Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Following Nature and the Perfect Steak

THE FARM

This nesting pair of geese has returned to the farm pond, last year they successfully raised 4 goslings.


The beef animals went to pasture 10 days ago, this is much later than usual due to the harsh winter and late Spring. Even then, it was pushing it to put them on pasture in Starrs Point so they have been rotating through each field for 1-2 days for light grazing in order not to over-graze grass and deplete their stores before the three to four leaf stage. These animals were here last summer and know the drill. When let out of the trailer they froliced around and went off exploring, they hesitated at an open gate knowing this is normally closed and electrified, having carefully inspected the opening they then went through....I was pretty impressed that they remembered, makes my life easier. When moving them from field to field I walk in front of them and lead rather than push them from behind, like the Pied Piper of Hamlin.

The main herd will go to pasture on the Canard Dyke in a few days....this is the best day of the farm year. Cows will be vaccinated first as I do not want to put them through the ordeal of herd health when they are heavily pregnant.....by my calculations calving should start June 10th, a few will probably arrive a couple of days before that...hope to have 25 -30 calves on the ground by the end of June....always exciting.
The calves will be born on clean pasture just as their mothers milk production will be enhanced by fresh grass. By replicating wild animals breeding season this makes all the elements work for healthy animals getting the best start. Traditional beef farming as we know it in the past 40 -50 years calved in mid-winter to early Spring so that calves would be at their heaviest when weaned and sold in the fall, usually 7 months average weaning age. On my farm they will wean naturally around 10 months and will stay with their mothers for another few months before I move them to Starrs Point, deciding which to keep for beef and for cow replacements or for sale (ones that do not fulfill my criteria).

On the farm today (May 25) were 2 bald-headed eagles perched on a fence over-looking the Canard River, a goose sitting on a nest on an island in our pond, a nest of baby racoons in the cattle barn, nesting ducks and a large coyote walking through the pasture!


THE FOOD

How to Cook Steak

Many people have their own technique that they swear by, others have no technique except guesswork.
Technique is dependent on type of steak and personal taste.
Most contend that steak from the fridge or freezer should be brought to room temperature. The steak should be lightly dabbed with kitchen tissue to mop up excess surface moisture to prevent a boiled taste. However, you can also cook steak directly from frozen in the pan or on the grill, takes a few minutes longer to cook; I have done a taste comparison and there was no difference in taste between frozen and room temperature steak.
Grilling time depends on personal preference, cooking temperature, steak thickness and type of steak.
To assess doneness there is a simple trick using the fleshy part of your palm below the thumb (thenar eminence). When you lightly oppose the tip of your thumb to the tips of individual fingers and press on your palm this is equivalent to the degree of doneness, that is , tip of thumb to index finger your palm will feel flaccid, tip of your thumb to your little finger tip your palm will feel firm. Rare steak will have the same firmness as thumb to index finger, well done will be same as thumb to little finger, then everything else is in-between. So you press on your steak on the grill, it will be warm not hot and then compare to your palm. Other methods include a meat thermometer if steak is at least 1.5 inches thick or if all else fails making a gash into the thickest part of the steak for visual inspection.
The 'purist' would put nothing on a steak but most would put some salt, preferably a large grain salt on their steak five minutes before grilling. Butter sauces and some steak mixes can be good especially if compensating for steak in lower quality steak restaurants or grocery store "special' priced steak.

Steak should be placed on a very hot grill or pan for 1-2 minutes per side for the "Maillard Reaction" a reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars causing browning and caramelisation creating different natural flavour compounds and the unique taste of steak. After this, turn the heat way downor turn off the heat leaving the steak to cook slowly according to the degree of exact doneness.When cooking on the grill avoid flame flare ups, a charcoal grill is preferable. If cooking on a stove top use a heavy iron pan with ridges. A very thick steak can be started on the pan and finished in the oven with a meat thermometer. Thin or leaner steak can be sliced before or after cooking, cutting obliquely against the grain.
To summarise, the most important things are steak quality, control of temperature and paying attention when cooking.......all other steak cooking measures and tips are much less important.


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