Category: Tasting Notes


Pork Tenderloin: The Filet Mignon of Pork!

The filet mignon of pork! Silky, tender and easy to roast to perfection. Each pig only produces two pounds of delicate tenderloin. Prepared simply, marinated, or wrapped in bacon, every bite is a masterpiece!

Our breeds include Berkshire, Red Wattle, Duroc, Gloucestershire Old Spot, Large Black, and Tamworth. Each heritage breed boasts its own flavor profile, and we encourage you to try them all.

All our pork is from pasture raised, hormone and antibiotic free animals. They are raised with care using traditional methods guaranteed to produce the very best tasting meat and processed at a Certified Humane facility.

Two pieces 1.5-2lb total $33

Four pieces 3.5-4lb total $68

Fatted Calf bacon, now available nationally through Heritage Foods for the very first time.

Fatted Calf bacon is a bacon milestone. This is old-fashioned bacon at its finest, beginning with superior Heritage pigs, and then dry cured with brown sugar, sea salt, and a bit of cayenne – but it’s not too spicy, just well-balanced, and it is smoked over four kinds of wood, two fruit woods and two hardwoods — cherry, apple, mesquite and alderwood — to further balance the smoky flavor. Taylor tells us that “using just the hardwood, the smoke profile is too strong. Using the apple and cherry soften it. It is nicely aromatic, and the brown sugar gives it a really good depth. The cayenne keeps the sweet and salty at bay, gives it a nice note, and you can really taste the meat itself, you can tasted the high quality of the belly…there is nothing like a Heritage pig.”

Fatted Calf was one of Heritage Foods’ first customers on the West Coast — we met them back in 2004 when Patrick Martins was traveling, and they talked about responsible, traditional, humane farming, and reaching out to the like-minded.

“It was an East Bay connection,” recalls Taylor. “Alice Waters may have introduced us, and we immediately knew the pigs were better than anything we could find. At the time we were still doing just one farmer’s market every week, and then we were doing a few, and it just blew up…”

The Fatted Calf bacon is cured with the old-world salt-box method. “It’s a bombardment of cure – it gets massaged into the belly and sits in the box for a few days and gets brushed off. It isn’t scientific ‑ you put some cure down, put in the bellies, and repeat. It couldn’t get any simpler, it is super old-world, how bacon has been made for hundreds of years, but it takes a lot of time. A big company does thousands of pounds in an hour, with liquid injection… ours is more labor intensive, but you wind up with the superior product. There is no added water. When you fry it, it doesn’t disappear.”

These days the butcher’s case in the Fatted Calf has FIFTY different versions of artisanal charcuterie — salumi, sausages, pate, ham, roast beef. “We make everything in small batches and sell it out fast,” says Taylor. “Up until now our business has been a mile wide but an inch deep.”

wagyu ribeye

What is Wagyu Beef?

The name Wagyu refers to any Japanese breed of beef. Kobe is a type of Wagyu, as is Mishima. For the past decade Heritage Foods has sourced Akaushi, a spectacular breed of Wagyu, arguably the most intensely marbled beef breed in the world. Akaushi is the Japanese Red Cow, a national treasure in Japan.

wagyu ribeye
wagyu ribeye steaks, Akaushi/Angus

The first Akaushi cattle arrived to the United States in 1992. Three bulls and eight cows left Japan on a custom equipped Boeing 747, headed for the Texas heartland, where they have been treated as celebrities since day one. Our Akaushi steaks are sourced from the very same family of farms that first brought the breed to the United States.

Purebred Akaushi is the authentic taste of Japanese beef, lighter than you might expect, with a silky quality and a surprising elegance.

Akaushi/Angus steak is a Wagyu that results from cross breeding the revered Akaushi with America’s mighty Angus, creating a profound steak experience. Boasting a bold, classic steak flavor, punctuated with the nuance of perfect marbling, this is our top selling steak.

Beyond the legacy of two great beef cultures — Japan and Texas —it’s also nice to know that Akaushi beef has among the lowest cholesterol of any meat sold in the USA, making these Heritage steaks a healthy indulgence as well as a sure-fire crowd pleasers.

Ribeye Steaks, boneless, Akaushi/Angus four 14-16oz steaks $119
NY Strip Steak, boneless, Akaushi/Angus four 14-16oz steaks $119
Ribeye Steaks, boneless, Pure Akaushi four 12oz steaks $157
NY Strip Steak, boneless, Pure Akaushi four 12oz steaks $157
NY Strip Steak, bone-in, Akaushi/Angus two 18-20oz steaks $99
Porterhouse Steak, Akaushi/Angus one 32oz steak $89
Porterhouse Steak, Akaushi/Angus two 32oz steaks $170 Continue reading “What is Wagyu Beef?”

