Category Archives: food

Favorite Things 2016 – A Gift Guide

Oh, yes, friends. It is that time of the year again! Time of a list of stuff I love, aka The Aghag’s gift guide for difficult people. Now I have this set up where all you have to do is click on the picture and it should take you to the corresponding shop. These are all products I use and love and I am not being paid to say that!

My 11 Favorite Things of 2016

  • First on my list is a Traeger grill. Look at it as an investment. A glorious investment in your mouth’s happiness. Your life will be better for this purchase. I use mine weekly, everything from smoking to grilling to just sticking my face in it and taking a big whiff. Yes, they are pricey but quality costs! And they make smoking more of a fun activity then an all day, make sure your fire is right, it’s not right, no, wait, it’s right, chore.
Really, they are awesome.

Really, they are awesome.

  • As I keep repeating, I went to the South a lot this year. I loved it. I fell in love with good BBQ. It changed me. So if you are gonna pull that trigger and get a Traeger, might as well get some bomb-ass seasoning! Enter: Dreamland. They are right, “ain’t nothing like ’em nowhere!’. Sadly I only have a few more uses of my BBQ seasoning left. I’m deeply afraid of getting on that website to order more. I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up with a whole bunch of ribs and a nana puddin’ getting delivered.
Sigh..... I would be a very happy camper if I got to go back again.

Sigh….. I would be a very happy camper if I got to go back again.

  • The Classy Trailer and I have been friends on Facebook for years. She thoughtfully sent me a beautiful memorial necklace a few years ago when my loyal cowdog of 16 years died. It was such a meaningful gesture to me. Anyway this year she sent me an awesome pig necklace! I have a collection of agriculture themed jewelry. It’s a great conversation starter when I am out doing the Megan Aghag show. The Classy Trailer has great handmade gifts for your agriculture/animal enthusiast in your life!
TheClassyTrailer's pig!

TheClassyTrailer’s pig!

  • I’ve been following Alyson Thomas for years now. I stumbled across her on twitter when she was asking butchers about cuts of meat. Her art – Drywell Art is my jam. Food and booze. I have several of her meat themed pieces. I especially love her pig work! I love to give her art out as gifts to my foodie friends. Plus I got to meet her in real life at the Renegade Craft Fair, and she was super cool!
Support art!

Support art!

  • Years ago I went to the Renegade Craft Fair in San Fransisco. It was like Etsy came to life. It was lots of fun and I picked up some great Christmas gifts for both myself and my family. My favorite thing is a feed bag purse I purchased from Selina Vaughan. I loved them so much I bought two! One for me and one for my Mom. We both used them for years and years. I use mine every time I go to an agriculture conference and always get tons of compliments.
Check her stuff out, so cute!

Check her stuff out, so cute!

  • Big things happen this year. I met my cooking idol, Alton Brown. Good Eats was a popular show when I was in college and I watched it regularly. I love how Alton uses a science based approach to explain the why’s and how’s of cooking. That tickles my fancy. When I saw he was going to be signing his new cookbook in California, I scheduled a day off, borrowed my Mom’s car (driving a truck in the city is a big cup of no fun) and went to meet him! And you know what? It was everything I thought it would be. He was warm and charming and he is still my celebrity crush. Aside from all of that, this is a great cookbook. Everything I’ve made has been amazing. Totally a great gift for your favorite Foodie.
This was one of my top 2016 moments.

This was one of my top 2016 moments.

Favorite cookbook right now!

Favorite cookbook right now!

  • I am a picky little thing when it comes to water bottles. I don’t like it when my water gets warm. I don’t like it when I can taste metal. I don’t like it when the part I put my lips on is exposed to “the outside”. I also hate using plastic water bottle once, then throwing them away (we actually recycle, but still!). But since I am outside so much during the summer I do need water with me or I shrivel all up. And that’s simply no fun at all. Swell is my favorite water bottle of all time. It keeps things cold, or hot for way longer than it takes me to drink it. The cap covers where I put my mouth so I have no fear of putting my lips in cow poo! And it doesn’t make the liquid taste like metal. Perfect gift for your favorite ranchster.
  • Speaking of water…..I’m bringing this one back from last year because I still love it. Once you go bidet you can’t go back. This bidet attaches right onto your toilet and is amazing. I installed it myself in about 10 minutes and never looked back.
Don't question me. Just buy it.

Don’t question me. Just buy it.

