It is lovely to dwell in the happy land of winter feasting, the braising and stew season, fixing pot roasts for Sunday dinner, or stirring up a bunch of chili for weeknight suppers. But as farmers, we need to be looking forward to the spring and summer market season to make sure that we have an inventory of meats that will satisfy upcoming customer demands. Too often, when we take animals in to the butcher, we have standard cutting instructions – either by our own choice, or by the butcher’s. However, each season requires that we have our animals prepared a little differently.
In my experience, I’ve found that there are often two types of cooks who visit our booth in the warm months: Summer Bunnies and Flame Throwers.
Summer Bunnies seem to use the warm season as a diet regime. While they may be responsible for their family’s nutrition, they have little interest in cooking, and even less interest in eating. These folks would far prefer to nibble a few salad greens than to look at our meat cuts, but the demands of sharing their table with hungry friends and family members requires that they pay the meat stall a visit. As meat producers, our job is to pair them with meats that cook quickly with minimal fuss, and that let them get back outside to the garden, the swimming whole, or their kids’ ball games.
Flame Throwers are an entirely different lot. They approach the meat booth with a swagger, and they talk about their grills and barbecues like Harley riders at a bike rally. They have more opinions than questions, they’re drawn to fire, and they’re hungry for any meat that pairs well with blazes and smoke. These are tough customers. They speak in short sentences. Some have fearsome tattoos and exotic piercings. If you don’t have what they’re looking for, they drop you. Fast. But if you can pair them up with some good vittles, they’ll be faithful as puppy dogs.
Considering these two personality types, let’s look at some different grassfed and pastured meat cuts will be most helpful.
Remember your caveats for the Summer Bunnies: Little effort, no heat in the kitchen.
These are super-thin slices of beef cut from the bottom round and occasionally the eye round, and Summer Bunnies love them for obvious reasons. They make great Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches to pack hot and take to a baseball game, they’re fabulous marinated for bulgogi (see the Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook for that recipe), and they are tasty when simply seasoned with salt and fresh herbs and fried up in less than…you guessed it – a minute.
Kebabs are an ideal choice for Summer Bunnies who need to feed a crowd, but who’d rather show off their local produce than the local meat. Pork, beef and lamb kebabs are all terrific, and they enable the Summer Bunnies to stretch a little meat a long way. Kebab recipes are flavorful and easy, and they are incredibly simple to grill. Delightful kebab recipes for grassfed and pastured meats abound in The Farmer and the Grill (you honestly didn’t think I’d write this piece without shamelessly plugging my books, did you??). I’m particularly fond of them, as I can toss kebabs into a marinade in the morning before I leave for the farm, then have a quick grilled supper ready in a flash when I get home.
Sausages can be your best friend in the summer. When Summer Bunnies are hesitant to cook, sausages do most of the work for them. They needn’t worry about seasoning or sophisticated grilling techniques. If you are able to offer different varieties, Summer Bunnies can choose a few different types and throw on a mixed grill for a crowd (they even pair well with kebabs).
You’ve probably had this scene play out before you: A couple approaches your stand. She’s a Summer Bunny, he wants meat. The kids are pretty hungry, too, and she’s holding the pocketbook. Hubby’s checking out your rib eye steaks, and she’s wondering if they’ve arrived too late to get fresh blueberries. Direct them to the family steaks – the top round steaks (aka London Broils), the sirloins and the sirloin tips. As they are boneless, they contain little waste, so one steak can typically feed an entire family. Help them select the right size by estimating ½ pound of meat per person (allowing for more or less depending on the appetites). Be sure, however, to give them good grilling instructions. It’s a good idea to have a copy of The Farmer and the Grill on hand (hint hint) so that they can read the appropriate technique themselves. (It’s really very easy, but if I told you how to do it, would you still buy the book?? Seriously, there are a few nuances, and they’re discussed in detail in Farmer and the Grill.)
A few other important Summer Bunny cuts:
Keep a good supply of ground beef on hand. Whenever I have new customers, I urge them to let their first piece of grassfed beef be a burger – it is hard to mess up, inexpensive, and the flavor is amazing. Once they’re hooked on that, it’s much easier to get them to experiment with my other meats. In addition, try to have your legs of lamb butterflied for easy grilling, get plenty of ground lamb made up, and keep lots of pork and lamb chops in stock. All of these are easy, quick-grill cuts that require minimal prep and fuss.
As I mentioned before, these folks are serious about their meat. They pretty much exclusively want to cook outdoors, and while they like their standard fare, they’re also into experimentation.
Single Serving Steaks:
Rib roasts and tenderloin roasts are not big summertime sellers. Rather, my standing summer order for the short loin of a beef is to have one side cut into porterhouse steaks, and the other side cut into filet mignon and top loin steaks. The rib primal is always cut into steaks for the warm months. Be sure that you ask your butcher to make them 1 ½ inches thick. This helps make sure your Flame Throwers won’t over-cook them.
Flame Throwers are serious about their smoking. I find they pass judgment on our booth based on our inventory of good smoking cuts. If I’ve got what they’re craving on the first visit, them I get credit for being a girl who knows her meat, and my booth will be the first place they visit when they arrive at the market. Flame Throwers who want to spend all day nursing a beer and loafing beside the smoker will be looking for pork shoulder roasts and flat cut briskets of beef. If they only have an hour or two to run their smoker, they’ll need country ribs, pork chops, spare ribs or beef short ribs.
Flame Throwers love to test you. Just how flesh-savvy are you? Do you know what a tri-tip* is? How about a flat iron*? They hunger for the most flavorful cuts as well, like skirts, flanks and hangars. When I have a flame-thrower to woo, I always try to put the skirt or flank aside for him. When they realize you know what they like, they’ll come begging for more.
Whoever your spring-summer clientele may be, take the time to communicate clearly with your butcher about your upcoming customer demands. Make sure your steaks and chops are appropriately thick, that your sausages are in good supply, and that your kebabs are cut from the sirloin muscles, lest they be too chewy. When customers approach your booth, be attentive to their needs, and be ready to suggest an appropriate cut.
Above all, don’t forget those two handy books that will help your customers cook every piece of meat you lay before them: The Farmer and the Grilland The Grassfed Gourmet. Both have been proven time and time again to guarantee that customers have a quality experience with pastured meats, resulting in loyal patronage. Happily, these books are available to farmers and organizations in quantity for very steep discounts. Also, don’t forget that I am always available to answer your questions. Feel free to write and ask for help, or check out grassfedcooking.com’s Q&A to see if your question has already been answered.
* The tri-tip is the small triangular muscle cut from the bottom of the sirloin. The flat iron is a relatively tender, full-flavored steak cut from the chuck…At the meat stand, it is not a tool used for straightening hair.
We need your help to meet the $15,000 annual match for our Conservation Innovation Grant. The grant keeps On Pasture going for the next 3 years, but only if we can meet the cash match. If we meet our goal this Spring, we won’t ask again in the fall. (And it’s our fourth birthday, so when you give we’ll send you a party favor as a thank you!)
We’ve made it to $1,000 in our first 2 weeks of the fund drive. Your help will mean so much!