What’s my beef? Well, let me tell you. My beef is grass-fed, pasture-raised and drug free. I buy beef from Al Bennett and his family farm at Meacham, where the cattle roam the land like the buffalo once did – munching the grass, lolling in the sun, and moving on to greener pastures. Al has divided his farm into small paddocks, and every day he moves his cattle to a new paddock where the grass is fresh. He does not feed them any grain at all.
"Cattle are like the buffalo. They’re made to eat grass," he says. "We didn’t see the Indians carrying slop pails out to the buffalo, did we?"
I like Al’s beef. It’s lean, delicious, additive-free and best of all, I actually know the farmer who produced the food that I put on my plate. This is important to my new food philosophy – for one full year, I will serve nothing but Saskatchewan foods at my own dinner table.
In my first column in April, I talked about the reasons why eating locally is good for human health, the environment and the economy. In the May column, I wrote about the "rules" I follow to put my food philosophy into practice. In this column, I’ll chew the fat (but very little) about my sources of good Saskatchewan meat.
Sure, I know there are vegetarians among today’s readers, and the subject will mean very little to you, but the philosophy applies no matter what your diet – local is best.
I rarely buy meat in a grocery store because, without a label of origin, I can’t be sure it’s from Saskatchewan. Also, I like to know how the meat was raised. In the case of Al Bennett, he was a regular grain and dairy farmer until ten years ago, when he sold his big machinery and started raising cattle by holistic and organic principles.
I buy pastured pork and chickens from his neighbours, John and Karen Dale, but they’ve decided not to sell pork this year, so I’ve placed an order with Natureworks Farm north of Saskatoon. It’s owned by the Bilanski family, which also sells naturally-raised lamb, poultry, eggs and berries. You’ll find them at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market.
Occasionally, I drive out to the farm of Kevin and Melanie Boldt near Osler, where they sell all-natural meat from their own store. When it comes to processed meats, I have three current favourites: The buffalo salami and summer sausage from the Sage Hill Buffalo Ranch, sold at the Farmers’ Market. European cured meats (such as Italian-style prosciutto) from Emco Finer Foods on Avenue C, also available at the Farmers’ Market. And the award-winning kovbasa from the Attridge Co-op grocery store.
But some things money can’t buy. Like the 30-pounds of cut and wrapped moose in my freezer, a gift from our friend Jeff who is an avid hunter. I remember a time driving back from Canora very early in the morning, when I spied a road sign for homemade shishliki, a marinated lamb kabob of Russian origin. Forgetting it was 6 a.m., I pulled into the yard. Sure enough, the farmer was up and made his first sale of the day.
So, as you can see, I’m quite opportunistic when it comes to Saskatchewan foods – you never know what road it might take me down!
CORIANDER CRUST MARINADE
Here is a great marinade for pork chops. Most of the ingredients are not from Saskatchewan, but the coriander seeds are from my garden. Coriander is the easiest thing in the world to grow, and you get two harvests – first there are the green leaves called cilantro, essential with Mexican food, and later come the dried seeds called coriander with a faint lemon smell, popular in dishes from the Mediterranean and Asia.
This marinade is adapted from a recipe from my friend Susan. I serve the pork chops with barley risotto. (For that recipe, go to my website at HomeforDinner.blogspot.com)
Crush or grind together: 1 tablespoon each of coriander, black peppercorns and brown sugar, 1 whole clove and 1 whole allspice. Stir in enough soy sauce to make a marinade, about 3 tablespoons. Spread a little bit on each side of four pork chops and marinate a few hours before grilling.