Bubbyswhollycow’s Weblog

A word about sourcing steer, and about what happens to cows/steer in the winter
April 24, 2009, 3:33 pm
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It’s been close to a year now since we began purchasing whole prime steer (for prime cuts) and cows (for burgers) so we have now experienced many scenarios, and we have learned a lot.  Just to begin with, it has been rewarding to use whole animals, and we have learned a lot from doing it.  The bovines have provided us with an opportunity to come up with all kinds of dishes that we may not have thought about before.  Some, like steak and kidney pie for example, have proven unpopular to the American (NYC) taste bud.  They were fun to make anyway.  The kidneys, and much of the ofal, is a little gamey in these animals.  Mostly people use calf for liver, and there is a reason for that.  A 2 year old steer liver has a very strong taste.  Same with the kidneys.  The heart, which is also not so popular, is delicious sliced very thin, seasoned, and grilled or sauteed.  Heart chimichurri is really good. So far the Jaffes have been able to keep up with all of our steer ad cow needs, although we did learn something about what happens to steer in the winter.

Ken Jaffe does not have a barn to winter his animals in. His are a cross between Scottish Highlands, Black Angus, and Herefords. The Scottish Cow is used to harsh winters.  However, the muscles are pushed a little harder, and what little fat there is is burned up in the process of keeping warm.  The prime cuts from one of the steer we got after the winter were pretty tough.  We basically had to use them for burger or for pot roast.  It’s against one’s instincts to cook a strip loin at 225 for 5 hours, but we did it.

For his part, Ken Jaffe was very open-minded about this, and he charged us for a burger animal, which is less expensive than a prime animal.  This, of ciurse, required us working together, and required also for us to have a trusting relationship.  No one was yelling about “what the fuck is going on with these tough steaks,” or anything of the sort.  Neither was anyone saying, “you bought it, you eat it.” As one of Michael Pollan’s mottos is ‘shake the hand that feeds you’, one might be comforted in not only shaking but also trusting the hand that feeds you.  In fact, one hand feeds the other. Everyone is learning, ad everyone is grateful for the opportunity. And, best of all, everyone knows where the meat, and the money, are coming from. It is a good reminder to know that, pre-1935, there were probably a lot of tough steaks being served in February as well there should have been.


What we did with our hog
November 29, 2008, 4:30 pm
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The first animal is always difficult for us because we have to decide what to do with it.  Also, communicating with the farmer, who has to communicate with the butcher, can be like playing telephone at a birthday party. I had made some decisions to smoke the hams, the loins (for Canadian bacon), the jowls, hocks, and bacon.  The picnics were to be for Cuban sandwiches and pork taquitos in green chili, and then we had some weird shoulder chops left, and some breakfast sausage. I also kept the skin to make cracklings for bar snacks.

We were missing the Canadian bacon and the sausage for some reason… So I am waiting until Monday to speak with Mark Jaffe about the missing cuts

Our hog man, Mark Jaffe, works with a processor who smokes with no nitrites.  This being the case, the hams and bacon are not as smokey as I would like.  I am not opposed to nitrites, so next time I am going to try to get some smokier meat from the smokehouse.

So… here is what we got from a 300+ pound hog (we are definitely missing a box of meat):
neck bones    2.82 and 1.29
Country ribs    2.29 and 2.47
Spare Rib    3.81
pork loin    7.23, 8.13, 6.75, 8.1
Pork Bones    3.83
Ham    28.31, 28.59
Jowls    6.87
bacon    11.33 and 11.7
skin    40
tenderloins    3.6
Shoulders    32.8
For a total weight of 209.92

Steer Update
November 28, 2008, 8:57 pm
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I have been a lazy cow as far as keeping up with blogging.  It is my intention to pick it back up, but with a book due in a couple weeks (Bubby’s Brunch Book) and a baby due in January, I admit that my mind has been elsewhere.  Be that as it may, the actual process of procuring and cooking whole steer has taken on a momentum and life of its own.  We are currently going through nearly a steer a week.  Most of those steer are prime animals, but once a month or so we need to get a dedicated burger steer.  The burger steer tend to be a little older, and they might not be steer at all.  Cows that fail to calve are great for burgers. They tend to be a little older.  Because they are strictly burger, they can be tougher because they are 100% ground.

