Author: Patty Lee


Irish Potato Famine History

The Great Potato Famine

Irish Potato Famine History

The history of Irish food is interesting for more than just the delicious combinations of meat, potatoes and alcohol but also for the lessons we must learn from the great tragedy of the Irish Potato Famine. Between 1845 and 1852 over one million Irish peasants died of starvation and another million fled the country hoping for fuller bellies. While there were many political and social factors leading to the terrible scale of this tragedy, everything started with nearly 3 million Irish peasants subsisting on a single strain of plant in their fields, one variety of the potato. This great tragedy hits close to home here at Heritage Foods USA as we support farmers fighting against the pressure of moving toward a monoculture food system.

The story of the Great Famine starts in 5,000 BC in the South American highlands where the potato was first domesticated by humans. The potato then travelled across the Atlantic ocean on the ships of Spanish conquistadors, finally reaching Europe in 1570. Most Europeans avoided potatoes initially because of the close connection to the poisonous nightshade plant. Eventually the aristocracy realized the potato had a high caloric value that could sustain as many as 10 people on a acre and was easier to grow than wheat. Though slow to be adopted in mainland Europe, once the potato was brought to Ireland it quickly replaced a more diverse agricultural landscape as peasants sought to subsist off of smaller and smaller plots of land.

While the potato fields were still abundant many peasants exclusively ate potatoes, only supplementing with milk when they could afford the splurge. In order to meet their caloric needs a “burly farmer could down 15 potatoes” in a  meal, according to one historical account. A spud filled diet might not have been the most enjoyable for the Irish, but it was feeding them until the early 1800’s when the first issues with the blight (Photophthora infestans) began to affect Ireland. The arrival of the fungus combined with unseasonably wet weather caused regional  crop failures. Potato plants would wither and blacken while the tubers themselves were rotting in the soil. Then in late August of 1845, “a queer mist came over the Irish country side”. What had been a sporadic issue soon swept the country and by 1846 there were hardly any seed potatoes to plant in the fields let alone to eat. This country-wide crop failure continued for several years and while the blight was impacting potato plants in countries across Europe, Ireland faced the largest human toll.

More than a century later Irish eyes are smiling once again, but there is so much that can be learned from this preventable tragedy. The Great Famine is one in a long list of crop failures, though it cost the most human lives. In the 19th century four million acres of French grapes were decimated by the virulent Phylloxera vitifoliae. This same disease cost the winemaking counties of California millions of dollars as 70% of their crop came from the same rootstock. In the 1930’s Costa Rica’s banana industry nearly went bankrupt after Fusarium oxysporum destroyed thousands of hectares of their monoculture plantations. Failing to learn from their mistakes, these banana growers have faced recurrences of the disease in the 1950’s, 1970’s and 1990’s. In the 1970’s uniform high-yielding corn hybrids comprised about 70% of all corn varieties in the United States. A corn leaf blight resulted in the loss of 15% of the entire crop costing the industry over one billion dollars. History has shown us time and time again that while these high-yielding crops seem appealing at first, in monoculture we are setting ourselves up for potentially catastrophic crop failure

The economic risk and environmental toll of these monocultures is simply too great. Thousands of years of agriculture have resulted in a beautifully diverse array of plants and animals uniquely adapted to different climatic conditions. It is only through the preservation of this diversity that we can truly foster a food-secure future.

400 day Surryano Ham

Surryano Ham Slicing & Storing Tips

Don’t have a machine slicer at home? Not to worry, hand slicing is a can be a difficult skill to master but in reinforces the ancient roots of cured meat. It creates a unique experience compared to the machine generated paper thin slices and allows you to appreciate three-generations of curemaster knowledge that produce the perfect Surryano.

Chinese New Year 2015 | Year of the Goat

Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year is based on the ancient Chinese calendar, which functioned as a religious, dynastic and social guide. Oracle bones inscribed with astronomical records and other artifacts date the calendar back as early as the 14th century B.C., during the Shang Dynasty.

The Chinese calendar was a complex timepiece. Its parameters were set according to the lunar phases as well as the solar solstices and equinoxes. Yin and yang, the opposing but complementary principles that make up a harmonious world, also ruled the calendar, as did the Chinese zodiac, the cycle of twelve stations or “signs” along the apparent path of the sun through the cosmos. Each new year was marked by the characteristics of one of the 12 zodiacal animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

2015 marks the Year of the yáng (羊), which is the Chinese word for both sheep and goat. In English, the sign may be called either. Children Born under the sign of a particular zodiac are believe to inherit the traits of that animal. In Chinese astrology Goats are described as loving-peace and “kind” and “popular”.

