]Read More
When John and I got married and we started our own family, I took the invaluable lessons I learned from my mom, aunt and nana and used them in my own kitchen. I started to make my own tomato sauce and meatballs, recipes passed down from my nana Rina to me, on Sundays. Over the years I took these recipes and made them my own. I honed them; I added and then took away. My husband and then my children became my taste testers. Their critiques I took to heart and then to my kitchen to make already great recipes into amazing ones. After many years of of this the final product is what you now know as Marina’s Italian Style Tomato Sauce and Marina’s Italian Style Meatballs. For years my children were involved in sports that took them all around the country and then the world. My husband and I always seemed to be going in two separate directions with the kids but we always seemed to make the time for dinner. Even if it was for 15 minutes at the end of the day, it was our time to be together. Due to this hectic schedule, meatballs and sauce became a staple in our home. Because the meatballs and sauce are healthy with minimal ingredients, my kids were able to get the nutrition they needed without me spending hours in the kitchen away from them. To us they are a “fast food” a fast healthy family meal!
To obtain the so yearned five-pointed ducal crown, the official mark of the Consortium, the Parma Ham needs to pass all the quality control tests, as well as many production phases. The main figure of the process surely is the master Ham salter, a position that requires many years of experience to take mastery of it; nevertheless, even if it can be really surprising, the Parma Ham is not salty, but well known as "the sweet Ham" with a very delicate aroma.Read More
How Everything begins.First of all, the Maestro Salatore salts the pigskin and the muscular parts of the 15 kg fresh legs, that are then refrigerated at a temperature that goes from 1°C to 4°C for a week. They are consequently salted again and left for another two weeks. Of course, other preservatives are not used, just salt, associated with time and patience.
Let it rest, and let is rest for some more time.Next, the Hams rests for almost 80 days in refrigerated rooms; they are periodically washed and brushed so that the excess of salt is removed. During this period, the colour of the meat becomes darker. Now the Hams are brought into ventilated rooms opened on the outside, because temperature and humidity help to gradually dry the Hams. This period lasts about three months and it is very important for the Parma Ham, as it is now that it obtains his typical and distinctive aroma.
A process called "sugna" to seal the exposed part.Later, all the surfaces of the muscle that are exposed to the air are covered manually with a paste of lard (sugna), salt and pepper to avoid that the exposed parts get dry too quickly. The hams are now moved to dark rooms with less air and no light and they stay here until the curing is completed. The minimum curing of a Parma Ham is 12 months, starting form the first salting, but there is not a limit of time and some Hams can be cured even for more than 3 years.
How it become Parma ham.Finally, after a year, it is the moment of quality tests: an inspector punches the Hams in five specific parts, using a special needle and smelling it after every puncture. Thanks to this procedure, it is possible to determine if that one is a genuine Parma Ham, so if it deserves the mark of the consortium, only given by the IPQ, Istituto Parma Qualità. Now you know how much detailed, hard and long is the Parma Ham making process: the producers and master Ham salters have just one main purpose, to give the meat the unique and inimitable sweet taste, as well as its softness, of course thanks to the right application of the salt and to the meticulous observance of the production phases. [ ... ]
Perfectly Cooked Circle B Ranch Hickory Smoked Bacon or Nitrite Free BaconWhen I lived in Branchburg, NJ, I owned and operated Nadia Gourmet Caterers. I learned from my chefs that the quickest way to cook bacon was in the oven. Cooking for a large crowd standing over the stove and cooking bacon is very time consuming. I have to admit that I was never a fan of frying bacon, because it made a mess and it just seemed to take to long to get the bacon crispy. I did make it in the microwave (Gasp) for years...yes looking back it was not a great idea. When Big John started to raise the Berkshire and Red Wattle Hogs the bacon was not as fatty and the oven method was the best way to prepare the bacon. I have to admit that I did try the Berkshire or Red Wattle Bacon in the microwave but it has way to much meat and did not crisp up. The ingredients could not be simpler. One pound of Circle B Ranch Hickory Smoked Bacon or Circle B Ranch Nitrite Free Bacon. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. You will need a baking sheet and aluminum foil. Cover your baking sheet with aluminum foil and then arrange the bacon on the cooking sheet. Lay the bacon close to each other, but don't overlap. Doesn't that bacon look delicious? It almost looks to good to cook. Bake the Bacon in the oven and cook for about 15-20 minutes. I like to check the bacon after 10 minutes and turn the pan around in the oven. It cooks more evenly. Once the bacon is cooked, and as a side note we like our bacon well done. Remove the pan from the oven and place the bacon on a plate lined with paper towels. This will absorb the bacon grease and help the bacon crisp up. Serve immediately. If you do have any leftover it keeps really well in the refrigerator and you can always put it in the microwave to warm up. We like to use the bacon grease to cook eggs in, or you can always wait for it to cool in the pan and throw the aluminum foil out. What an easy way to cook bacon and the clean up could not be easier. [ ... ]
Food Preservatives...What Are They?One day John came home and said "it's time for us to move, we love the Midwest. Let's do this!". We built a beautiful house and shop on a serene piece of property in Seymour, MO and low and behold I couldn't find a job. I searched and searched, interviewed and then nothing. When I thought I would not find something to do, it was John that came up with the idea of selling my sauce and meatballs. If you ask him about my tomato sauce he'll tell you, "I've been eating it like soup for 30 years!". When I was first trying to introduce Marina's Tomato Sauce, I did extensive research on jarring, canning and the overall production of a jarred sauce. I had always made my own tomato sauce, froze it and then used it as we needed. I know not everyone does this so they buy jarred store bought tomato sauce. What I read was in those sauces shocked me! Maltodextrin and sodium benzoate, what exactly are these things? Outside of the natural citric acid that is present in tomatoes, I knew I did not want to add any more preservatives to my sauce. I wanted to bring to the market a healthy, minimal ingredient product that I would be proud to sell and my customers would be satisfied knowing exactly what they are feeding their family. The first ever preservatives, salt and sugar, were used by our ancestors to preserve meats, fish and fruits on long trips; it helped them to have protein while at sea for months at a time. Large amounts of salt were once used to cover and give taste to rotting meats. Now I understand all of this, they did not have the technology and had not made the advancements in food handling and production yet. To this day people still use methods that our ancestors founded, ones that we honed over the years, but over all they have not changed. Many of our customers can, jar, pickle, salt, ferment, and dehydrate their vegetables/fruits/meats so they can enjoy them year round. However, they don't add unnatural preservatives, it is all done with salt, vinegar, sugar and high temperatures. No added caramel coloring, flavour boosters or artificial sweeteners. You can eat a canned or jarred food and it still be good for you! Maltodextrin, what is it? How do you even pronounce it? It is produced from a starch (corn or wheat) and is used in everything from candy and sodas to chips and meat products. It is similar to corn syrup, has a lower sugar content and can replace sugar in some processed foods. Some companies like to use it because they do not have to label it as sugar and (lets be honest) most consumers are lazy and don't read or care to know what a food label says. Maltodextrin gives a thicker consistency to foods and beverages, prolongs the shelf life and is cheaper to make, hence why it is widely used. "Fun Fact" I learned while researching this blog, maltodextrin is not a sugar but is high on the glycemic index at 130 while regular table sugar is 60. Now why would you want to knowingly eat or add this stuff to your food? Sodium Benzoate is another popular preservative. It is the outcome of mixing benzoic acid, a benzene compound, and sodium hydroxide together and like maltodextrin can be found in nearly everything. Sodium benzoate is much more hazardous to your health than processed sugar or high fructose corn syrup and it has been associated with a broad range of health problems. Benzene is so corrosive that it is one of the main ingredients in rubber cements, paint removers, and is the number one ingredient in Liquid Wrench. Again, I ask, why would you want to knowingly ingest this kind of stuff? Studies have been done throughout Europe detailing the negative effects of sodium benzoate on your health and most of those countries are calling for a complete ban of it. I don't even want to touch on caramel coloring or soy; that is for another blog. Below are three well known tomato sauces that are sold in the United States. I found them in the tomato sauce section of our local supermarket and I was curious to what their ingredients were. If you are wondering what prompted me to write this blog, it was these sauces.