We also have now met up with a farmer who raises hogs, chickens, and turkeys.  His name is Mark Jaffe, but is not related to Ken Jaffe, our steer man. Mark raises his hogs, chickens, and turkeys without fences by coaxing them around the woods on his property with handfuls of grain.  Our family turkey for Thanksgiving yesterday was from Mark.  It was amazing.  It was 20 pounds.  After brining the bird for 12 hours, and putting a nice crust of sea salt and pepper and thyme on it, it roasted for about 6 hours.  It was the juiciest best turkey ever, and everyone at dinner commented on the distinct flavor of the bird.  I also bought a whole hog from Mark, and used some of the baon for a butternut squash and bacon soup with local apples (granny smiths) which was really good. If I hadn’t made it myself I would call it sublime, but I can’t call it that for fear of being struck down by lightning. It was good though.  Here is a recipe for a gallon of soup:

2 butternut squash (medium size)

3 yellow onions, diced

4 cloves of garlic

1 pound slab bacon

4 good tart apples peeled and diced into 1/8th inch (I used local grannys which are very different from commercial grannys)

4 TBL chopped rosemary

2 tsp chopped thyme

1/2 cup chopped parsley

4 cups chicken stock

3 cups buttermilk

1 cup heavy cream

salt and black pepper

Split the squashes and coat with a little melted butter, salt and pepper.  Roast at 375 for 45 minutes, until soft and a little brown. Let them cool a little then scoop out the squash and puree.

Meanwhile, dice the bacon into 1/8 inch dice.  Saute the bacon until crisp.  Remove the bacon and set aside.  In the same pot, use 6 TBL of the bacon fat to saute the onions and the garlic until tranlucent.  Add the apples and saute until they are a little soft.

Add the squash, the rosemary and thyme, and the chicken stock.  Let that come to a simmer. Add the bacon and let it cook for 10-15 minutes.  Add the buttermilk and cream and let that come to a simmer. If the soup is too thick, add a little water.  Simmer for 10 more minutes. Add the parsley.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

The bacon from Jaffe’s pig WAS sublime.  It was smokey, but had no preservatives.  It wasn’t overly smokey, but it was just smokey enough for the soup.

Supply versus Demand at Bubby’s: Brooklyn Get the Beef!
July 14, 2008, 4:45 pm
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Working with the Jaffe’s, and their Slope Farm Beef, is proving an excellent way to, as Michael Pollan suggests, “shake the hand that feeds you.” We have been fortunate to strike up a relationship with the Jaffes, and to work hand in hand to understand the flow of beef from the pasture to the table. They have a very small herd, and both sides have had to work together to try to figure out exactly how it would work. For this reason we have not had grass fed meat in enough supply to meet the demand of both Bubby’s restaurants.

That changes this week. All the ground beef for the burgers and meatloaf in our Brooklyn location wil now be grass-fed. So, if you are in DUMBO and want a grass fed beef burger, you know where to come… See you there!

Thoughts on Alice: “Renewing the culinary culture should be a conservative cause”
July 13, 2008, 2:22 pm
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June 30, 2008 Issue
Copyright © 2007 The American Conservative


Food for Thought

Renewing the culinary culture should be a conservative cause.

by John Schwenkler

Alice Waters might not seem like a conservative. A veteran of Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement, who once cooked a $25,000-a-seat fundraising dinner for Bill Clinton, she eagerly compares her campaign for “edible schoolyards”—where children work with instructors to grow, prepare, and eat fresh produce—to John F. Kennedy’s attempt to improve physical fitness through mandatory exercise. Her dream of organic, locally and sustainably produced food in every school cafeteria, class credit for lunch hour, and required gardening time and cooking classes is as utopian as they come. The name she has given her gastronomic movement, the “Delicious Revolution,” strikes the ear as one part fuzzy-headed Marxism, the other Brooksian bobo-speak. This woman is not, as they say, one of us.

But a closer look tells a different story. In a 1997 talk, Waters quoted from an essay by Francine du Plessix Grey about the film “Kids,” which portrays the sex-, drug-, and violence-crazed lives of a circle of New York teenagers. Du Plessix Grey writes of being haunted by the adolescents’ “feral” and “boorishly gulped” fast-food diet: “we may,” she suggests, “be witnessing the first generation in history that has not been required to participate in that primal rite of socialization, the family meal.” Such an activity “is not only the core curriculum in the school of civilizing discourse; it is also a set of protocols that curb our natural savagery and our animal greed, and cultivate a capacity for sharing and thoughtfulness.” These teenagers “are deprived of the main course of civilized life—the practice of sitting down at the dinner table and observing the attendant conventions.”

