Week 2, 2022|Kristin Kimball|January 10, 2022

Most of what Mark and I go through as a couple is relatable. We can quibble over division of household chores, have mild disagreements over money or the children’s education, etc. But some things seem unique to this farmhouse. This week, for example, as the kids were battling some apparently non-covid virus and I was coming up on a bunch of hard deadlines, Mark showed up in the just-cleaned kitchen after a day in the butcher shop carrying nine pig tongues in a bucket. “Here,” he said, “I thought you might want to make something with these.” I have nothing against tongue. Tongue is terrific. I love tongue. But nine unwished for tongues? Tongues that must be carefully washed then boiled and individually peeled of their tough tongue skin? Then seasoned and slowly cooked until tender? That’s a project. Late in the evening at the end of a very busy week was not a good time for a project. So now I have nine raw pig tongues in a bucket in the refrigerator, not getting better, and every time I open the door I feel a little mix of resentment and guilt. Maybe I’ll get ambitious tonight, and peel and confit them. Or maybe the dogs will be the beneficiaries of Mark’s generosity. Stay tuned, and pray for me.

This incident led me to wonder how our new members are getting along with the sometimes-unfamiliar cuts of meat in the share. Members, if you have specific questions on how to cook something, or requests for an even more obscure part of the animal than what appears regularly in the share, shoot them directly to Mark via text at 518-570-6399. He and a rotating cast of butchers are working through a lot of pigs right now, so it’s a great time for special requests. Next up, a bunch of lamb and mutton.

One of the steeper new-member learning curves is how to manage the cuts of our 100% grass fed and finished beef. Grassfed is good for the planet, good for the animal and good for us, but our beef animals vary in age and breed, and our cuts can be somewhat unpredictable in terms of tenderness. Sometimes a cut that we think will be tender turns out to be quite chewy. This happened in our house last week with a T-bone steak that had a very tender tenderloin, but the toploin sections were tough. It would have been better to cook the tenderloin by itself and slow cook, braise or stew the pieces of toploin (more on this below). Or, we could have given it a few gentle whacks with a meat mallet, which is what I did the next night with another T-bone before cooking it fast in a pan. The whacking turned it from a chore into a very enjoyable steak.

Slow cooking in a braise or stew is a terrific method for tough cuts with a lot of connective tissue. The key, though, is to keep it low and slow. The liquid should never get above a quiver. There’s the old adage – a stew boiled is a stew spoiled – because boiling will turn meat tough, dry and stringy even if you give it plenty of time. Pressure cooking is another method that works well for tough cuts, even though it seems to contradict the slow and low rule. More on this another time.

Thank you to the members who have signed up for 2022. It means so much to us. Your support of this alternative food system allows us to be good stewards of this land and its resources, to produce whole food of exceptional quality, to train new farmers, and to send healthy food every week to three food pantries. We are so happy to grow for you! Please tell your friends we still have shares available. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this nine-tongue 2nd week of 2022. Find us at essexfarm@gmail.com, on Instagram at essexfarmcsa, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball