How you doin’? I hope this morning’s missive finds you doing well. As for me, I’m not doing so well today. Over the last week I have been reading about farmers and ranchers having to destroy their crops and livestock because they can’t process or sell their harvest. It is true that several meat processing plants have closed temporarily because some workers have contracted Covid-19 and there are not enough people to man the “knives.” This is going to have a terrible whiplash effect on the ability to get good, healthy American proteins (chickens, pork and beef) and produce to market.
I hate to hear about farmers plowing their crops under or ranchers euthanizing animals because they can’t afford to feed them or they are past the point of harvest. When you figure that a rancher raises a calf to maturity for 18 to 20 months on pasture and feed and makes just under $200 per animal (graded choice, not prime) at the end of the cycle you can see how devastating this can be to their livelihoods.
We have a family dairy farm near Montfort, Wisconsin. They have a couple hundred milking cows that require daily attention. I know how hard they and all family farmers work to bring milk and cheese to our collective tables. For them and others to even have to think about pouring out milk or destroy good milking cows would be devastating to their lives and livelihoods.
This really pisses me off! I don’t want to turn this blog to political issues, but I must get a few things off my chest. It’s important to understand when the economy shuts down, crops keep growing. With schools, restaurants and some retail stores closed, this pandemic could blow-up the national food supply logistics chain. This will start to cause shortages where food is most needed leaving an abundance of newly harvested produce, grains and livestock with nowhere to go.
Several of Smithfield’s pork processing plants have either been closed or are on reduced output. It makes me doubly mad because the Wuhan Virus Pandemic which was caused by the Chinese Communist Party’s shoddy information could have been contained in late December or early January if they hadn’t tried to cover it up. Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork processor—was acquired by a Chinese firm in 2013 for nearly $5 billion—well more than the company's market value. Was this part of their plan? Who’s makin’ your bacon?
You can say what you want, but this is what I would call an act of war not only against the United States but the other 187 countries who find their economies shut down and their citizens dying of this Chinese virus. More Americans have died of Covid-19 in the last 2 months than died during the entire Vietnam War. And, it all could have been prevented or at least severely mitigated.
A side story… I bought a bunch of masks for the test kitchen—they were made in China. One of the strings breaks loose in the same place on every mask. I tried gluing it with one of the super glues we had in the office (made in China, of course) and that wouldn’t hold. I then tried Elmer’s Glue… that didn’t work either. Lo and behold, when I looked at the back label on Elmer’s I saw it, too, is now made in China. We can’t continue to aid and abet our enemies. My advice to all good Americans—buy locally, buy from merchants who live and work in your state and above all, look for the proud label—MADE IN THE USA!
So, now that I got that off my chest, it’s safe to assume we are going to see some shortages and price increases (hopefully short-term shortages) in our food supply over the next several weeks and possibly months. We are going to have to really be savvy in the way we shop for proteins and prepare our meals. Get ready to think Instant Pot, slow cookers or even Dutch ovens.
We all know that steaks are tender and juicy and just take a few minutes on the barbi to get a perfectly grilled or broiled piece of heaven. Steaks are pricier than tougher cuts of meats. That toughness is due to fibrous connective tissue found in working muscles—not in the lazier muscles where New York and Ribeye steaks come from (same is true in pork). When you cook all those working muscle cuts of meat correctly—under pressure or low and slow with enough liquid to keep things moist—it turns the meat tender enough to cut with a fork. The right cuts of meat go a long way to extend your butcher budget. So, pull out your Instant Pot, Slow Cooker or Dutch oven and start cooking gourmet meals on a budget.
Orange and Beer-Braised Pork Carnitas
This is my all-time favorite Cheap Meat Eats pork carnitas recipe made in an Instant Pot. You don’t have to let the pork slowly simmer all day; it can be done in an hour or so and it will be perfectly tender and shred-able. Give it a fast turn under the broiler in the oven to crisp it up. Get ready to Instant Pot!
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hours
Yield: 8 servings
For the braising liquid
1 cup Corona beer (or any beer that’s handy)
1 12-ounce can of cola
5 tablespoons garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
For the pork carnitas
5-pounds pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 2-Inch cubes
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 orange cut in quarters (leave rind on)
1 split jalapeño pepper
To make the braising liquid
Here are some ideas for other Cheat Meat Eats—the best inexpensive cuts of protein to use for great tasting meals:
Beef Chuck Roast:
Pork Shoulder Roast
Beef Short Ribs
All these dishes taste even better the next day. Plus, you can make a little meat go a long way by serving it with plenty of vegetables and starches like potatoes, polenta, rice and noodles.
ChefSecret: I always sear the meat along with sautéing the vegetables to caramelize them before adding to the selected cooker. Use plenty of liquids—low sodium stock or red or white wines—or a combination of both.
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Who is Ed Engoron?