Clover Creek Katahdin Shoulder

tender shoulder350

clean

mineral

perfectly balanced

sticky fat

mint

cream

herb

cinnamon

olive

grassy

clove

delicate

Chris and Ray Wilson, along with their daughter Sarah, have been raising sheep on their farm in Northeastern Tennessee for nearly 20 years. As a child of farmers, Chris hopes to one day pass down the farm to her own daughter. As she explained, “That is what you farm for – to pass it on to the next generation.” Clover Creek Farm spans 50 acres of land at an elevation of about 1650 feet. Chris, Ray and Sarah practice sustainable agriculture but when Chris found the land nearly 20 years ago, the land had been depleted by previous conventional farms and was completely over grown. Chris spent 5 years restoring the land and creek; with a focus on soil recovery and establishing the native grasses so it would be a sustainable farm. Chris was named Conservation Farmer of the Year in 1999 for her efforts.

Clover Creek Katahdin sheep graze on native grasses, such as blue grass, and clovers that are abundant in the Tennessee area. They are born outside and spend their entire life grazing with their mothers. Following the motto “farming in harmony with nature,” Chris raises her sheep using rotational grazing methods. Chris and Ray take pride in their lambs, explaining, “The lamb are not a commodity. We put a lot of work and effort in to give them the best life possible.”

The Katahdin sheep is the result of the innovative thinking of a Maine farmer named Michael Piel. In the 1950’s, Piel brought three sheep from St. Croix in the Caribbean to his farm. He crossed these “African hair sheep,” as they were known, with his own flock of “Down” breeds (more typical wooly meat sheep found in New England), producing a lambs he called Katahdin after the highest mountain in Maine. The Katahdin does not need to be sheared and produces a well-muscled, lean but meaty carcass. The Katahdin lamb is a meat breed and not a wool breed, making it especially flavorful and delicious with nutty, full flavor.

This Week in the Kitchen: Bacon Tasting

And on while on the subject of BACON (because we know that’s what you’re thinking about), during our last weekly lunch at the Heritage headquarters the team feasted on five varieties of bacon. We cooked up maple cured bacon, apple wood smoked bacon, cherry wood smoked bacon, and spicy habanero bacon.

Two of the bacons were from Tender Belly. One was quite lovable and delicious. The Maple Uncured Bacon was deeply satisfying – and archetype of chew and sweet smoke. The other was more interesting than enjoyable, but sometimes you have to take risks to reach new territory.

Three of the Bacons we sampled were from the iconic Nueske’s Smokehouse. Their Applewood Smoked bacon was a smokey classic – a direct nod to southern bacon styles.

By the end our faces were greasy and our bellies were satisfied. BLT’s abounded. We know which bacon would make their way into our next bacon subscriptions and quite possibly the bacon samplers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embden Goose Tasting

The team at Heritage Foods USA prides ourselves on providing the best products available while supporting a network of eighty farmers who raise heritage and rare breeds. We are determined to lead the pack with the best tasting items available. To date we remain the largest meat purveyor with the mission of increasing agricultural biodiversity. We are always seeking promising competition to challenge our standard of quality as this would be a sign of a tipping point in the larger food system.

Two reasons heritage breeds are important is their flavor and mouthfeel, traits which traditionally were a main focus of breeders. In contrast, modern genetics are selected for production capacity and leanness. True to the history of the animal, the farmers we work with value and promote flavor and intramuscular fat in their brood. To ensure we really are providing the most delicious products available we have regular taste tests. Each week the team breaks from logistical chores for a special lunch where we sample our products in comparison with one of our leading market competitors’.

Embden Goose, Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch
Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch

This week we sampled Embden goose from two producers. One from the largest goose producer in the U.S. and the other from heritage poultry expert Frank Reese. We have been working with Frank for over a decade as he increased the varieties of poultry raised on Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch. We seared a breast from each in our cast iron pan and were legitimately surprised by both the difference in appearance and taste between the two.

While the goose from our competitor was nicely packaged, when you peeled back the plastic the goose was pure white with fat. The bird itself was plump, and the maroon breast meat had over 2” of depth by the bone.

The first thing we noticed about the Embden goose from Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch was it’s size, which was considerably smaller than the other. The skin was the color of brown butter and clearly visible over the lightly golden fat. The breast was comparatively thinner and the meat was a brilliant shade of red. When sampling this goose a savory balance of minerals coated the palette and a herbaceous, nutty, and buttery aftertaste lingered in your mouth. All of us were tempted to return to the table for more.

