I am not much of a cook, except when it comes to meat. I am not particularly skilled at cooking meat, I just enjoy spending time with my BBQ. I asked for a meat cookbook for Christmas this year and my wife really came through for me. She bought me The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who you may recognize as the dude from the F Word who helps Gordon Ramsey raise his turkeys and his pigs. The book itself is over five hundred pages, half filled with recipes and half filled with information about meat. I have most enjoyed reading the informative chapters.
I absolutely love this book. I am obsessed with learning about farming practices, how to spot quality meat, and about all of the different cuts of meat. I was shocked and appalled at what are considered industry farming practices, which are intensive to say the least. What I found the most interesting is that healthy, happy, animals produce better quality meat that tastes better. While obviously not a vegetarian, I do love animals and have since undertaken to buy my beef from a local farm where the cows are likely to have lived good lives.
My search for local beef lead me to a few farms nearby. Sadly, like Hugh warns of in the book, it seems our culture is obsessed with lean beef, which is debatably healthier, but less tasty. The first farm I looked into was Mount Lehman’s Grass-Only Beef Farm. I spoke to a woman there who boasted of her lean beef, but also stated that her slaughtered beef was only hung for two weeks because it is so lean that it would dry out. High recommends at least three weeks of hanging time, so I kept looking.
Erik recommended we look into Painted River Farm, who advertised three weeks of hanging time. They also feed their beef organic grain as well as grass, to help fatten them up a bit. Sounded tasty to me. Erik and I decided to split a 30lb box of various beef cuts for starters, just to make sure we liked it. Our original goal was to purchase a half or quarter cow!
The first cut of beef I attempted to prepare was a rib steak on the BBQ. Upon opening the package, I was a little disappointed by the lack of marbling in the beef. I was hoping for more, but who was I to judge without tasting. The only seasoning I used was a Pride of Szeged Steak Rub. I decided to pair by first steak with a Driftwood Blackstone Porter, which may or may not go well with steak depending on your tastes. I’d usually recommend a Pale Ale or an IPA.
Sadly, I overcooked the first steak. This never happens to me, I swear! I was highly distraught and very disappointed in myself. If you are going to kill and eat an animal, you had better prepare it properly, right vegetarians? Luckily, there was a second steak, which I managed to cook well, although not as rare as I would have liked. The second one was delicious. I really thought it tasted sweeter and more beefy, which is weird to say, but that’s what beef tastes like. Talking to Erik later on, I found that he overcooked his first t-bone also. We think this beef somehow cooks faster, maybe due to the lack of fat? I’ve learned my lesson in any case.
What does all of this have to do with beer? Well, I love drinking beer with beef, or any meal for that matter. There is also a beer recipe in the book, a recipe for a stew that Hugh calls “beef in stout”, which I hope to make soon. If you are an animal lover and you want to get the most out of your meat, I really recommend The River Cottage Meat Book. It is a fascinating book.