I love preparing spare ribs in Marina's tomato sauce and serving it over pasta. Enjoy! [ ... ]Read More
Potatoes, Bacon and Cheese are delicious together. Enjoy! [ ... ]Read More
Have you ever run across a recipe that requires you to braise the meat? Does it sound like a foreign word to you? Are you just beginning to find your place in the kitchen, and have no clue about the terms or techniques?While braising sounds like a scary term, it is actually a very simple technique. Once you learn how to do it, it won’t be long before you’re a pro. First, you begin with the meat:
- Choose your meat. You can decide on beef, chicken, fish, lamb, or pork. Of course, I am going to focus on pork—my favorite! You don’t have to start with a high-dollar cut either; the liquid you use in braising will make the meat succulent and tender.
- Brown the meat. Using a little bit of oil in a skillet, sear the meat on all sides, and give it a bit of color. A golden hue is perfect. This will help seal in juices, and the crust will make your dish more visually appealing. Searing the meat also leaves you little bits in the pan which will play a part in a future step—“deglazing.”
- Set the meat aside. It’s time to think about your veggies. If you are including tougher vegetables like carrots or celery or onion, you will now add them to the oil in the pan and “caramelize” them. Sauté them until they are softer and light brown in color, but be careful not to burn them.
- Deglaze the pan. Add just a little bit of liquid to the pan (wine, beer, chicken stock, vinegar, water, cider, or juice), and scrape up any caramelized bits from the skillet with a wooden spoon. But don’t get rid of them. Stir them into your liquid! These tasty bits are going to add immense flavor to the braise.
- Choose your liquid. Most braises are created from stock or wine, but little additions can enhance flavor and add a little flair. Your decision can be based on what you have on hand, or make a selection according to your cooking goals or tastes. For example, you can braise with water, but the result won’t be very flavorful. Some chefs prefer beer, specifically lighter lagers (an acquired taste), to complement pork. Cider, as well as apple or citrus based juices, can be used to sweeten poultry or pork. Don’t be afraid to be adventurous—some cooks have even tried milk or coconut milk!
- Add your meat back in. Put your meat in a coverable pan or Dutch oven, along with your veggies, and pour in your liquid until it sets about one-half the way up the side of your meat. Don’t completely cover the meat; the liquid will seep in and flavor it.
- Add a little spice. It’s customary to use bay leaves, and salt and pepper is usually a given, but don’t limit yourself!
- Cover and cook. The hardest part of your work is over. Slide the meat into the oven and cook on low heat, usually 325° but no more than 350°. The meat should cook for about 2-3 hours depending on the cut, but you will know when it is done because the meat will be tender and literally sliding off the bone, or easily cut with a knife.
- Broth or Sauce. At this point, you can serve the meat as is or you can choose to create a sauce, which will enhance the dish. Take out the meat and the vegetables. Skim off the fat, and simmer the liquid until it thickens enough to coat a spoon. Then add your meat and veggies back in to heat them back through.
- Give it a little zing. If you want to add texture or give the dish your own personal touch, you can top it off with a handful of chopped herbs, grated citrus zest, or crème fraiche.
All I can say is YUM! Enjoy! [ ... ]Read More
As you know, Circle B Ranch strives to produce the best quality pork available on today’s market—even during Missouri’s winters. We picked SW Missouri to raise our hogs because the weather tends not to be as harsh as in other parts of the country. The winter does test the farmer’s skill and work capacity, bringing frozen livestock waterers, hard starting trucks and tractors, and, of course, the dreaded breakdowns! The smoothness of Summer fades into the time-consuming tasks of Winter. Everything seems as if it takes twice as long to accomplish, almost as if mother nature is making up for the grace period she has already given us earlier in the year. But farmers aren’t the only ones affected. Even the hogs feel the change, behaving differently as the weeks (yes it is only weeks) move into the coldest stretch of the year. Some pigs pile into the range huts we provide—completely protected from driving winds, chilling snow, and frigid rain. Others gather up grasses and straw to build comfy little nests they burrow in for a warm place to sleep. Unbelievably, some hogs even prefer the weather, heaping up together with their herd-mates under the cedar trees in our open pastures. It never ceases to amaze me when I trek outside on a cold Winter morning and find a mountain of pigs snuggling like puppies. One might wonder how these hogs survive, braving the elements like they do. The answer is simple. It is because the farmer defies the elements for them. He or she gives love, time, skill, dedication, and patience. Dedication and patience are a must. During the winter, pork production takes a dive. Why? A hog’s metabolism is so high that it utilizes feed to keep warm instead of gaining any lean mass. The fat outweighs the meat. During this time feed cost goes up and meat production goes down. The pigs require the extra fodder to build up “fat back”—a thick covering of fat that blankets their backs and vital organs. Due to this thick layer of fat, a hog is able to flop belly-down in straw or grass, regardless of the snow. I've often found them laying in their nest with a 2" layer of snow on their backs! And here is where skill comes in. The farmer must keep close tabs on the hogs and know how to best promote their well-being during the winter. For example, he or she has to keep an eye on the weaklings and the runts during