Is sourcing your meat from a local farm that ethically raises animals important to you? Are you overwhelmed by the options and not sure what will work best for you? Let me help you sort this out!
First, answer these questions:
1. How much meat does my household prepare on a daily/weekly/monthly basis?
Every household has unique habits and needs! Determining both how many meals per week typically include meat, and how much meat at each meal, will give you a rough idea how long a bulk purchase might last you. Are you cooking for 1 or 2, or 6 or 8? And are those teenagers (aka bottomless pits) or seniors with smaller appetites? Does one pound of ground beef make one meal plus leftovers for a second, or will you need two pounds to get everyone fed tonight?
2. How much freezer space can I dedicate to meat storage?
The freezer of a typical fridge/freezer can easily hold any of our CSA shares, or one of our 20lb bundles, in addition to a “normal” variety of other frozen items. If you’d like to try ordering a ¼, ½ or whole animal, more freezer space is necessary. Chest/upright freezers can be a great investment, especially if you also want to store fresh fruits or produce harvested in season. You can often find them used on Craigslist or Marketplace, though I’m wary of any that are more than 10 years old (likely limited lifespan and less energy efficient). Try to choose a size freezer that you will fill at least once a year – freezers are most efficient when they are full!
Another option is to rent freezer space as needed. The Ithaca Meat Locker (http://ccetompkins.org/agriculture/buy-local/local-meats/the-meat-locker) offers lockable bins for $3-5/month. Our local grocery store also offers the same service – check into what might be available in your community!
3. How fussy is my household about the cuts of meat we cook with?
Do you only like to cook with your tried & true favorite cuts, or are you open to trying new things? Both our CSA shares and 20 lb bundles include an element of surprise – you do not have complete control over the items you receive. Both DO include staples including ground beef, bacon, and sausage, but the balance of the order will vary. They’re a great opportunity to experiment, perhaps learn a new technique for a new recipe, and push outside your comfort zone on occasion! You can also plan your meals around the meat cuts you receive, rather than having to plan everything from a blank slate.
In contrast, each ¼, ½ or whole animal purchase is cut specifically for your order, so you can choose exactly the items you receive. However, you receive the cuts in proportion to how many are in one animal. There’s only so much bacon & so many steaks in each animal. Your order will also include parts like the shoulder and rump. There’s flexibility in how these parts are processed – they can be cut as roasts, less common steaks, or ground for more sausage/ground beef. You need to be willing to cook with all of the cuts (in some form) or you’ll soon find you’ve used all of the bacon and still have 7/8 of a pig in your freezer!
4. Can my budget handle larger, infrequent outlays for stock-ups, or do I need to purchase on a weekly/monthly basis?
Ordering a ¼, ½ or whole animal is a one-time purchase that will range from $325 to $2400, but because you’re buying a large volume it’s the most cost effective way to purchase our meats. We offer these options every 2-3 months, so you can plan your purchase in advance, perhaps to coincide with a time that you have more cash available (like your tax return!) . We also gladly accept EBT or credit cards.
Teaming up with a friend, neighbor, or family member is another great option for capturing bulk pricing while making the cash outlay and freezer space requirement smaller.
Our CSA shares are a 6 month commitment, which can be paid up front or in monthly installments, making it easier to budget evenly. Our freezer bundles are a one-time purchase with no ongoing commitment, and can be ordered anytime!
Just how much is a ½ pig or ¼ beef?
A ½ pig is roughly 60 lb of meat for your freezer, and might look like 6 lb bacon, 15 lb ham/ham steaks, 10 lb shoulder roasts/steaks, 15 lb chops/loin roasts, 8 lb sausage, 3 lb ribs, 1 lb hocks, 2 lb heart/liver (or more cuts can be ground for more sausage). You’ll need 3-4 cubic feet of freezer space for a 1/2 pig. Double these numbers for a whole pig.
Our beef vary more in size from animal to animal but 150lb is a typical hanging weight for a ¼ for our farm. This might be 35 lb ground beef and/or patties, 10 lb chuck roasts/steaks, 5 lb stew beef, 5 lb soup bones, 4 lb brisket, 10 lb premium steaks, 5 lb sirloin, 10 lb round/rump roasts/steaks, 4 lb short ribs, 4 lb organs. (This is just an example – you choose how it’s cut!) You’ll need about 5 cubic feet of freezer space for a ¼. Double for a ½, double again for a whole beef!
