Cold Weather Cooking for Grassfed Meats
Winter is coming, and our ancestors had their own ways of dealing with the cold weather and the nutritional needs of winter. One of their secrets was to eat plenty of grassfed meat, using recipes specially designed for cold weather. These nourishing dishes created anticipation with their tantalizing smells, warmed the body and soul when eaten, and provided superb nutrition that helped the body cope with the demands of winter.
We can recreate the wonderful smell and taste of these traditional dishes, and enjoy the same benefits as our ancestors did. Great grassfed meat is now available, and it is great for winter eating!
Here are some of the most traditional winter dishes enjoyed throughout Europe, especially in the winter.
Broths were made by simmering the bones, sinew, and meat of grassfed animals. Some vegetables were added, often onions and carrots, which provided additional nutrition and flavor. These ingredients were slowly simmered for many hours, extracting minerals, gelatin, and many other nutrients from the meat and bones, while filling the home with a wonderful, enticing smell. Traditional bone broth was the best mineral supplement ever invented. Large quantities of broth were made, and mugs full of hot broth were sipped throughout the day, and were a great way to keep warm and well-nourished. A long-simmered bone broth, rich with grassfed meat and bones, is one of the most delicious beverages on earth.
You can make your own traditional bone broths. You need a large, good-quality stockpot, filtered water, and plenty of grassfed meat and bones (leftovers make wonderful bone broths). After the broth is skimmed, the trick is to simmer it slowly for at least twelve hours, which will get the minerals and nutrients from the bones into the broth. This kind of broth is best when made in large quantities.
The pot roast, whether made from beef, lamb, or veal, is an old tradition in most of Europe, almost always made in winter. These delicious combinations of tender grassfed meat, many winter vegetables, and some bone broth, often flavored with traditional mixtures of herbs and spices were absolutely delicious. The meat was usually browned in animal fat, then slowly simmered in a cast iron pot until the meat was very tender, and some of the vegetables disintegrated into a wonderful gravy, creating an incredible taste combination. These nourishing roasts, served with the incredible gravy made from the cooking juices, were warming, filling, and nourishing. The smell of a pot roast fills the kitchen with a wonderful aroma that is like no other.
Grassfed meat is particularly good for pot roasts because the meat will become tender without disintegrating, and will retain its texture and flavor. These roasts should be gently browned in good animal fat, and slowly simmered until a large fork goes in and out easily. It will usually take several hours to reach that point, but the smell is so wonderful that you will not mind the time. And the taste is even better.
These hearty mixtures combined small pieces of meat with all kinds of vegetables, bone broth, and traditional spice mixtures to form one of the most nourishing combinations ever invented. Stews were particularly good for those who could not afford much meat, because they are best with the cheapest cuts, and the meat of these cheap cuts is loaded with flavor. Many traditional stews were full of all kinds of vegetables, which not only made the meat go further, but added wonderful flavors of their own. The meat for stews was usually cut into small pieces, and browned in good animal fat. Some of the vegetables were also often browned, concentrating their flavor. The browned meat and vegetables were combined in a pot with more vegetables, herbs and spices, and slowly cooked until all the flavors had melded together and the meat was very tender.
These traditional stews are full of nutrients, develop wonderful gravies, and warm the body and soul. They are ready when the meat can be pierced easily with a fork, and grassfed meat is ideal for them. The long cooking of these small pieces of meat with vegetables and broth fills them with great flavor.
One of the highlights of any European winter holiday was the holiday roast, a large piece of grassfed meat or pastured pork that was roasted in a traditional manner. These large cuts of meat were so tender that they did not need to be cooked in liquid. They were made even more tender and delicious with traditional marinades, usually full of fat, which enhanced their flavor and tenderness. Tender cuts of grassfed meat, such as a prime rib roast, a rack of lamb, a beef strip loin roast, or a leg of lamb, were roasted on the bone, covered with their own delicious and nutritious fat, which basted the meat when it roasted, keeping it moist and tender, while adding terrific flavor. The roasts were usually cooked on a spit in front of a blazing fire. The fire would provide high heat at first, and the heat would lessen as the fire burned down. These roasts were expensive, and often eaten only once or twice a year, but looked forward to and anticipated for months.
You can easily recreate this effect in a modern oven, by starting with high heat, then reducing it. Traditional spices and marinades add incredible flavor to modern grassfed roasts and pastured pork roasts, and there are so many delicious variations. There is nothing like the smell of roasting meat to bring out the appetite, and the sight of such a roast when it is carried toward the table, crowned with its own crisp, beautiful cap of fat, is a joy.
I enjoy all these dishes in the cold weather, so my winters are always a feast! Many of my favorite recipes for winter meat are contained in my cookbook Tender Grassfed Meat.
What is your favorite cold weather recipe?
Photo Credit: Craig McCord
Chris Regan and Ashley Mayne produce a wide array of delicious greens for the Hudson Valley.
With his new book, Forrest Pritchard tells the stories of 18 farms from all across America.
Forrest Pritchard and Smith Meadows are prime examples of sustainable family farming.
Jonathan Waxman shares his food philosophy with Slow Films.
A group of star chefs play with fire for a good cause.