  • My summer was rough. I worked hard. I drove a lot. I dealt with some deep shit, both literally and figuratively. By the time October rolled around, my mantra was “I worked damn hard, if I want something, I earned it, damn it”. This ring was one of those things I wanted. It matched my beautiful bag I got for my birthday. A local artist made it. And it was shiny! I like shiny things! Unfortunately, J Daily doesn’t seem to have an Esty store. But she does have an email address jdailydesign@yahoo.com. She had many beautiful and unique rings, earrings, necklaces – shoot her an email, check out her stuff, you won’t be sorry!
J Dailey Design

J Dailey Design

  • If you didn’t notice this was an election year. While post of the posts on social media were pretty horrible; but there was one shiny, hilarious light! The Liberal Redneck and the WellRED Comedy Tour. Trae is funny. His videos talk about very serious issues in a funny way. I like that. But hey, don’t believe me check one out. After watching his videos I really wanted to see him perform, and turns out, he was playing about a hour away from me! I saw the show, and loved it! All three guys were hilarious! And they hung out after their show and met their fans! So cool! Plus Trae follows me on Twitter now.  I got their book after the I saw the show, and again, really enjoyed it. It’d be a great gift for your liberal and not so liberal friends!
I made the WellRED Comedy guys laugh.

I made the WellRED Comedy guys laugh.

The Liberal Redneck Manifesto

The Liberal Redneck Manifesto

  • Booze is always a popular gift during the Holidays. I mean it’s one of the few things you can get someone who has everything! And this particular alcohol is extra good. Lassen Cider is a new Chico, Ca business. He makes a mean cider from local, heirloom apples the traditional way. He gives the leftover apple pulp to my pigs and cattle, so he is being extra sustainable. I’ve had all three ciders he has available right now, and I must say, I am a fan. Unfortunately, you can only this cider is you are a Northern California native. Hunt some down, you won’t be mad about it!
Lassen Cider

Lassen Cider

There you go friends. Did I miss anything? What tickled your fancy this year? Care to share? Leave me a comment and hopefully I can feature it next year!

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Alabama White Sauce

Remember last year when I went to the South a whole bunch? And discovered how amazing it is down there? One of the many, many things I loved about The South was the food. I mean, it changed my life (cough, cough Traeger makes an amazing smoker). One thing I’d never had, but heard about, was Alabama White Sauce. My first experience with it was at Saw’s (GO THERE).

My very first Alabama White Sauce experience. It.was.glorious.

My very first Alabama White Sauce experience. It.was.glorious.

After my initial mouth joy, I kinda got pissed that I went this far in life without it. It’s just not a thing in California. Before I came home, I made sure to try it as many times as I could. I bought it by the bottle and brought it home too! I also asked for recipes. I got many. I know the purist claim real white sauce is only salt, pepper, mayo and vinegar. But while I was down there I found that everyone had their own variation. I tweaked it and kinda came up with a California version, I love this sauce and make it all the time.

My second White Sauce experience. It.was.glorious.

My second White Sauce experience. It.was.glorious.

Alabama White BBQ Sauce:

2 cups mayonnaise (I think Duke’s is the best)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon dill
1 teaspoon (at least, I use more) freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste

This is it. So easy.

This is it. So easy.

Put everything in a mason jar and shake to mix. I like to give it at least 12 hours in the fridge to “meld” before serving.

I'll smoke ribs and chickens at the same time. I'll save the chickens for the next day and make pulled chicken sandwiches with the white sauce.

I’ll smoke ribs and chickens at the same time. I’ll save the chickens for the next day and make pulled chicken sandwiches with the white sauce.

Learning how to smoke has been one of my favorite things from this year. I’ve made everything from smoked potato salad to bacon candy in my smoker. It adds a whole new flavor and texture to meat and vegetables. And again, I get kinda pissed I’ve lived this long without having a smoker in my life. Don’t make the same mistake I did friends. Go get yourself a smoker, and make some white sauce. You’re welcome.

 

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Herbed Fig Lemon Jam

The figs are ripe here at the ranch again. I hate it. But I love it. Why? Because I don’t like figs. I don’t like to eat them, I don’t like to pick them and I don’t like to waste them. So I force myself out to the fig trees, battling star thistles and rattlesnakes, and pick until I am covered in itchy fig sap and bleeding from thistle pokes, just for the sake of jam.

Garden fresh!

Garden fresh!

When jam and jelly get involved, I love it! Figs make awesome preserves, jam and pickles and they are free!!!! I usually make 3 or 4 different fig recipes a year. My friends love figs, so I know what everyone is getting for Christmas! I needed to expand my recipe collection this year and since I still had meyer lemons, this was the perfect recipe to try! I actually ate this jam and *gasp* kinda liked it even with the figs! The thyme adds something different, which I liked a great deal.

Herbed Fig Lemon Jam

3 pounds figs
1 meyer lemon
4 cups sugar
¼ lemon juice
2 cups water
Thyme springs

Boiling jam. It smells so good!

Boiling jam. It smells so good!