the weaning process. Since these piglets rely on the rest of the piglet herd to keep warm, they can easily be excluded from the heat they need to survive the cold temperatures. One must recognize when they are struggling and offer extra feed and bedding to ensure survival. This holds true for all of the hogs. In general, during the winter, all of the hogs and pigs struggle a bit and require more feed and shelter. This fact requires efforts that take up much of a farmer’s time. Here at Circle B Ranch, we provide round bales and straw when needed for warmth and shelter. We step up the amount of feed to help the stock build up fat and body heat. The waterers are constantly checked and kept open, making sure the animals have adequate water to maintain hydration and avoid hypothermia. When it’s freezing outside, this is an all-day process. A farmer’s work is never done. So where does love come in? The love comes from the desire to create a superior product; it comes from the dedication of stepping outside in bitter temperatures to care for your animals; it comes from acquiring the necessary skill to carry out the maintenance. The love comes from the patience that is vital to the farming life. Perhaps it is love that is most important for the success of Circle B Ranch: love for the product, love for our animals, and love for you—the customer. Without love, time, skill, dedication, and patience we couldn’t provide you with the quality pork products we produce—regardless of the season. [ ... ]Read More
Delish! Enjoy! [ ... ]Read More
Since the beginning, our mission here at Circle B Ranch has been to raise our hogs in the most natural way possible; our hogs are what they are meant to be. They do as nature intended. Because of our natural practices, we farrow all year round here, even in the coldest of winter months. While we allow the sows to choose where they birth—whether in an outside nest or inside an insulated farrowing hut—we keep a close eye on the mama and the piglets. It is our goal to make sure that both the sow and the newborns remain in good health. If the mama has given birth outside, we remove the piglets from the nest when she leaves to feed. We then place the babies inside a farrowing hut to allow us to easily monitor them and to ensure they stay warm.Read More
During the winter months, we wean our piglets later than we typically would during the summertime. By waiting for 10 weeks rather than the usual 8 weeks, we improve the ease with which the piglets switch from sow’s milk to feed. During the suckling and weaning period, the piglets eat feed along with the sow—a high protein diet necessary for piglet growth and sow weight maintenance. In this way, any shock caused by weaning is lessened. While the 10-week period may be a little harder on the sow, she is fully equipped to recover. A good mother gives everything she has to her piglets, and may be “skin and bones” by weaning time, but we watch over her and give her a month and longer to recover before breeding her again. During the weaning period, we keep a sharp eye on the piglets—especially the ones that may be labeled the “runts” or the “weaklings.” Once they are weaned, the members of the piglet herd rely on each other to stay warm; the smallest and the weakest are often affected by the extreme cold. Because we prefer the natural process, we do not cull the small or the weak from our stock. Some farmers may choose to do so, to save on cost and time related to their care, but we believe in giving all of our stock a fair, fighting chance. We provide extra feed and straw to provide warmth and shelter where needed. We enhance the chance of survival for each and every piglet on our farm—without compromising the all-natural standards we strive to provide and that you have come to expect from Circle B Ranch. [ ... ]
As discussed in our previous article, Circle B Ranch weans our piglets between 6-10 weeks of age, depending upon the season. After the piglets are weaned, we rotate them through a series of pens until they are sent off for processing. The sorting and rotation procedure occurs about once a month. Why do we go through this procedure? We pasture-raise our pigs from the beginning, meaning that they are allowed to roam free within their large, open pens and feed off of the land. By raising them this way, we raise them as naturally as possible. They are not cooped up like CAFO pigs. They are not fed unnecessary supplements such as antibiotics or hormones. Circle B Ranch is Certified Humane Raised and Handled and Animal Welfare Approved, so we operate by their rigorous standards. Animal Welfare Approved Standards decree that animals should be treated and be able to behave as naturally as possible. This helps maintain an animal's physical and mental health, improves the nutritional quality of the food that is produced, and does not harm the environment. In other words, we rotate the pigs as they mature to help preserve the environment and improve the health and over-all well being of our pigs. We start with the juvenile pen, where the piglets will stay as they begin to grow and put on weight. After 1-2 months, we then rotate the pigs to another pen. This middle pen gives them even more room to roam and fresh grassland from which to forage. We continue to alternate the pigs through various middle pastures as they mature. Eventually, the pigs arrive at the last pen, which we call the “finishing” pen, where they remain until they reach processing weight. The pigs reach processing weight, 250 pounds, at about 8-10 months of age. They are then sorted and gathered up once a week to be taken to the processor. If a pig weighs more than 250 pounds, it is still taken to be processed. When the processor receives our pigs, they are processed according to our specifications and USDA approved standards. We later return to pick up the cuts—the Circle B Ranch products we proudly offer to our customers. [ ... ]Read More