Category: Seasonal Foods

The Jennie Effect… you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

1.21.12 is a date that I was awakened to the power of creative marketing.  Here is how it went down, and it started with a magazine article.

The Journey

I’ve heard that gamblers can request to be put on a list that would bar them from entering a casino.  If there was such a list for Farm Show Magazine, I would put myself on it.  This candy store of on-farm inventions has often led me down the path of “wishful thinking” when I should have been sticking to my daily ”task at hand”.

But when I read an article  in the magazine about a pig farmer in NE Iowa by the name of Carl Blake, I began my journey to an event (which I’ll describe in a bit) that awakened me to the power of creative marketing.

Carl raises a rare breed of pig called Swabian Hall.  The meat from his pigs recently won a prestigious culinary award and is rapidly gaining national attention. When I read the article on Carl’s pigs, I began to ponder linking up with Carl to help with an idea.

My idea builds on the knowledge that pigs are much more efficient at retaining omega-3s in their tissue than cattle. If I could include flax-fed pork in our products, they would contain higher omega-3s, and our flax-fed beef would provide high levels ruminic and vaccenic acids (CLA’s).  If I could put these two ingredients together, we’d have a flax-fed beef/pork “miracle” snack stick product.

With my mission of creating a new product in mind, I  contacted Carl and thought “this could be a marriage made only in Iowa!” (or is this heaven?).

Carl and I agreed to meet at a Des Moines event a couple of Saturdays ago where Carl was to roast one of his amazing hogs.  When a 9″ snow storm halted Carl in his tracks, he asked if I would sub my beef for his pork at the event.  I agreed and was treated to one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

The Event

When local tomato growing phenom, Jennie Smith , decided to go to grad school in New Zealand, she asked a few of her foodie friends (around 150) to help her get there.

Jennie Smith of Butcher Crick Farms

Undoubtedly the most charismatic person I have ever met, Jennie managed to skillfully pull-off this unique fundraiser that included an auction of donated gifts, three local restaurants serving gourmet dishes, two wineries handing out samples, music by Dustin Smith, and one star-struck cattle farmer (me) serving smoked rib-eye.  The event was held in a really cool facility owned by Kirk Blunk Architecture in East Village.

Jennie’s Seed the Farm event was not only inspiring but marketing genius.  The lesson of the evening for me was that in a successful event, there is always more than one beneficiary.   From networking to socializing to the joy of helping out a friend, Jennie made sure that we were all rewarded by the experience.   Just watching Jennie “hold court” during the live auction was worth the price of admission!  I left the event wondering if I had done enough for the “cause”.

The Rub

The take-away is that I  will never again look at marketing a product,  an event, or myself quite the same.  Hopefully some of the “Jennie Effect” will rub off on Timber Ridge as we launch our new beef/pork miracle stick.  As Carl would say, “stay tuned, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

Garlic Scapes

I noticed last cycle, a few of you purchased garlic-scapes, but what do you DO with them? Diane Starkey, has a delicious way to experience their garlicky goodness posted on her blog, in fact, check out her whole blog, she also has plot at Franklin community garden, she might be your neighbor!

How to roast your brand new Heritage Turkey!

Many of you have ordered your Thanksgiving turkey, perhaps this is the first time you will roast a heritage turkey.  Here are a few tips and more than one opinion on the best way to prepare your bird.  I’ve included the links.

A tip from Local

Remember having to cover the breast with foil to keep it from drying out while the rest of the bird cooks — not with a heritage turkey. Their smaller breasts create a better balance between the dark meat and white meat, which means roasting a bird to perfection is much easier since white meat cooks quicker than the dark meat. If the breast is covered during roasting, it should be done with oiled parchment paper — not foil — which is then removed 30 minutes before the turkey is finished roasting.

Heritage turkeys are also much more lean and smaller than sedentary commercial birds. This means that fast cooking at high temperatures is a better method than slow roasting — another big plus since you won’t have to set your alarm to get the bird in the oven to be done in time for an early dinner. Heritage turkeys should be cooked at 425-450 degrees F until the internal temperature reaches 140-150 degrees F. Butter or oil can be added under the breast skin to add flavor and moisture during roasting.

Heritage Turkey recipe from

Tips from Saveur  Magazine

What exactly is a heritage turkey? According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, it’s a naturally mating bird with a slow growth rate that spends most of its long life outdoors. (By contrast, industrially raised turkeys live in cages, are bred to grow quickly, and can reproduce only through artificial insemination.) In terms of flavor, a heritage bird is worlds away from the dry, tasteless turkeys most of us have grown up eating on Thanksgiving.

Unlike other turkeys, heritage birds live long enough to develop a layer of fat beneath the skin, which imparts a rich flavor to the meat. Mary Pitman, of Pitman Farms, says that they also “have larger thighs and legs because they still run and fly”; that produces especially dark, juicy meat from those parts. There’s no better time to switch to these sustainably raised animals; as farmer Frank Reese, a tireless advocate for heritage turkeys, says, “The best way to save these historic breeds is to eat them.” We couldn’t agree more.  Below are tips and sources.