Cut figs into chunks. I like a good variety of big and little, I think it gives it a nice consistency. Carefully cut the lemon into quarters, removing seeds and proceed to cut the quarters crosswise. Mix the figs, lemon and sugar into a large saucepan. Add lemon juice and water. Bring to a boil without stirring. (It’s so hard!!! I know.)

Let cool to room temperature, place a lid on your pan and chill overnight to 12 hours. Bring mixture back to a boil until the lemon is translucent and the mixture has thickened. Add thyme sprigs to mixture and continue boiling until the mixture can pass the frozen plate test. When it does skim foam and discard thyme sprigs.

Fill sterilized jars until 1/4 inch headspace and process in a boiling water for 10 minutes.

A very nice snack!

A very nice snack!

Also try:

Balsamic Figs

Fig Jam 

Fig Preserves 

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Pickled Mission Figs


We have several mission fig trees growing wild on the ranch. As a little kid, I spent a massive amount of time climbing and hanging out in the huge, cool fig tree canopies. I have lovely memories of my cousins coming over and playing with me as well, so figs always remind me of that. And pig enemas, but that is for a different post.img_5199

Around the first of August, when the main crop of missions ripen, I get to picking and canning. I’m not a fan of eating figs because of the pig thing I mentioned above, but I enjoy picking them because it reminds me of being a kid. Plus anything I can grow or glean needs to be canned or pickled, because it does.

Last summer I tried this recipe and everyone loved it. I was told these figs were great as a snack, with charcuterie, on salads, etc. I made them again this year just to compliment my charcuterie plates and so I could blog the recipe for you.

 Pickled Mission Figs *

  • 4 quarts firm, ripe figs
  • 5 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 quarts water
  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon whole allspice
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 1 star anise (optional)
  • 1 vanilla bean (optional)
Figs soaking in their hot water bath.

Figs soaking in their hot water bath.

Boil water and pour over figs, let stand until cool. Combine 3 cups of sugar and 2 quarts of water and heat until the sugar dissolves. And the figs and gently cook for 30 minutes.  Add 2 cups sugar and vinegar. Tie spices (except for the vanilla bean just thrown that right in with the figs after you slice it open) in a spice bag and add to the figs. Simmer for about an hour.

Despite the hot vinegar, this does smell good.

Despite the hot vinegar, this does smell good.

Cover the figs and let stand in a cool place for 12-24 hours.  Bring back up to a simmer. Pack the figs into sterilized pint or quart jars. leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process 15 minutes in boiling-water canner.

Pickled figs

Pickled figs

 

You might also want to try:

Homemade Balsamic Figs

Pickled Figs 

Mrs. Little’s Pickled Figs

*based on the Ball Blue Canning Book recipe

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Pickled Blueberries

‘I can pickle that’ has become my mantra. I know I say that every year and every year I say this is the final year, but who am I kidding? I have a canning addiction. I’ve really gotten into pickling fruit because it compliments my charcuterie plates well. I love being able to make a whole plate of amazing cured fruit and meat, it’s a simple pleasure.

This is what a blueberry bush looks like.

This is what a blueberry bush looks like.

One of my friends recently told me she had pickled blueberries with a fancy meal she ate. Of course the ‘I can pickle’ that voice went off in my head and I had a new mission in life, pickled blueberries.

I finally made and ate some and I was not disappointed. They are tart, but sweet, with spiced warm undertones. I think they’d be delicious on ice cream! Or in a salad! Here is the recipe I used. Enjoy!

Pickled Blueberries

  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
  • 2 quarts fresh blueberries, washed and picked over
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
The start of pickles.

The start of pickles.

Place the first 3 ingredients into a cheesecloth square, to make a spice sachet. Put into a large saucepan with the vinegar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; cook for 5 minutes.

Ready for their bath.

Ready for their bath.

Stir blueberries into the saucepan, and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Gently shake the pot. Do not stir or you will break the berries. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.

Strain berries from the liquid and remove the spice sachet. Place berries to hot, sterilized canning jars. Return vinegar to the saucepan and place over high heat. Stir in the white and brown sugars; bring to a boil. Boil until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Ladle hot syrup over berries, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water canner. I like to give them a week to really pickle before I eat them. 

Yum.

Yum.

Also try:

Blueberry Meyer-Lemon Jam 

Spiced Blueberry Jammin’

Blueberry Jam Sugar Scrub 

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Giveaway: Stubb’s BBQ Products

Growing up a rancher, delicious grilled steaks and burgers were often on the menu. After all, my life pretty much revolves around breeding, raising and caring for the meat in our food supply. Grilling was common, especially in the summer. However, I was rather sheltered from the art and science of cooking with fire. It was always my Dad’s job.