For comparison, here is our Marina's Tomato Sauce.There are more additives and preservatives that I could have talked about but I wanted to focus on maltodextrin and sodium benzoate because of how widely used they are. They are in juices, soda, frozen foods but mostly jarred and canned foods. All I can say, and I can't say it enough, know your food. Know your food and know where it comes from. For more information on Circle B Ranch and our products, please visit our website www.circlebranchpork.com Resources: http://rdsscience2011.wikispaces.com/The+History+of+Preservatives. http://fitnessfortravel.com/is-maltodextrin-bad-for-you/ http://healthwyze.org/index.php/component/content/article/204-are-you-getting-enough-sodium-benzoate-in-your-diet.html [ ... ]
In past blogs I have talked about eating a healthy diet, consisting of natural pork and meats and whole fruits and vegetables. I have also talked about using every part of the hog or "snout to tail", this ensures farm sustainability and promotes a healthy well rounded diet. Recently we started using lard in most of our cooking that calls for butter, Crisco and even olive oil. Our lard adds a nutty flavor to our pie crusts and increases the natural flavor in sautéed vegetables! Our ancestors ate lard, butter and cheese and "gasp" drank whole milk, maybe they were onto something. They survived without anticholesterol and antihypertensive medications and they lived until they were well into their 80's! With the health craze of the past 40 years, a lot of foods have been demonized. Lard, whole milk, and cheese became the "bad guys" while skim milk, margarine and cheese whiz became kitchen staples. Personally, I do not want to eat anything that is one molecule away from being plastic or that can be sprayed from a can like an air freshener! Many health conscious chefs, pastry chefs and every day people like are souly cooking with lard. The pastry chefs have found that the lard makes their pie crusts moist, lite and flaky. Next to olive oil, lard is the second in line with the highest content of monounsaturated fats. Which means it actually helps lower your cholesterol not increase it! You can continue to eat man made lab created foods that have been shoved down our throats as "life savers" and have had the exact opposite effect on our health. Or go the natural way and do something healthy for your body and eat lard! Oleic acid, the main fat in lard, is a fatty acid associated with decreasing your risk of depression. Oleic acid also has a high anti-cancer benefit and has the ability to decrease the occurrence of certain types of cancer. I love the sun. I love the warmth on my skin, the glow it gives my cheeks and how rejuvenated I feel when it comes out after a few cloudy days! However, research has shown the downside of too much sun, because of that I now have minimal exposure to the sun and with that comes Lower Vitamin D-a power immunity enhancer. To help compensate, I feed my family a diet high in leafy greens, fruits and vegetables, natural pork/meat, and lard. Hogs are extremely efficient at absorbing the suns rays which are stored as Vitamin D in their fat. When it is rendered down to make lard, none of that wonderful Vitamin D is wasted. In all natural, pasture and humanely raised lard, there is more Vitamin D then any other food or supplement. For example, in 1 tablespoon of lard, you receive 1000 IU of Vitamin D, with the recommended daily dosage of 600 IU for people ages 1-70 years old, you are more then half way there! Years ago, using high end lard in cosmetics was the norm and believe it or not most cosmetics currently have an animal based product in it. However, now a days with synthetic products and petroleum, natural lard is rarely used. What is used is tallow. Most common tallow comes from rendering plants that recycle any kind of animal carcass. From these rendering plants you have no idea what you are getting or even putting on your body. My husband recently made a small batch of shaving lotion and substituted shea butter for our lard. He made it in our kitchen, was inexpensive and easy to do. Since, he started using his homemade shave lotion, I haven't seen his skin this soft, moisturized and with a even skin tone in years. Comparing his skin to before and after he started using the lard shave lotion, it has made me a believer! Again, what would you rather use, natural, man made or tallow? Our ancestors ate everything that is now deemed bad for you, lard, whole milk, buttermilk and anything and everything from the farm animal...anything less was "hog wash"! They were never over weight, they lived long healthy lives without synthetic medications. Their medication was their diet. While I was doing research for this article, I read multiple blogs and articles on how both men and women made the decision to change their diet. To adapt a natural/organic diet consisting of pasture and humanely raised animal products and organic vegetables. One woman wrote that within 4 months of adapting this diet, she saw a dramatic increase in her over all health, cured her asthma and chronic back pain. Another man cured his gout. Circle B Ranch offers a wonderful all natural humanely raised lard. We use it to fry eggs, we rubbed our turkey down with it on Thanksgiving and we even give it to our Airedales to help keep their coats glossy and smooth. Because people are doing their research, educating themselves on what foods they eat and not believing every word that is spoken on TV, the farm to table diet is coming back! We 100% support it and, if able, everyone should eat it. You can find Circle B Ranch lard by visiting our website www.circlebranchpork.com. http://www.nwedible.com/2012/06/would-you-rub-pork-fat-on-your-face.html http://www.weedemandreap.com/2013/02/the-top-3-reasons-why-you-should-be-eating-lard.html http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vitamin-d/NS_patient-vitamind/DSECTION=dosing http://www.weedemandreap.com/2013/10/long-ancestors-live-eating-bacon-lard-whole-milk.htmlRead More