Today’s children, Waters goes on to say, “are bombarded with a pop culture which teaches redemption through buying things.” But schoolyard gardens, like the one she helped create at the middle school a few blocks from my home in Berkeley, “turn pop culture upside-down: they teach redemption through a deep appreciation for the real, the authentic, and the lasting—for the things that money can’t buy: the very things that matter most of all if we are going to lead sane, healthy, and sustainable lives. Kids who learn environmental and nutritional lessons through school gardening—and school cooking and eating—learn ethics.” Good cooking, she writes in the introduction to her 2007 cookbook, The Art of Simple Food, “can reconnect our families and communities with the most basic human values, provide the deepest delight for all our senses, and assure our well-being for a lifetime.”

The proposal, put slightly differently, is that our attitudes toward food—which nourishes and sustains us, which binds us most fundamentally to place, family, market, and community—provide a measure of our respect for what Russell Kirk called the “Permanent Things.” We are not just what we eat but how we eat. The cultivation and consumption of our meals are activities as distinctively human as walking, talking, loving, and praying. Learning to regard the meal not merely as something that fills our bellies and helps us grow, but as the consummate exercise of beings carnal and earthbound yet upwardly and outwardly drawn, is a crucial step in the restoration of culture. The suggestion that the inculcation of such values might be an essential part of an adequate education ought to resonate beyond the confines of the doctrinaire Left.

Adopting an alternative view of food does not require rejecting the possibility of a free and prosperous market economy. Indeed, the rise of the New American Diet—meals eaten in a rush and very often alone, made from processed and prepackaged ingredients—was not solely or even primarily the product of Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Historian Harvey Levenstein has argued that the spate of government regulations in the wake of early 20th-century food-safety scares played a crucial role in the rise of industrialized agriculture and centralized food processors. Early nutritionists and home economists, many distinctly of the quack variety, found a key ally in their attempts to reform American cuisine in Herbert Hoover’s Food Administration. The goal of reducing consumption of scarce foods and eating in accordance with “scientific” principles was tied to the cause of Allied victory in the First World War.

Official dietary guidelines inevitably became the product of collaboration between government agencies and representatives of the industries that stand to benefit. The substitution of state-sponsored nutritionist technocracy for the collective wisdom of taste, instinct, common sense, and tradition is a perfect example of the triumph of Tocqueville’s feared “immense tutelary power” (“absolute, detailed, regular, far-seeing, and mild”). The same goes for the extraordinary industrialization and global “flattening” of our culinary economy, which Waters’s focus on community gardening, seasonal eating, and local markets is meant to combat.

Heavily concentrated industries demand expansive and centralized government. The converse is also true: bigger businesses are easier to regulate than smaller ones, and economies of scale are good for economic growth. “Get big or get out,” Dwight Eisenhower’s secretary of agriculture told American farmers—a directive updated to “bigger” by Earl Butz, the infamous Nixon agriculture secretary who instructed farmers to abandon crop rotation and plant “from fencerow to fencerow.”

Price controls and multibillion-dollar farm subsidies prop up corporate agribusiness and discourage smaller producers from trying to find alternative market niches. Real local autonomy—setting regulatory standards that do not conform to national or international ones, restriction or taxation of imports or exports, and preservation of place-specific forms of agriculture and animal husbandry—is undermined because it makes for economic inefficiency. The natural capacities of location, season, and culture to link people together and shape the ways they farm and eat are countered by artificial measures designed to maximize yield.

But it is exactly these social and cultural dimensions of our culinary economy—the centralization of processing and production into an ever shrinking number of multinational corporations, the incredible distances over which food travels before it reaches our tables (an average of 1,500 miles in the United States), the loss of idiosyncratic foods and food cultures, and so on—that should raise the greatest concerns for traditional conservatives. “Eating is an agricultural act,” writes Wendell Berry. But Slow Food International founder Carlo Petrini argues that it is also a political one—a deed no less significant than the ways we cast our votes. Hence even the smallest acts of resistance to the hegemony of the present system, where corporate representatives and industry-funded scientists at public universities collaborate with government officials on regulatory policies and nutritional guidelines, are crucial steps in recovering local culture and reconstituting our “little platoons.” This will nurture the ability to govern—or resist being governed.