The other goose was a one trick pony. The high amount of surface fat had rendered out during cooking. The taste of liver and iron were high and hit the palate with force, but left hardly a trace after the bite. It was not the taste of goose we would hope consumers associate with goose. It would not have the party circling back for seconds in the way Frank’s Embden goose did.

Shop our Goose

Heritage Pork Taste Chart

Pork Breed Histories and Heritage Pork Taste Chart

TasteChartPork

Berkshire [Fatty] smooth and creamy flavor

Berkshire pork is elegant, luscious and smooth. The meat boasts a round and buttery flavor that melts on the tongue.

Red Wattle [Fatty] flavorful, earthy, minerally, bold

Red Wattle meat is charmingly inconsistent and can be earthy, vegetal and herbaceous with a hint of cinnamon. Its expressive porky flavor is concentrated and bold.

Duroc [Lean] clean, mild flavor, lean

Duroc meat is clean and crisp. Its taste and texture are polished and easy on the palate. Duroc pork is a standard, not to fatty, not too strong pig.

Old Spot [Very Fatty] milky, nice marbling and fat ratio

Old Spot has the creamiest taste of any of the pig breeds. The Old Spot tastes like a tour of the fruit orchard where they famously grazed in old England!

Tamworth [Very Lean] balanced flavor, sweet, very lean

Tamworth is the leanest of the pork breeds that we sell, but still has incredible tenderness and flavor. It is rootsy like the woods it ranges on and has a clean finish.

We had a great time taste testing these breeds and hope we have come up with some words that truly describe the characteristics of the pork. We would love to hear your thoughts!!! Please send us your taste comments to info@HeritageFoodsUSA.com so that we can add your words to the list!

Taste the difference with one of our breed variety packs!

 

Heritage Beef Taste Chart

Cattle Breed Histories and Heritage Beef Taste ChartTasteChartBeef

Cooking is easy. Mother Nature + the skill of a responsible farmer = the only recipe you should ever fuss over. Rather than filling your shelves with epic recipe books, how about breed charts that describe the gastronomic wonders of every livestock variety? “One 32-ounce flank steak” as the prime mover in a recipe is not enough information for the enlightened carnivore. Where does that beef come from— farm and breed, please! And was it from a happy cow that led a decent cow life grazing and doing happy cow things?

Heritage Foods USA only brings in a few whole animals a year. Most of the time we only purchase cuts from various farms around the country, primarily ribeye, strip, tenderloin, hangar and brisket. As a result we have a lot of freedom to pick different breeds to bring in for our direct to consumer business that showcase how delicious cattle can be. Among our favorite breeds are the Piedmontese, Belgian Blue, Highland, Simmental, Akaushi, and Angus. We also bring in Bison! But stay tuned to our website for even more options.

Piedmontese and Belgian Blues are the only two breeds of cow that have the “double-muscle” gene, which makes them extraordinarily tender. And these cows are loaded with myostatin, a protein that inhibits muscle differentiation and growth. As a result, you get a supremely tender and delicious cut of beef.

Belgian Blue

As the name implies, Belgian Blue Cattle originated in central and upper Belgium, and at one time they accounted for nearly half of the cattle in the national herd. Like most cattle breeds the Belgian Blue was originally a dual-purpose animal producing both milk and meat. In the 1960’s many breeders worked to develop cattle of a more ‘meaty type’ . As a result, they developed the Belgian Blue we have today.

The Belgian Blue is an impressive looking animal most famous for its prominent muscling, commonly referred to as “double muscling”. The extreme muscling is especially prevalent in the shoulder, back, loin and rump area. This unique characteristic is due to skillful breeding in the 1960’s. The Belgian Blue Breed of beef cattle is relatively new to the United States but is rapidly developing a following. These cattle can be white, blue roan or sometimes black and they are known for their quiet temperament.

Belgian Blue Cattle were selected for their natural leanness and fine muscle fiber, which makes the meat healthful and tender. Special care must be taken when cooking Belgian Blue Beef because it cooks faster than traditional beef due to the low fat content.