According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical lion-like monster named Nian (年), or Chinese for “Year”. On the night of New Year’s Eve, the Nian would come out and harass people, animals, and properties.

Dui Lian
Dui Lian

The ancient villagers sought council from a wise old man who taught them that the Nian feared fire, the color red, and loud sounds. The villagers took the old man’s advice and began hanging red Dui

Lian in front of their houses, launching fireworks, banging drums, and lighting lanterns at the end of each year. The Nian was finally conquered.

The anniversary of the Nain’s defeat marks the “passing of the Nian” known in Chinese as guo nian (过年), or the celebration of the New Year.

The date of Chinese New Year changes each year as it is based on the lunar calendar. Chinese New Year typically falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. While both Buddhism and Daoism have unique customs during the New Year, Chinese New Year is far older than both religions. Like many agrarian societies, Chinese New Year is rooted in much a celebration of spring just like Easter or Passover.

Depending on where rice is grown in China, the rice season lasts from roughly May to September (north China), April to October (Yangtze River Valley), or March to November (Southeast China). The New Year was likely the start of preparations for a new growing season.

Spring cleaning is a common theme during this time, as many Chinese will clean out their homes during the holiday. The New Year celebration could even have been a way to break up the boredom of the long winter months.

During the New Year celebrations, families travel long distances to spend time together. A migration known as the “Spring movement” or Chunyun (春运). In addition to lighting lanterns, setting of firecrackers, playing loud drums, and hanging Dui Lian, families spend time together and feast during the 15-day holiday.

Roasted Goat Leg with Peaches, Apples, & Citrus

Roasted Goat always makes an interesting meal that is exotic while still being simple. The key to this recipe is marinating the meat overnight and cooking the roast low and slow.

Ingredients
1 5-7 lb goat leg
1 lb of peaches
(fresh or frozen)
2 medium apples
2 lemons
1 orange
freshly ground
black pepper
kosher salt
2 cups white wine

MARINADE

  1. Zest the lemons and cover the leg with the zest.
  2. Season meat liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. Slice the peaches, apples, and citrus and arrange the slices so the leg is covered from top to bottom.
  4. Wrap tightly with foil and place on a baking sheet.
  5. Allow 24 hours to marinate in the refrigerator.

ROAST

  1. Remove from the refrigerator 2-3 hours before roasting, allowing the leg to come to room temperature.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 250° F.
  3. Unwrap the leg from the foil, and place back on the baking sheet or in a roasting pan if you have one large enough.
  4. Add the fruit and juices from the marinade to the pan. Pour one cup of wine into the bottom of your pan and tent the leg with foil.
  5. Place the leg in the oven and reduce temperature immediately to 200°F.
  6. Roast the leg for 5-6 hours keeping a close watch. When the bottom of the pan is dry add the second cup of wine.
  7. Once the leg reaches an internal temperature of 120° F remove from the oven. Turn the broiler on to high. Allow a few minutes for your broiler to heat up then place the leg uncovered back in the oven to brown.
  8. When the meat reaches 125° F internal temperature remove from the oven, and let rest for 15 minutes.
  9. Slice against the grain & serve.

Sex Sells, or, For Every Season There Is a Meat

In winter, about the time when the first snow falls, my dinners feature American lamb and come from a breed that is covered in thick, dense wool. The lanolin from wool makes for bites that stand up to the cold harsh winds of the Atlantic. When temperatures dip below freezing and nothing grows, the only winged creatures that I crave are the ones that can stand up to the harsh weather conditions– red meat waterfowl. Plumage protects ducks and geese right up to the moment the lakes and ponds freeze over. Duck and goose meat is the dark chocolate of the protein world.

For us winter is a time for Batali Salumi and aged hams, and NY strip cedes it top spot to the fattier ribeye and bison burgers give way for more marbled meat like Akaushi and the Belted Galloway.

Eating particular meats at certain times of year is the best way to maximize the gustatory pleasures of the seasons, and it is also the best way to support a sustainable agriculture system.

Just as we enjoy hardy root vegetables in fall and ripe red tomatoes during the summer, every animal also enjoys their own natural season. Bellow is a chapter from my book The Carnivores Manifesto. Learn why turkey is served for thanksgiving and how goose made its name during Christmas and look forward to the rich new bounty that lies just ahead.

Patrick Martins

Founder, Heritage Foods USA

Chapter 25

Sex Sells, or, For Every Season

There Is a Meat

 

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.

