Sunday, June 20, 2010

Emu-se bouche

Another trip to Kingston market yesterday and another new protein to try. In years past I had driven past the emu farm on the #10 highway just up from Sussex and on the way to Coles Island, but I hadn't checked it out yet. Luckily for me, Carol Milberry, of Silver Shoes Emu Ranch, was at the market and I had the chance to take home an emu steak. It's really quite amazing what variety of local meants and poultry we can find in NB. In fact I had a fascinating conversation with Terry Mireau of Cedar Lanes Farms who is breeding a Tamworth sow he got from Chef Jesse Vergen - who sometimes serves this gorgeous tasty pork at the Saint John Alehouse if you ask nicely - with Terry's Berkshires, which are also very tasty. They have *fat* on them - yes fat! It's fantastic. The Tamworths are one of the oldest pig stocks and were common in Canada until the 1960s when they were replaced by leaner stock in the attempt to reduce saturated fat in the Canadian diet. But there is now some argument, by Michael Pollan and others, that our fat-phobia has gone a bit overboard, leading the introduction of more sugar in the diet for instance, in an attempt to replace the lost flavour of fat. (Besides as Pollan points out many human societies, including Inuit, subsisted on high-fat diets quite nicely for thousands of years, it's only our modern diet that seems to have produced the high rates of heart disease and other complications that we blame on high fat.) In any case, fat does carry flavour. I had the Tamworth chops at the Ale House several months back and they were delicious. And last week I tried out this inch and half thick Berkshire chop - it was enough to feed to people - and again it had that lovely mushroomy flavour that processed pork entirely lacks. (Processed pork, you might also note, is often injected with saline solution - or "seasoning" i.e. salt - to try and give it some flavour. So the sodium content of store bought pork can be way out of whack, and given our tendencies to high blood pressure in Canada one might consider this a problem.)We were both sucking on the bones of the Berkshire pork chops true Tom Jones style (the character from Henry Fielding's novel where there's a lot of succulent eating, not the country singer). Technically to truly follow Tom Jones we should have thrown the bones over our shoulders to the waiting dogs on the floor - but lacking dogs and really not wanting to clean the floor after that we just gnawed away until there was nothing more to be had. Mmmmm....

But back to the the emu. I tried out Carol's recipe for "Honey Mustard Emu Steaks" for dinner tonight - with more lovely NB beet greens and some admittedly non-NB quinoa (although organic quinoa can be sourced from Speerville). It's is a very rich, tasty meat. Reminds me of kangaroo (which is probably no coincidence since emu is a big number ofr the aborigines of Australia) - a dark, dense, very low-fat meat, but also very mild. It's not like game meat, just very rich steaky flavour. It's also a great source of iron (four times more than beef). It needs to be cooked "low and slow" as all lean meats do (or this is what Dave Bunnet taught me). It would probably do really well is a simmering dish like a stew or a "emu' Wellington or some such thing. I'll check with the local chefs and see what they would do. But add this one to your list of local protein sources people. It's available at the Kingston Market, at the farm on Route 10 and at Goddard Farms in Berwick (also on Route 10 - a shop which carries no-hormone meats of other kinds and local veggies "with no pesticides or sprays"). And if people know of other places, let me know!

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