Beef season's in full swing. Whether you prefer a filet, ribeye or new york cut now is the best time of the year to enjoy it.
I know what you’re thinking. “Beef’s always in season!”
Sadly, we’ve become so used to factory produced food, there’s little or no discernible difference between the taste of meat all year round. But if you’re looking to eat pasture raised, grass fed meat, you’ll need to start thinking seasonally. Or at least understand how it’ll taste different from one season to the next.
Before the days of refrigeration, pigs were slaughtered in the fall after they’d been eating all the apples that had fallen to the ground. They’d hang through the winter and hence the tradition of ham for Easter. Things are easier nowadays, of course, but whether the animals have been foraging on frozen ground or fresh grass makes a big difference to flavour.
With beef, once an early frost sweetens the grass (and kills flies), the cows are at their most comfortable. They naturally forage more and build up more back fat in preparation for winter.
The natural season for eating chicken is through the summer months. When young female chicks begin laying eggs (at about 20 weeks), they lay eggs for about a year and then begin molting and enter a dormancy stage for up to a month after which the process starts all over again. That’s the natural reproductive system, but temperature and light also play a role (and can help manipulate production). When it’s cold the birds stop laying eggs (using up all there energy to stay warm). When days get shorter during the winter, production also wanes. So in a natural setting, production is highest in the spring. You may notice the yolks are more yellow at that time.
I have a friend with a farm on Saltspring Island, B.C. and every once in awhile in the springtime I am the lucky recipient of a few fresh eggs. They are far superior to anything I’ve ever had from a grocery store. I savour them. If friends are coming over to dine, I consider whether they’re egg worthy. I wish more of my ingredients felt that special.
A decision to eat seasonal meat might also mean stepping outside your comfort zone. Try the less common types like guinea fowl (I hear it tastes like an earthy chicken), grouse or pigeon (My dad used to make pigeon at this time of year. Delicious.)
Will any of this make me stop grilling beef in July? No way. Does it get me thinking more about the animals I eat and how they lived and how that affects flavour? Definitely. And I think that’s the point.
It also got me using a chest freezer. It’s good for freezing meat because it keeps the temperate steady better then the freezer connected to your fridge. I’m off to buy a cow now (or a good part of one), which I will still be grilling next summer, and my guests will remark on how it tastes particularly good. I might tell them why.
Happy weekend everyone!