To summarize: if you have freezer space and the ability to make larger, less frequent purchases, stocking up with a ¼, ½ or whole animal is the most cost effective way to purchase local meat. You can place a reservation for pork or beef today! If your freezer space is limiting, our monthly CSA shares divy that purchase up into smaller deliveries. Or, if you’d prefer to not make a monthly commitment, you can order a 20lb bundle whenever it’s convenient, or you can pick and choose by the cut from our current inventory! Hopefully these questions have helped you think about your households’ eating & buying habits and will help you to make the meat purchases that suit you best!
I have a confession – we could care less about football in this house. It would have been cool to see Buffalo make it all the way, just because they’re in our backyard and have been SO FAR from it for so long, but otherwise….The first Sunday of February is just another day.
But football game or not, classic comfort food to warm up from winter weather IS key to survival in this house. Mac n cheese, meatloaf, and chili all make appearances. We make them in large quantities and then feast on the leftovers or toss some in the freezer for quick meals on busy nights. This favorite recipe for Beef Roll Mozzarella adds an Italian twist on a classic meatloaf. Let us know what you think!
(You can stock up on our ground beef at a great price here!)
Beef Roll Mozzarella
1 ½ lb ground beef
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 egg, beaten
½ C dry bread crumbs
4 oz chopped mushrooms
Liquid from canned mushrooms or ½ C water
½ green pepper, chopped
1 ½ C shredded mozzarella
1 (15oz) can tomato sauce
Combine beef with next 5 ingredients. Add enough water to mushroom liquid to make ½ C. Add to meat mixture with mushrooms and peppers, mix well. Line 9x13 pan with wax paper. Press meat mixture out flat on top of paper in pan. Sprinkle cheese on meat, leaving one border free of cheese. Roll meat with cheese as you would for a jelly roll, removing paper as you roll. Place seam side down in same pan. Spread ½ of tomato sauce over the roll. Cover with foil & bake at 375 for 35 min. Remove foil, spread on remaining sauce, bake 15 minutes more.
What the Heck is a Hock?
If you’ve ever studied our product list and wondered “what exactly is a hock?”, this post is for you! One of the benefits of sourcing food directly from the farmer is that we offer access to nearly every part of the animal, including things you might not find in most stores.
Hocks are the joint on the rear leg of the pig. Sometimes called ham hocks or pork knuckles, they’re adjacent to the shank and then the ham (the rear end of the pig).
Hocks have a good amount of meat attached to bone, so perfect for slow cooking to release the collagen. Because the hock is a joint, there’s a lot of connective tissue, which needs to be cooked low & slow to tenderize. The moist, tender meat is covered in a tasty layer of fat & skin. We generally offer them smoked, which brings a delicious flavor to your table. Hocks star in traditional dishes of many different cultures, but here are two basic recipes to get you started. What's your favorite way to prepare hocks?
Hocks & Beans
1 lb dry beans of your choice (pinto, navy, etc).
1 large smoked ham hock (or 2 small)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 diced red chili peppers (optional)
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
10 C chopped potatoes
2 lb smoked ham hocks
2 C chopped yellow onion
1 C chopped celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
5 C water or broth
1 C heavy cream
Four of Our Family's Favorite Dips
Healthy eating around the holidays is always a challenge. Whether we are “eating to live” (consuming nutrient dense foods only necessary to maintain our bodies) or “living to eat” (making food a more central focus of our daily lives) has been in my thoughts this week. My opinion: Everything is okay in moderation. Indulgence is okay, in moderation. Is filling up on empty calories of junk food worth the health consequences? No! But there are too many foods that are absolutely delicious, that are treasured family traditions, that sharing them with loved ones makes memories and life worthwhile. Whatever those foods are for your family, embrace them and indulge!
Here are 4 of our family’s fast & favorite dip recipes – the perfect accompaniment to family game night or watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve!
8oz Morning Glory Original
1 quart canned tomatoes
¼ tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
Allow cheese to come to room temperature. Heat tomatoes to a simmer in saucepan or microwave. Drain most of juice from tomatoes. Place tomatoes, cheese & pepper in blender and pulse until smooth, scraping sides with a spatula as needed. Refrigerate until serving. Best with fresh veggies or potato chips.
Bacon & Swiss Dip
8oz Morning Glory Original
½ C mayonnaise
4oz Butternut Baby Swiss, grated/cubed
2 tbsp chopped onion
8 slices of bacon, cooked & crumbled
Reserve a handful of bacon crumbles, then mix all other ingredients. Place in a small greased loaf pan. Top with remaining bacon. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until browned on top. Serve hot/warm. Best with bagel chips or crackers.