— Henry David Thoreau

An industrial farm is a joyless place. Even the studly breeders don’t get to have sex! Everything is artificially coerced, and then artificially inseminated. These farms are not idyllic, impressionist paintings of greenery and sunshine—more like the technological nightmare of tubes and machines and vaultlike freezers, racks of test tubes, genetic manipulators, and the coldhearted tools of a science on the brink of disaster.

Did you ever read Charles Dickens and wonder why they were always eating ducks and geese at Christmastime? Well, it’s because of the sex lives of these toothsome birds. It’s that simple. Remember the song “Makin’ Whoopee”? Another season, another reason, for makin’ whoopee. You certainly didn’t think that applied only to people, did you?

Just as tomatoes and strawberries are best in the summer, so too do our animal chums have their own seasons, and being tuned in helps teach us respect for the natural order of things— the miracle of Earth orbiting the Sun and giving us the joys of spring, summer, winter, and fall. These days it’s not so obvious, in the supermarket, anyway, because all meat is available all the time. But when naturally bred animals are ready for slaughter, in season, that is Earth speaking to us.

Eating meat at its naturally most robust, ready-for-market time of year is part of our covenant as responsible, sustainable, thoughtful, spiritually sound human beings, and it’s humbling in a way that makes us all feel part of something much bigger than us.

And when the season strikes, buy these animals in bulk and freeze what you don’t eat fresh — to embrace livestock by season means more than just laying out a single lavish holiday meal. You can make it your fashionable protein for weeks.  Think sandwiches, and then meat for chili or ragù for your pasta. Almost any animal, including lamb and turkey, makes a great burger, and this is very important— when we only eat prime cuts, it leads to waste. Grinding the cheaper cuts is going to help us achieve an America where small farms can survive, because we are helping them sell the entire beast.

Let’s start in fall: In October farms all over the world are exploding— this is harvest season, when the spring’s efforts are ready for the table and it’s time for us to fatten up for the winter. But at Heritage we’re most excited about October’s bounty of goats— in fact, we call it Goatober.

Goat is consumed in more places on the planet than any other livestock, with wonderful recipes and traditions representing a mosaic of cultures, although in America it suffers from the lack of a good marketing scheme— no “Where’s the beef?” or “the other white meat” to push goat to the forefront of a carnivore’s cuisine that has always been dependent on cows and pigs.

Goats are like horny newlyweds down on the farm. They do it like crazy in the fall, and they reproduce easily, usually birthing twins in spring. When fall comes, you either eat them, especially the males that do not produce milk, or you’ll have to get them sleeping bags to get through the chilly evenings. They’ve spent their summers munching on green grass and by early fall they are at their peak, before they get too old, tough, and gamey. In

November, don’t be a turkey, eat one! Left to their own instincts, turkeys do it in the late winter and early spring and are ready for harvest in twenty-four weeks, which conveniently turns out to be Thanksgiving, when as a species, they want to be eaten. And that is why the tradition exists. But don’t leave it there— you could be eating turkey sandwiches and beautiful turkey breasts and drumsticks right through till Christmas, and don’t forget the ground turkey for burgers or chili. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, ground meat is what keeps America’s independent farmers business.

Today, of course, turkey sandwiches are everywhere all year round, but nature pushed hard to put that bird on the Pilgrims’ table. If you are eating a fresh turkey in July, well, you can bet that turkey was not the product of a satisfying sexual experience— there wasn’t a tom anywhere near a female when that bird was conceived.

December is Dickensian and, once again, the time for ducks and geese. For Americans, they may seem a bit Old World and intimidating to cook, but the truth is they are no more difficult to prepare than a chicken or a turkey, and they are an incredibly tasty alternative. Stephen Barber, the chef at Farmstead restaurant in Napa, calls geese “rib eye in the sky” because they are that meaty and wonderful.

January and February are great times to enjoy cured meats, salumi, prosciutto, that has been salted and preserved. Why? Because as humans became civilized, this is what we created to survive the winter. Winter is tough—it’s why squirrels hoarding nuts set such an apt example for the rest of us. It’s why bears hibernate. Winter is about survival. And if the winter lasts into March, you can still gnaw on that prosciutto.

Come spring, when March roars in like a lion, you should be tucking into some lamb. There is a reason that lamb is central to Passover and Easter— or did you think it was just convenient symbolism? Nope, that’s when young lambs are ready for the slaughter, based on their natural mating patterns. And it’s a good time to eat the older, more mature sheep, too, since they are done breeding or milking and are ready for harvest.