The seeds of change are already being sown. Many American cities are transforming blighted urban districts with neighborhood farms that raise food not just for consumption by those who grow it but for sale in local markets. In 2007, a group of teenagers at a community farm in Brooklyn brought in $25,000, and a nonprofit organization that runs a one-acre plot in Milwaukee grossed over $220,000 in local sales.

The website LocalHarvest.org lists over 3,600 farmers markets in the U.S., and the number of Community Supported Agriculture programs, in which supporters pay a set fee in exchange for regular shares of the produce from a local farm, grew from 50 nationwide to over 1,500 between 1990 and 2005. Such efforts give growers and buyers the opportunity to relate to one another—one study showed that shoppers at farmers markets have 10 times as many conversations as those at supermarkets. These local ventures also provide families with fresh produce and allow farmers to diversify their crops and receive a far greater rate of return than when they deal with corporate middlemen.

Many of our best food writers are in full-throated rebellion against the corporate-industrial-governmental nutrition establishment. Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food deconstructs the pretensions of “food science” in often hilarious fashion and distills all you need to know about eating into three directives: Eat food (as opposed to things with unfamiliar or unpronounceable ingredients, packaged “food products” that make government-sanctioned health claims, and pretty much anything from the middle aisles of the grocery store); Not too much (go for quality over quantity, and eat at a table, with others); Mostly plants (in unprocessed form when possible). Nina Planck’s Real Food takes the traditionalist counterculture to the extreme by denouncing veganism and extolling the health benefits of everything from cheese, lard, butter, and raw milk to eggs, beef, chocolate, and wine. And Waters’s wonderful new cookbook offers a step-by-step course in keeping a kitchen and preparing a range of dishes that, though simple, require time and effort to put together and are a joy to eat.

There are, of course, elements of leftism and elitism here. Pollan, for example, has a puzzling line in which he condemns as “shameful” the fact that not all Americans “can afford to eat high-quality food.” It is sad, to be sure, and we should strive to remedy it, but life’s inevitabilities do not warrant our shame. And while Bill McKibben, in his brilliant communitarian manifesto, Deep Economy, takes care to insist that his program is not one that can be driven by top-down governance, Petrini very often rails against free markets, suggesting at one point in his Slow Food Nation that contemporary China’s “political homogeneity” and exploitation of labor and the environment are “the embodiment of perfect capitalism.” (The Chinese economic system, he says, is only “nominally communist.” One wonders what he made of the agricultural policies of the Soviet Union.) But that doesn’t alter the value of the Slow Food vision of a world of “gastronomes,” attentive to taste and cognizant of the sources of their food, and of thriving local markets driven by “economies of place.”

Proponents of a new way of eating are on shakier ground when they claim that a widespread turn toward small-scale and deindustrialized agriculture would not affect crop yields. McKibben proudly cites a study in which sustainable farming methods were found to lead, on average, to a near doubling of food production per hectare. He does not mention the many cases in which results have been less impressive. A much discussed study published in the journal Science in 2002 found that switching to organic farming reduced yields by 20 percent, though the possibility of lessening our reliance on petroleum may be worth the investment of some extra land. Reincorporating into the human food chain some of the millions of acres where corn and sorghum are now grown for ethanol production would also make a great difference.

But no reasonable person wants to remake the world or do away with modern agricultural technologies all together. The best solutions will come through honest, case-by-case engagement with the subtle demands of specific situations. As the UC Berkeley agroecologist Miguel Altieri puts it, a sound approach to agriculture “does not seek to formulate solutions that will be valid for everyone but encourages people to choose the technologies best suited to the requirements of each particular situation, without imposing them.” (That this could just as well be the summary of the ideal domestic or foreign policy ought to argue in its favor.) Respect for tradition and social and ecological responsibility can work together with technological innovation and capitalist resourcefulness to respect the ridges and valleys of regionalism in an increasingly flattened world.