Skip the brine. Mary Pitman points out that the “real, authentic taste of a turkey” comes through when the turkey hasn’t been brined.

Wrap it up. Heritage breed birds, unlike industrially raised turkeys, have breast meat proportionate to the rest of their bodies. Although that’s good news for authenticity and flavor, the more modest-size breasts can dry out quickly; to offset that effect, barding (wrapping the bird with bacon or pancetta), topping the breast or the whole turkey with oil-rubbed paper or cheesecloth, or rubbing butter under the skin will help keep the meat moist.

Experiment with different preparations. Roasting may be the traditional cooking method, but heritage turkeys, owing to their robust flavor, cook well when braised in turkey or chicken stock, white wine, or even beer. They’re also delicious when fried in peanut oil.

Shorten the cooking time. Because heritage turkeys are almost always smaller than industrially raised birds, they require less time in the oven. When a thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165 degrees, remove the bird.

Cook carefully. SAVEUR kitchen director Hunter Lewis recommends crisping the bird at 500 degrees for 20 minutes, then roasting at 325 degrees. As white meat and dark meat cook at different rates, some people cook the breast and legs separately.

Consider game recipes. Before deciding how to prepare your heritage bird, check out recipes for such game birds as guinea hen and pheasant, which, like heritage turkeys, are naturally lean and pair well with earthy flavors like herbs and bacon.

Another recipe for your cooking your heritage bird from Local Sustainability

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Rinse your 10-15 lb turkey well with cold running water, both inside and out. Pat dry inside and out. Rub the inside of the turkey with mixture of 3/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp of fresh ground pepper. Use skewers to pin the neck skin to the underside of the bird and fold the wings behind the back, and then tie drumsticks together to reduce cavity space.

Rub the entire turkey with butter. Sprinkle approx. 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper on the outside of the turkey. Place turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan. Add 1-1/2 cups water to the bottom of the pan. Place open in oven for 30 min. Remove from oven, baste exterior with natural juices and melted butter from the pan. Cover tightly, return to oven. Continue to bake for 15-20 min per pound.

Add 1 medium diced onion to cavity. At this time you can add a small amount of herbs to the cavity. Rosemary, or sage impart a nice flavor. Return to oven in tightly sealed roasting pan. Bake according to time/weight ratio noted above.

To check doneness, the drumsticks will feel tender when pressed, and juices from the turkey will run clear. If using a meat thermometer, insert it into the inner thigh area, near the breast, but not touching the bone. It should reach 180 degrees.

30 mins before turkey is near completed baking time, remove cover, baste with the juice and butter mixture from the pan. Return to oven in open roasting pan to brown lightly.

Lastly, if none of those trip your trigger, here are a few more links with tips for cooking your turkey:  More Heritage Turkey Tips

I hope this helps and I sincerely wish each of you a happy, healthy and food stuffed Thanksgiving!

Happy Eating and Leftovers!


Seasonal Produce

While I realize this may not be the most timely of posts, it is an important one.  I was drafting the latest announcement to our members, you the owners of this Iowa Food Cooperative, and I came across a message I had sent early in the year. It was intended to address the concerns around sparse picking in the way of vegetables, and greens.  I recall I checked ‘the Google’ and quickly found a great resource: The National Resources Defense Council (NDRC) has created a great listing by state. In that long-ago email, I posted this same link to Iowa’s in season produce.

As my wife & I have become increasingly dependent upon seasonal food and days get colder, I begin to think about pumpkin-pie and apple cider, and Turkey. Oh yes! Thanksgiving is just around the corner! Our stairs have become an impromptu root-cellar. I have big feet, and I’m always afraid I’m going to make some accidental mashed potatoes as I head downstairs.

According to the NDRC this is what we can look forward to this season:
Apples, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Bunching Greens, Cabbage, Carrots , Celery, Collards, Garlic, Head Lettuce, Kale , Kohlrabi , Leeks, Lettuce Mix, Onions , Oriental Greens, Ornamental Corn, Parsnips, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Raspberries, Snap Peas, Snow Peas , Spinach, Turnips, and Winter Squash.

Lots of good stuff in there. I look forward to this fall season as a close to my first year as board-member and I believe 4th year as conscientious consumer of local foods. What I mean by that is that I have been a fan of the idea for some time, it was about 4 years ago now that Lori introduced me to the bounties of Turtle Farm CSA, an IFC Member by the way, and her passion for ‘Good Eats’ (a nod to Alton Brown there).  Well I’ve rambled enough. Here’s to a wonderful upcoming season of thanksgiving. Support your local farmers, and lets not forget those artisans, makers of things too.