Again, buy in bulk: Many of the country’s best lamb and goat farms are not at the level yet where they can break up those animals into pieces and still keep their business viable. Buying a twenty-pound half lamb or goat, butchered to your specs, is the only way to eat the elite at this point in time, and the best way to help the farmer. Even though cows do it all year long, some cuts are best known during certain seasons: Just look at how many Jewish grandmothers have ruined perfectly good briskets at Passover, overcooking them with ketchup and chemically based dry soup mix. We can’t explain why anyone would want to cook like that, but the reason brisket is popular in early spring is that it is a good, lean rough cut, the cut of the cow that stands up and lasts best through the winter until it is the last part of the cow left. It’s also no coincidence that we eat corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day.

Coming into summer, you’d be a fool not to eat salmon during the wild salmon harvesting season— those are the months you’ll get it fresh from Alaska, and you should only ever eat salmon from Alaska (even frozen the rest of the year!), which is the largest wild salmon run in the world. Better not to eat salmon at all than eat their flabby, sad- sack, farm-raised industrial cousins. More importantly, summer is grilling season. Pigs, chickens, and cows are incorrigible, they do it all the time. Like rabbits. So sure, you can eat them all year round, but you should try to leave them alone when other animals want eating during the rest of the year. That’s a good way to help promote sustainability.

And that is today’s lesson: When an animal has its moment, eat it, eat it often, and learn to prepare it in many ways. Celebrate nature, and the traditions we have created around these animals over thousands of years of farming and breeding. Do it because it is healthy and responsible, because it is the natural thing to do, because it is sustainable and succulent. Cole Porter said it best in “Let’s Do It” — Birds do it, bees do it . . . They say that roosters do it . . . With a doodle and cock . . . And there you have it. Let our animals be happy. Please, eat them in season. Let them have sex.

 

What’s With The Goose? The History Behind Eating Goose At Christmas

Goose, the once-common farm bird, has a rich legacy of multi-purpose value. Geese proudly boast down feathers, dark flavorful meat, and rich high-temperature cooking fat.

As natural foragers, geese are more content grazing than feeding on grain alone and require the freedom to roam in search of tender grasses. Their preference for grazing has made them difficult to adapt into factory farm conditions.

Ducks were more easily adapted to commodity food production. However, the hybridized commercially raised duck is a different bird than it’s predecessors, which were selected over centuries for flavorful dark meat and the perfect amount of fat. Frank Reese, our heritage poultry farmer, can trace his Rowan, Buff, Aylesbury, and Appleyard ducks back over 200 years.

The duck and geese raised by Frank at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch, spend 6 months sauntering through meadows, foraging, and swimming. Their active lifestyle and diverse diet develop flavor in the birds – something factory farms will never be able to replicate.

Traditionally duck and geese were harvested in Winter, Frank Reese explains –

In the old days you’d never harvest a duck or a goose until after you had freezing weather. The old people really felt that the cold weather allowed the duck to put down or the goose to put down that important layer of fat that was needed to make it taste like it was supposed to.

The longer it takes to grow the better it is.

Goose and duck should have a lot more fat [than other poultry] – that’s how the animal stays warm, but that’s also where all the flavor is. That gives the meat it’s taste. The fat should be kept and used for frying potatoes and all kinds of stuff. It’s very very rich and it doesn’t take much.

Because our birds have lived longer, that means you are going to have to really be careful when you cook them because you can overcook them and dry them out. You can get too much fat out of them. And because these are ducks that have actually been in water and swam and have been active you are going to have to cook them a little longer and slower.

You know, as grandma said, “We ate everything but the ‘honk’ ”.

Frank suggests referring to an older cookbook such as Fanny Farmer for heritage goose and duck recipes and preparation techniques.

Heritage Foods USA Goose & Duck prep tips:
1. Before roasting rest your bird at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Generously salt both inside and out of the bird and fill the cavity with
aromatics like garlic, thyme and sage.

3. Prick small holes all over the skin being sure not to pierce the meat. This allows the fat a chance to render out during roasting and ensures crispy
delicious skin!

4. Cook low and slow. We can’t emphasize the importance of this enough. We
suggest cooking at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

5. Geese and ducks are both red-meat birds, and unlike other poultry their rich breast meat should be served medium-rare. The best way to ensure the dark meat has enough time in the oven to become tender without over cooking the breast is to remove the breast part way through roasting.

6. For extra crispy skin add some of the fat drippings to a sauté pan placed over medium high heat. Remove the leg quarters from the bird and sauté both the legs and the breast skin side down for 3-4 minutes. Do not flip them. Be sure to only sauté the skin side!

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