Burnheimer Meat Co. CSA Dispatch: Month One
Omnivorous flexitarian that I am, I still find myself in an off-again, on-again, feast or famine relationship with pork. It’s not the Jewish background: my Friedberg grandparents had their kosher friends over for ham. I’ve learned that meats as unctuous as pork–and all meats really–are best experienced as a condiment (with a nod to Thomas Jefferson and Chinese cuisine), used to compliment and flavor the fresh vegetables and whole grains that make up a bulk of one’s plates. Meat is a precious and rare resource, a great source of protein and sustenance that creates environmental challenges we can’t ignore. We should pay more for animals raised in a humane and Earth-friendly way, and eat less of that meat, with more reverence. With that spirit, this spring I signed up for our first (three-month) meat C.S.A.
At first, $80 a month (a $240 check) seemed a lot for three months of meat. But GTF charcuterie wiz Brad Burnheimer promised 10 lbs. of fresh cuts, sausages and bacon, from free-roaming heritage pigs. I picked my first box at Gathering Together Farm on March 2. Enclosed was the note:
“Pork! This well-cared for hog was raised by Chris Hansen from Mosaic Farms in Philomath. It was slaughtered on Tues. Feb 28th, spent two nights hanging in the cooler and was delivered to us on March 1st. From this lovely animal, you have the following cuts and treats: tenderloin, shoulder steak with the fat cap on, serious (cave-man style bones) rib chops weighing 2.5 lbs, spare ribs, breakfast sausage, and Burnheimer’s garlicky, bold-flavored signature sausage. Twelve generous pounds of pork total, plus the two duck breasts.
The meat has truly lasted us the month. Plus, we saved money by eating out less, as these riches kept me inspired in the kitchen. Day one was the above duck breasts. Day two, I wooed my husband with the oh-so-succulent, bone-in rib chops.
The bacon I paired with buckwheat pancakes, cut into lardons for tangy German potato salad, and oven-roasted Ina Garten-style with maple syrup for an instand hors d’oeuvre when wrapped around dried Mission figs and blue cheese.
The small pack of spare ribs we braised Chinese-style. The tenderloin we slivered to stir-fry with black trumpet mushrooms, tofu, white pepper, fish sauce and oyster sauce, a simple yet surprisingly satisfying concoction inspired by The Spice Bible. The Burnheimer sausage we simmered with weedy dandelion greens, fresh-picked from the yard. The two-pound pack of sausage made a second meal stirred into pasta sauce. We have a second pack still to use up (I’m thinking potato, sausage, kale soup) and a breakfast sausage still to use. The small shoulder steak with fat-cap was my only misstep. I overbrined it (more like cured it), sauteed chunks of it and melted in cheese and spinach for an off buckwheat crepe filling. But the fat cap I had the sense to fry into five morsels of cracklin’s.
That’s a month’s worth of meat. In between, we’ve mostly had vegetables. I love how a CSA (as with the winter vegetable CSA I did with Open Oak Farm) dictates what you cook. You find recipes to suit the ingredients you have on hand, rather than selecting a recipe and then putting forth the effort to procure the ingredients. You cook with what’s on hand, learn to do more with less. It’s all about the paradox of choice. Having a predetermined amount of finite ingredients somehow makes one feel all the richer.