Simmental

Simmental cattle are native to Switzerland, their name paying tribute to valley of the Simme River. Though this resilient breed can be traced back to the Middle Ages, the first Simmental met American soil when it arrived in Illinois in 1887. Thanks to this animal’s ability to adapt to diverse environments, there are currently between 40 and 60 million Simmentals in existence worldwide. A naturally lean beef, Simmentals are known for their rapid growth, heavy muscling, and healthy size. These characteristics produce a hearty, tender cut of beef with minimal fat. Simmentals are meant to eat grass year round. The grass-fed diet yields a gamier, more pronounced flavor and is considerably less sweet than commercial beef. For this reason, our Simmental beef tastes undoubtedly different from its grain- finished cousins: it’s bold, earthy, and best when cooked to medium-rare.

Highland

Highland Cattle are the oldest registered breed of cattle, officially recognized in 1884. The Queen of England maintains her own Highlands at Balmoral Castle. The Highland breed has lived for centuries in the rugged remote Scottish Highlands. Cold weather and snow have little effect on them so they can be raised as far north as Alaska and the Scandinavian countries. The extremely harsh conditions created a process of natural selection, where only the fittest and most adaptable animals survived to carry on the breed. Originally there were two distinct breeds of varying sizes. Today both of these strains are regarded as one breed – Highland. In addition to red and black, yellow, dun, white, brindle and silver are also considered traditional Highland colors.

Highlands have lived alongside humans for generations. Early Scotsmen kept their Highland cows inside the family home during the winter months, separated by only a fabric fence. Despite their long horns, long hair and unusual appearance, the Highland is considered to be a docile and calm animal. They are extremely intelligent which makes them quite easy to train.

The beef is lean and low in fat. Highlands mature slowly and are typically bred later than other breeds, so the meat is tender, well marbled and flavorful.

 Akaushi

“Akaushi” is the Japanese term for Red Cattle. The pure-bred Akaushi are a national treasure and are the only free grazing cattle in the small country of Japan, roaming the sacred mountain of Aso where they are protected by the Japanese government. Through a loophole in the Trade Act of 1992, three bulls and eight cows left Japan in a custom equipped Boeing 747 escorted by armed guards and arrived in Texas. These animals continue to be raised there and are sold as purebreds as well as mixed with Angus. Our Akaushi are cut by Paradise Locker Meats in roasts as well as into individual steaks. This breed is buttery and delicious and is Japan’s greatest gastronomic achievement when it comes to growing cattle.

At the office we came up with these flavor profiles for this breed:
“Juicy and rich”
“Delicate, sophisticated and elegant while also bold and beefy”
“This steak is absolutely delicious”
“Very unctuous with an aroma of sautéing mushrooms–lots of great umami”
“Fat specs infuse every bite with the dream of any steak house”
“When you look at the steaks you can see hundreds of white fat specs like foam on a wind swept ocean”

Piedmontese

Piedmontese cattle originated in the foothills of northwestern Italy also home to the Slow Food movement and are thought to be a mix of the Auroch and Zebu cattle crossed over 25,000 years ago. Today, in the United States, a network of family farmers is raising the cattle on a pure vegetarian feed without the use of antibiotics and without added growth hormones. Piedmontese is unique in that it contains myostatin, known as the “double muscle gene.”

Belted Galloway

There are fewer than 2,500 registered Belties in the US. Belted Galloways are a heritage breed of cattle originating from Scotland. They are adept grazers and known for their smaller frame and excellent marbling. The meat is herbaceous and grassy in flavor. These animals are well suited to the harsh winters of Central New York and lush pastures in the spring, summer and fall. They are raised on pasture and finished on grain to ensure impeccable marbling.

Heritage Lamb Taste Chart

Heritage Lamb Taste Chart

Lamb Breed Histories and Heritage Lamb Taste Chart

Heritage Lamb Taste Chart
Heritage Lamb Taste Chart

TUNIS

It’s hard not to respect a breed that was referenced numerous times in the Bible (see fat-tailed sheep) and is reputed to be 3000 years old. It’s even harder to imagine the Tunis not being completely delicious since the first three U.S. presidents raised and consumed them.

John Adams mentioned the breed in his diary in 1782 when the Tunis had an excellent reputation for delicious mutton — and tail (not sold today!). Thomas Jefferson ordered the importation of a second herd from Tunisia because he loved them so much he thought they should be more readily available. George Washington bred them —one of his early legacies was the proliferation of his particular Tunis crossbreed on farms and dinner tables along the East Coast.

The tail is now smaller and the color ranges from tan-to-red with the occasional white spot on the head and tail. Ewes usually birth twins although the Tunis still remains on the ALBC-USA.org Conservation Priority List. The Tunis is an excellent ambassador breed for the grass-fed movement – they don’t like to eat a lot of grain.

