Cook like a farmer - grilled chicken breasts

You know, one would think that after selling grass-finished and pastured meats for so many years, I would be better at sharing recipes. I’m working on it though and plan to spend the summer sharing recipes and cooking tips for how to get the most out of your CSA. That being said, I’m no cookbook writer or food stylist but I can share recipes and cooking tips in one location for our members.

Another thing? I hate trying to find recipes online and having to scroll and scroll through endless prattle to the bottom of the page where the recipe is finally revealed. JUST.GIVE.ME.THE.RECIPE. So, I’m not going to do that. If you want more details (especially a link to a video showing how to debone the chicken breast), look at the end of the post.

Today we are going to prepare the split chicken breasts (also called bone-in chicken breasts) that come in our Meat CSA shares and turn them into boneless, skinless breasts. Then the meat is pounded to an even thickness, brined to retain moisture while cooking, grilled on over direct then indirect heat and given a quick rest before serving.

cooking chicken breast infographic

Resources

Learn how to debone a chicken breast in this video:

The skinny on brining:

Brining keeps chicken from drying out on the grill because it alters the protein myosin in the meat which keeps the muscle fibers from contracting and releasing moisture during cooking. The general ratio for brining meat (it works with pork too) is 1/4 cup of salt to 1 quart (4 cups) of water. Sugar can also be added to the brine to aid in browning and carmelization.

When to flip?

In general, chicken breasts are ready to flip when they release from the grill grates. So if you try to turn the meat and it is stuck, just chill for a minute and it will be ready to turn soon.

Doneness temperature:

The USDA recommends all poultry to be cooked through to 165 degrees and I’m not recommending otherwise for legal reasons. Personally, I like my pastured raised, small-batch processed, salt-brined, grilled chicken a little less done.

Pastured pigs on lambs quarters

Turned the pigs out on a new section of pasture the other day. A disturbed portion of the pasture was overtaken by lambs quarters, a type of annual, summer weed. The pasture make look messy but the pigs really love it. Lambs quarters (Chenopodium album) is in the amaranth family and is edible and choice, tasting mildly of spinach. It is sometimes even referred to as ‘wild spinach’ The tasty forb is high in vitamins A and C and also contains calcium, iron and protein.

Just like with people, a diverse diet provides a range of nutrients for optimum wellness and I’m happy for our pigs to supplement their diet with a pasture full of nutrient-dense weeds.

Wildflower walk

Sagebrush mariposa lily - Calochortus macrocarpus

Sagebrush mariposa lily - Calochortus macrocarpus

Grand collomia - Collomia grandiflora  Check out the blue pollen! Thanks, Kira, for pointing that out.

Grand collomia - Collomia grandiflora

Check out the blue pollen! Thanks, Kira, for pointing that out.

Blanketflower - Gaillardia sp.

Blanketflower - Gaillardia sp.

Wavyleaf Thistle – Cirsium undulatum (native)

Wavyleaf Thistle – Cirsium undulatum (native)

Paintbrush – Castilleja sp.

Paintbrush – Castilleja sp.

 
And a cattle pelvis playing peekaboo in the grass

And a cattle pelvis playing peekaboo in the grass

 

A special plant

showy milkweed

One of my favorite Central Oregon wildflowers– Showy Milkweed. These huge plants with large fuzzy leaves and a giant flower cluster look so otherworldly they’ll stop any hiker on the trail for a peek. They can look so out of place in our high desert landscape that we call them “alien plant” here at the ranch. .

Did you know that Central Oregon is a breeding ground for monarch butterflies ? Never seen a monarch here? Neither had we until two summers ago we saw three! Milkweed is the only host plant for monarch caterpillars. While I’ve yet to find eggs or caterpillars here, just in case some monarch wants a stopover, we have a waiting salad bar in our native milkweed patches.

showy milkweed
 

A new home for the CSA

Welcome to the brand-new home of Double F Ranch Meat CSA! After so much blood, sweat, tears and many choice words, we have finally completed the new building to house everything CSA. It’s light and bright and such a delight.

When we started deliveries for our pastured Meat CSA back in 2010, it was housed in a few freezers in our basement/garage. As our CSA family has grown over the years, the freezers also replicated until they were poked in and around every outbuilding. It worked, but not very well and we started dreaming of a place for the CSA to call home. Well after 10 years our “startup” has finally graduated and moved out of the garage. We couldn’t be prouder.

It took a team of five working over two days to get all the freezers unloaded, moved and repacked. I hand-stacked over 3,000 pounds of meat, twice! But it also took months of tireless work to get to that point. Thank you so much to everyone who volunteered their time, labor and expertise along the way. We so appreciate the community spirit that defines our CSA.

Not only are we stoked about our new CSA building, the extra space means we can share the love and add even more members to our CSA family. To celebrate, we are offering $50 off new memberships (and a $50 credit for existing member referrals).

Let's Celebrate!.jpg
 

Wildflower tour

More wildflowers of Central Oregon found here on the ranch.

Flax -  Linum

Flax - Linum

Arrow-leafed balsamroot -  Balsamorhiza sagittata

Arrow-leafed balsamroot - Balsamorhiza sagittata

Penstemon sp.

Penstemon sp.

Paintbrush -  Castilleja

Paintbrush - Castilleja

Showy penstemon -  Penstemon spectabilis

Showy penstemon - Penstemon spectabilis

Showy penstemon -  Penstemon spectabilis

Showy penstemon - Penstemon spectabilis

Salsify -  Tragopogon  (naturalized species)

Salsify - Tragopogon (naturalized species)

Prairie clover -  Dalea sp

Prairie clover - Dalea sp

 

Sunset storm

raindrop reflections

Catching the sunset rays in the splashes of a spring rain.