Efforts to realize this vision ought to figure centrally in the projects of social and cultural renewal that traditional conservatives see as essential precedents to meaningful political reform. Neighborhood gardens, cooking classes in schools and church basements, and the promotion of local and co-operative markets are the kinds of projects that will build community; revitalize regional economies; encourage stable, healthy families; and instill the kinds of civic attitudes that make centralized government appear burdensome. These are not merely aesthetic or gustatory concerns, nor are they essentially private or familial ones: eating is part of our politics, too.

But things will have to take root in our kitchens first. It is here that Waters’s cookbook, which begins with the basics and consistently encourages the reader to modify recipes and vary ingredients with the seasons, provides as good an introduction as one could hope for. Each Friday, my wife and I walk with our 1-year-old son to a house down the street where we pick up a box of just picked produce and pastured eggs from a nearby farm. Nigel Walker, who runs the farm and also has a stand at San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, was involved in a nasty public spat with Carlo Petrini after an essay in Slow Food Nation called the prices at the Ferry Plaza Market “astronomical” and “boutique-y” and its clientele “extremely exclusive.” But at $24.50, my family’s haul this week—lettuce, mixed leafy greens, arugula, potatoes, beets or summer squash, lemon verbena, cherries, peaches, carrots, strawberries, and chard—will cost us about $8.50 less than similar (but non-organic, less fresh, and markedly lower-quality) produce from the local Safeway.

As with many CSA’s, our farm box comes with a newsletter that suggests recipes for some of its more exotic contents. But of late we’ve been making a point to turn to The Art of Simple Food whenever possible. So carrot soup, summer squash gratin with homegrown herbs, marinated beet salad, and wilted chard with onions are likely candidates for the days ahead. Obviously this is especially easy to pull off in the hometown of Alice Waters and Michael Pollan, the birthplace of Chez Panisse and California cuisine. It is, however, increasingly within the reach of anyone who wants to try.

Renewing the culinary culture, and restoring the kinds of values that are necessary for the proper functioning of a healthy republic, is not the sort of thing that can be left to activists, environmentalists, and government bureaucrats. This is a conservative cause if ever there was one, and it is going to have to begin at home. The revolution is coming. And it’s sure to be delicious.

John Schwenkler is a doctoral candidate in philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley

Homemade Pastrami
July 8, 2008, 2:10 pm
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We had dinner at Marlow and Sons the other night.  They were serving grass fed homemade pastrami, which seemed like a great idea. So, we are making it today.  It will take a couple weeks to make, so here is the recipe, and the report will follow.

THe first thing you have to do is corn the beef. Many recipes call for saltpeter, which scares me. They give it to prisoners so they won’t have properly functioning wienies. No one wants that, probably not even a prisoner.

So, to corn the beef, you make a pretty simple brine, making sure the brine is cold before putting the brisket in to sit for a couple weeks.  Also, with the grass fed briskets, there is very little fat.  We are removing the deckle, which is the fatty piece on the butt end of the brisket. One more thing: you don’t want refrigerator smell getting into your brisket. We are going to marinate in doubled oven bags, aka turkey bags.

For the marinade:

4 quarts water
1 cup kosher salt
12 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons pickling spices
8 bay leaves
2 TBL Juniper Berries
1 TBL Black Peppercorns

Bring water to a simmer with the spices and salt. Off the heat, add the garlic. Cool the brine so the meat doesn’t cook.  Cool it down to 45 degrees.

Trim a brisket so there is only 1/4 inch of fat.  Remove the deckel.  Place trimmed brisket in a doubled oevn bag (turkey bag).  Seal very well.  Marinate for 2 weeks.  (ALWAYS DATE THE BAG)

THEN: To pastrami the corned beef…

Grind together the following spices to make your pastrami rub

5 tablespoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons hot Hungarian paprika
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 tablespoon juniper berries
10 cloves garlic, minced

Rub the corned brisket with your pastrami rub.  Allow to sit overnight in a new oven bag. (I mean, don’t use the old one.) Then, smoke the brisket at 200-225 until it reaches an internal temperature of 170. Allow to cool rest for at least ten minutes before slicing.

I will keep you posted on how this turns out.  I’m nervous about it. Catch you in 2 weeks for Pastrami Update

Our Menu Cover
July 4, 2008, 6:21 pm
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Our Menu Cover

Our Menu Cover