Cheesy Crab (or Chicken) Dip
¼ C butter, softened
4 oz Morning Glory Original, softened
1 C shredded Goblin cheese (or NY cheddar)
1 C sour cream
½ Tbsp minced dry onion
8 oz crab meat or cooked chicken, shredded
Mix all ingredients in bowl, spread in casserole dish. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm with tortilla chips, crackers, bread bowl, etc. Yield: 4 C
Glorious Fruit Dip
8oz Morning Glory Original
¾ C packed brown sugar
1 C sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp lemon juice
1 C cold milk
1 small pkg instant vanilla pudding
Beat together cheese & sugar til creamy. Add rest of ingredients & mix until smooth. Cover & chill. Serve with fresh fruit!
When you open your freezer, are you met with an ice-covered abyss of unidentified objects?
Does the thought of “stocking up” on anything scare you because you’ll have to make more space?
Not sure what you should meal plan because you don’t know what’s left in there?
Whether your freezer is just ½ of a typical fridge, or you have the largest chest you could find, keeping it under control will make your life better!
This hit home last time we returned from the butcher with two truckloads of meat! Our fleet is seven chest and upright freezers, plus the freezers of two extra refrigerators, and keeping track of what’s where, how much inventory we have left, and GETTING IT ALL IN is no easy feat! No lies, I consider myself something of a pro at freezer jenga.
Here are 5 tips to make life with a freezer more enjoyable:
Hopefully these tips will help you keep the Abominable Freezer Monster under control – and make stocking up an easier option!
This year, online ordering & shipment has become commonplace for nearly everyone. You can order just about anything and have it delivered to your doorstep within a few days.
This week, a highly anticipated delivery arrived, but not in an Amazon box. You know you’re a farmer when the most exciting delivery in months arrives in a container like this:
This is a special shipping container charged with liquid nitrogen and used to ship frozen bull semen. It keeps the semen safely frozen at -320⁰ F. UPS drops it in our driveway, we transfer the semen to our liquid nitrogen storage tank, and then the shipper is returned & reused.
We’ve worked hard to reduce purchased inputs in our business, but semen is one of the necessities. Every cow needs to deliver a calf in order to start producing milk. Ideally, they have a calf once a year. And each of these pregnancies requires a semen source. We choose to not keep any bulls on the farm, mostly due to the safety risk, but also because we want to choose the best genetics available to improve our herd.
There are not a lot of other Brown Swiss herds, at least not compared to Holsteins or Jerseys (the two most popular breeds). By purchasing frozen semen, we can utilize bulls from the best herds in the US and Europe, from which we could not feasibly purchase a live bull.
So, about three times a year, this farmer spends a lot of time pouring over catalogs and selecting the best matches for our ladies, just like a fantasy football team. Yep, bulls have stats just like pro athletes. Some are all around all-stars, while others excel in certain traits that we might want to focus on improving.
Most of our semen is ordered from one Wisconsin-based distributer specializing in Brown Swiss, who has been shipping directly to our farm for years. If you’re curious, check them out at brownswiss.com!
This week’s delivery included bulls with names like Spark, Kade, Powerball, Juke & Kingsman. Within a year we will have their calves running around, and in about 3 years their daughters will be producing the milk in your cheese. One small delivery will have a longterm impact on our farm!
There really is no limit to what can be delivered to your door!
This week was Charlie’s birthday. Birthdays, when you farm, are like most every other anniversary, holiday or special occasion – not much different than any other day. He spent an enjoyable day (his words!) making a big dent in our manure spreading project.
Lyle & my mission was to make Dad his favorite treat – rhubarb pie. We also needed to load a semi-trailer with hay that we’d sold.
The truck appeared just as the pie was ready to go into the oven – perfect timing. You can load a tractor trailer with 44 round bales in less than 50 minutes, right?
Turns out you can, but when the phone alarm went off I didn’t rush inside. Our oven always seems to cook a bit slower than the recipe requires, so I figured a few extra minutes would be a safe bet.
Got the load strapped & headed out the driveway, then went in with Lyle to check the pie. Of course the oven picked today to work super efficiently & the pie was definitely overdone. Not totally ruined, but the crust edges were on the verge of black.
Charlie was a good sport & pronounced it “not that bad”. Lesson learned…pay attention to the alarm!
Pie crust is a big deal in both Charlie & my families…today I’m sharing my mom’s recipe. You can fill it with rhubarb if you have it in the freezer – or since we’re at the peak of apple season, go for Maple Apple!
If you ever want feedback on your pie, our household will gladly sample!
Sarah, Charlie, Lyle & Hannah
DONNA'S PIE CRUST
5 C flour
2 1/2 C shortening
1 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 egg, beaten plus enough ice water to total 3/4 C
Mix dry ingredients. Cut in shortening with pastry blender. Moisten with egg & water. Mixture will be sticky so use lots of flour to roll out dough. Makes approximately six 9" pieces. Roll out on plastic sheet or between 2 pieces of waxed paper.