Coming off last year’s D3 drought (where in 105 days, the ranch received only six hundredths of an inch of rain), it still amazes me to watch it pour. This wet spring is just the salve us dusty farmers and ranchers needed. Here’s to hoping the rains keep coming!

 

"Chicken Strips" the regenerative agriculture way

pastured poultry field

These bright green strips represent areas where our pastured poultry grazed in previous seasons. The added nitrogen from the chicken manure fertilizes the grass which spurs on extra vegetative growth.

The next year, when the chickens roam over the tall grass, the vegetation gets matted down against the soil where the soil biome can go to work breaking it down into organic matter.

The matted down grass shades and protects the soil while the increased organic matter soaks up and holds on to more precious water from our infrequent summer rains.

The next year, the cycle repeats and the soil health gets better and better. This wet spring, you can hardly walk through the first flush of annual grasses.

What started as marginal range with thin, mineral, desert soils sparsely populated with some annual grass and scattered forbs has over time become productive pasture. In time, we may inter-seed with more perennial grasses or co-graze sheep and cattle with the chickens to further build the soils.

For now though, the chickens are just doing their thing!

How long DO farm eggs last until they go “bad”?

farm fresh eggs

We hear this question a lot. Eggs are a naturally stable item and have a protective film called the “bloom” that helps keep them fresh.

 

Eggs that are collected daily and are stored under refrigeration with the bloom intact will keep 4-6 weeks. After that, the yolk flattens out and the white thins but the egg is still plenty safe to eat.

 

So, think of the quality of eggs over time as “fresh” to “less fresh” and not so much “good” to “bad”. Fear not, if it was good enough for an omelet last week, it won’t be a rotten egg next week.

Speak your mind - Meat CSA contents survey results

Survey Says:

Double F Ranch Meat CSA is always growing and adapting based on the changing needs of our members. To see how we can better meet the needs of the families that rely on us to supply them with delicious, nutrient-dense proteins, we brought along the survey board to our Portland Meat CSA delivery and the results are in!

How does your CSA share size match your consumption? *

 Way too much (1 vote)

A little bit too much (7 votes)

The perfect size (7 votes)

Not quite enough (2 votes)

We run out a week or two before CSA delivery (0 votes)

 

How can we improve the contents of your share?

 There aren’t enough basics (like hamburger or eggs) (4 votes)

There are too many basics (hamburger, eggs) (1 vote)

I wish my favorite cuts were included more often (7 votes)

I wish there were more fast-cooking cuts (3 votes)

I wish there were more large cuts (cook once and eat multiple meals) (3 votes)

I wish there were only familiar cuts (0 votes)

I wish there were more prepared cuts (breakfast links, brats, hotdogs) (0 votes)

 

It is time for another CSA delivery. What is left in your freezer? *

 We ate all off the cuts in the last delivery (1 votes)

We have a few cuts from the previous delivery remaining (9 votes)

We have an increasing backlog of multiple cuts from several deliveries (5 votes)

We have a backlog of the same type of cut (i.e. hamburger) (3 votes)

We ate all the “good stuff” early in the month and are not interested in preparing the rest (0 votes)

We have a few cuts leftover that we don’t know how to prepare (0 votes)

Favorite cuts

Bacon (7 votes)

Pork Chops (6 votes)

Whole Chicken (4 votes)

Chicken Breast (3 votes)

Chicken Thighs (3 votes)

Roasts (3 votes)

TBone Steaks (2 votes)

Ground Pork (2 votes)

One vote each for the following: Ribeye Steak, New York Steak, Steaks, Pork Shoulder Roast, Pork Shoulder Steak, Lamb, Stirfry Strips, Lamb Stew, Sausage Links, Breakfast Sausage, Ground Meats, Ground Beef and Cuts Large/Special Enough for a Dinner Party.

Dislikes

Roasts (4 votes)

Ham/Ham Steak (3 votes)

Pre-spiced Sausage (2 votes)

Cube Steak (2 votes)

One vote each for the following: Ground Beef, Steaks, Pork Chops and Lamb Shanks

Survey summary

Favorite cuts included: bacon, pork chops and chicken (whole, breast and thighs). Members were not too fond of roasts, ham, pre-seasoned meats and cube steak. Members that stated their share was the “perfect size” expressed an interest in including more “favorites” and “larger cuts”. Members that said the share was ”a little too much” wanted more “basics” and “favorites”. Members with 20# shares wanted more fast-cooking cuts. All requests for larger cuts came from 10# shares.

How we intend to apply this feedback

The joy of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs is that the feedback loop is so short. We, the farmers, can instantly apply suggestions to improve the experience for our members. Here’s just a few ways we plan to incorporate this feedback:

We hear our members loud and clear that they love their bacon and pork chops! Who can blame them? Our pastured pork is unlike anything available at the grocery store. We are happy to raise and distribute more pork to support the needs of our members.

We know “the perfect share” is different for each of our members. So while we can’t please everyone, we can implement strategies to make sure everyone goes home happy. We intend to seed our “Swap and Trade” cooler with a greater variety of cuts at the start of CSA. This will give our members maximum flexibility to customize their shares.

Thanks to our Portland Meat CSA members for sharing their voices. We look forward to checking in again soon!

Radiosonde

radiosonde weather balloon

Cool find on the ranch today! Nathan brought home a radiosonde which is the data recorder on a weather balloon. It was launched 110 miles away (as the crow flies) from Salem in December 2018 but who knows how long it was tangled up in that juniper tree? Mylar balloons from the Willamette valley have long been our most frequently found piece of trash on the ranch but we’ve never found a weather balloon before.

 

Did you know the National Weather Service launches weather balloons twice daily from 102 weather stations across the US? The radiosonde unit can be reused in future launches but only 20% are ever returned. In the name of science, we are excited to package it up and send it back to Salem.