DORSET HORN

The Dorset Horn is a breed of sheep that spread over Dorset, Somerset, Devon, and most of Wales. In 1750 this is the breed the English with a fine palate would eat for Christmas! Today we eat it more frequently because the Dorset Horn is able to give birth three times a year. Dorsets tolerate heat well, and heat tolerance contributes to the rams’ ability to breed earlier in the season than rams of other breeds. This contributes to the Dorset Horn being a very profitable sheep to grow although it remains on the Threatened List of the ALBC-USA.org website.

The Hudson Bay Company first shipped the Dorset Horn to America in the 1860s. But it was a livestock show in Chicago a few years later that made it famous. The Dorset Horn is known for its healthy appetite and thrives on the lush pastures of Vermont where Ben Machin and Grace Bowmer raise a herd. 

KATAHDIN

The Katahdin is inextricably linked to Michael Piel of Abbott, Maine who had the brilliant idea of separating out the wool producing side of the lamb business from the meat side. Wool production took time and energy from both the animals and the farmers while only providing about 10 percent of the farmer’s income. In addition wool creates a more pungent and muttony taste in the meat.

Piel imported three hair sheep from the Virgin Islands and bred them with various breeds like Tunis and Suffolk in an effort to produce a sheep that excels in taste. The result of the crossbreeding efforts finally produced a flock so perfect that it became the foundation for a herd and eventually the Katahdin breed that is raised around the country. Piel named it after a mountain in Maine even though the breed excels in hotter climates. The Katahdin is known to live a long time while remaining productive. There are now a couple of hundred U.S. breeders of the Katahdin including our very own Chris Wilson of Clover Creek who has worked with us for almost a decade.

The Katahdin serves land conservation projects very well and are perfect for grass-fed systems like that found in Northeastern Tennessee where Chris has won awards for land conservation.

NAVAJO-CHURRO

The Churro was perhaps the first domesticated animal in the Americas when the Spanish brought it here in the 1500s. The animal quickly became a big part of Hispanic and Native American ways of life. One of the few positive legacies of Spanish conquerors was the lamb breeds they left here, especially at missions, as they searched for gold. It was these very sheep that the Navajo and other Native Americans stole and purchased making them a part of their way of life and diet.

The Navajo-Churro produces excellent wool and meat. It was Navajo women who owned the sheep, the grazing rights and the wool, which became an important source of income. The Navajo-Churro existed in great numbers here until the government killed off most of the population in their war with Native Americans. The breed currently sits on the Threatened List of the ALBC-USA.org website.

Today many of the residents of the Navajo reservation continue to raise sheep for wool and food. Dr. Lyle McNeal played a crucial role in increasing their population in the 1970s despite the fact that conditions in that part of the country are harsh.

KATAHDIN/WHITE DORPER

The Katahdin/White Dorper is a crossbreed bred by Joseph Hubbard at Shannon Creek Ranch in the Flint Hills of Kansas. The Dorper has a lot more muscle than the Katahdin. Combined you get a meaty carcass with the mild taste of the Katahdin.

Heritage Foods USA consideres the Flint Hills to be the best terroir for grass-fed animal farming in the U.S. The Flint Hills are band of hills that stretches from eastern Kansas into north-central Oklahoma, extending from Marshall and Washington Counties in Kansas in the north, to Cowley County in Kansas and Kay and Osage Counties in Oklahoma in the south.

Anywhere tallgrass grows makes for a great and sus-tainable terroir for grass-fed sheep, but what makes the Flint Hills our number-one choice is that it boasts the most dense cover-age of intact tallgrass prairie in North America and has blossomed into a mosaic of independent family farms— many of which are at the heart of the heritage breed movement.

Tallgrass is the food the prairie produces naturally in the absence of intensive row-crop agriculture. Unlike corn, tallgrass is not dependent on petrochemical fertilizer or herbicide, and its roots run deep below the thin layer of topsoil. It is potent, incredibly resilient, the all-you-can-eat salad bar for healthy sheep. And they love it, gladly eating pounds of the stuff every day.

The result of this robust food supply is a meat with a nice even ratio of intra- and extramuscular fat, a clean taste, a natural delight. It is the taste of the Americas.

Varietals like Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Indiangrass, Switchgrass, Prairie Dropseed, and Sideoats Grama have stalks whose profound roots are able to pull moisture and nutrients from deep within the ground, making them the best candidates to withstand the drought and deluge likely to accompany climate change. They are resistant to all types of extreme weather, and they bounce back quickly, even from fires. And they do not rely on the dwindling power of the thin layer of topsoil to grow.

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