MAPLE APPLE PIE
~5 C apple slices
1/2 C sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 C Morning Glory Maple cheese
Pastry for double 9" pie crust
Bring cheese to room temperature. Line 9" pie pan with bottom crust. Combine dry ingredients & sprinkle 2 Tbsp over bottom of crust. Add rest of mixture to apples & cheese, stir. Turn into crust & cover with lattice top (cut top pastry into 1" strips and weave into lattice). Bake at 425 for 15 min, then reduce temp to 325 and bake 45 min longer or until nicely browned.
We are excited to be part of a new, rapidly evolving local food hub growing at Press Bay Alley in Ithaca! You can order directly from multiple farms and receive all your goods in one safe pickup. Please review the pickup procedures.
Pickups are on Thursday from 3-7PM! You can order any of our cheeses or meats for pickup at the hub. If you order through our online store, please choose the "pickup" option, then add a note at checkout telling us you want to pickup at Press Bay Alley. You can also send us an email with your order; we will invoice you electronically. All orders MUST be prepaid before pickup at the hub. Please note: missed pickups will be not be held; they will be donated on Friday morning.
Ground beef is a staple in our freezer, pulled out for quick & tasty family meals all year long. Here are 3 of our favorite recipes - give them a try when you're looking to change it up from the usual burgers or meatloaf! Our 100% grass-fed ground beef is lean but flavorful, making it an economical protein source boasting heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and CLA. We have plenty available - let us know if you'd like to place an order for your family's freezer!
SWEDISH MEATBALLS Servings: 4-6
3 lb ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 C seasoned dry bread crumbs
½ c fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley (or 1 Tbsp dried parsley)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
GRAVY: 4 Tbsp flour
2 ½ C beef consommé or broth
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 C milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
12 oz medium egg noodles, cooked
¼ C butter
3Tbsp fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley (or1/2 Tbsp dried parsley)
BEEF & POTATO MOUSSAKA Servings: 6-8
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
¾ C water
1 can (6oz) tomato paste
1 tsp salt
½ tsp dried mint (optional)
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp pepper
¼ C butter
¼ C flour
2 C milk
4 eggs, beaten
½ C Parmesan cheese, grated
½ tsp salt
5 medium potatoes, peeled & sliced
GROUND BEEF & CAULIFLOWER HASH Servings: 4
2 ½ + C frozen cauliflower (defrosted & drained) OR fresh cauliflower OR summer squash, chopped
½ C bell pepper, chopped
¼ C onion, chopped
1 lb ground beef or sausage
2 C shredded cheese (Goblin, sharp cheddar, mozzarella – or a mixture)
¾ tsp garlic powder
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
Our cows get the credit for our great tasting cheese, so it seemed only appropriate that they be honored in its name. “Morning Glory” is named for one of our original Brown Swiss herd members, officially named Eldalechris Even M Glory, but known as Glory for short. Sarah picked her out as a 4H project at a month old, in 1995, and she resided in Catskill until 2003 when she made the trip out to our new herd.
Glory never quite made it to stardom in the show ring. She was born in November, which made her one of the smaller animals in her class. Her conformation was not particularly beautiful, as she only classified 80 points. Although Brown Swiss are known for their excellent feet and legs, Glory was not blessed with the best set of wheels to get around on. In fact, she needed to see the hoof trimmer every time he came, just to keep her moving comfortably. Glory produced a good amount of milk, but she never broke any production records.
So what made Glory so special? She was a cow that never gave up! She kept going, and going, and going, despite the challenges that life threw at her. Adapting to 3 different farms, Glory was always the leader of the pack. She calved 9 times, with 6 of those calves being heifers that helped to grow our herd. Those daughters have added another 9 female offspring to our herd, with each generation improving on the last.
Our cheese label features Glory and her last heifer calf, Glorianna, a few minutes after her birth. It represents the optimism that each new beginning brings: a new day, a new calf, or cheese making being a new direction for our dairy. We draw upon her stamina and will to survive as we begin our new venture. We lost Glory at 13 ½ years old, but her legacy lives on in her cow family and also in “her” cheese. Bring her story home to your table today!
I'm half of the Crosswinds farmer duo bringing you farm fresh cheeses, beef, and pork from the heart of the Finger Lakes! Stay tuned for our daily adventures growing a family & a farm, and food for your table. We welcome your questions & comments, but please keep them respectful! For the latest updates, please follow Crosswinds Farm & Creamery on Facebook or Instagram!