But then, as fate would have it, I started dating a vegan. Well, he didn’t like it when I cooked meat in the house because it smelled good and upset him, so I was banished to the patio grill to cook my protein. As an awesome result, I got more than proficient at grilling. I started grilling all the things, a skill that turned out to be very useful at cow camp (although, maybe not, now that I think about it, I have to cook all the time now!).
I also was able to enact my catch and release program. As an ambassador to my industries, I date a vegan or vegetarian. I expose them to my way of life, to cattle and pigs. I let them experience what these animals are really like in real life. The new perspective, combined with my cooking, rehabilitates them back to their omnivorous ways. Then I release them back into the wild where they thrive. It’s been a very successful program!

Anyway, in an opposite swing of the pendulum, I dated a Southerner and learned grilling, BBQing and smoking are three very different things and it is very important to get it right! It was kinda embarrassing to learn this in my 30’s, actually. Basically, BBQing is low heat (200-300) for 4-12 hours. Smoking is super low heat (70-180) for up to a few weeks! And grilling is high heat for just a few minutes. I also learned that exceptional BBQ sauce and seasonings do makes a huge difference, however you cook your meat.

I BBQ'ed chicken with dry rub for pulled chicken sandwiches. Amazing!

I BBQ’ed chicken with dry rub for pulled chicken sandwiches. Amazing! I’ll be posting my recipe soon.

Since I experienced The South I have a whole new appreciation for good BBQ. In fact, like all things I love, I tend to get just a whisper obsessive about for a little while. So when Stubb’s BBQ Sauce contacted me about doing a giveaway on the Beef Jar, I peed my pants a little because I’m still in my obsessive phase with BBQ. This is a legitimate reason for me to fire up my grill and eat something delicious!

Stubb’s is from Austin, Texas so it’s authentic! Stubb’s Legendary Bar-B-Q is the maker of Stubb’s. Rocky Stubblefield, grandson of the original Stubb, is their current BBQ expert. He was gracious enough to share some of his tips:

  • Create over–the-top burgers by coating each patty with Stubb’s Bar-B-Q Rub, then sprinkle with a little smoked sea salt to really enhance that smoky barbecue taste. Let the patties sit for a while before cooking – you can actually see the flavor seeping into the meat! Before you throw them on the grill, make a thumbprint in the middle of the patty to get a flat, evenly cooked burger instead of a plump, rounded one that is undercooked in the middle.
  • For smoking meats on a charcoal grill, use hardwood chunks, or on a gas grill, use wood chips. Soak wood chunks in water for 1 hour, or chips for 30 minutes, then drain before using. Burn two wood chunks for each hour of smoking, and 1 cup of wood chips for an hour or less of smoking. Try a variety of wood – hickory, mesquite or applewood – to experiment with flavors.

Stubb’s is available in 85 percent of grocery stores nationwide. It’s convenient because you don’t have to fly back to The South to get it! Which, I’m not saying that is something I would do but….. good sauce and spices are worth it. Stubb’s sauces, marinades and rubs are a great way to add flavor to your meats and vegetables for all cookouts, I know because I use it! It is an excellent product.
In honor of cookout season, Stubb’s is doing a giveaway here on theBeefJar.com. It will include a Stubb’s grilling spatula, Stubb’s hat and t-shirt, and coupons for free Stubb’s products!!! 


All you need to do click on this link Rafflecopter Giveaway Link!

Good luck!

 

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Blueberry-Meyer Lemon Jam

Recently, our local blueberry farm opened their gates to the U-pick crowd. Well, being the foodie I am, I had to go. My friend and I loaded up and spent a scant hour picking a bucket of blueberries. I was then faced with the daunting task of making several pounds of blueberries into stuff before they went bad. I succeeded. I ate a whole bunch, then I pickled a whole bunch, then I made this wonderful jam, and the rest I froze for pancakes.

This is what a blueberry farm in Northern California looks like.

This is what a blueberry farm in Northern California looks like.

I think this is now my third favorite jam I make. Which is really saying something since I think I make close to 30 different kinds (I don’t have a problem). I used Meyer Lemons because we have several trees here on the ranch, so they are free in addition to being delicious.

The spoils of my picking! Glorious!

The spoils of my picking! Glorious!

Blueberry Meyer Lemon Jam*

  • 3 cups blueberries, mashed to make about 2 1/2 cups
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1.5 tsps. Meyer Lemon zest, grated
  • 1 Tbsp. Meyer Lemon juice
  • A whisper of butter (to prevent foaming)
  • 1 package (3 oz) liquid pectin
Blueberries, lemon zest and juice ready to be made into jammy goodness.

Blueberries, lemon zest and juice ready to be made into jammy goodness.

Add blueberries, sugar, lemon zest, butter and juice in a jam pot. Bring to a roiling boil, stirring to prevent sticking. Add pectin and boil hard for one minute.  Remove from heat. Add to sterilized jars and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

This jam would be breathtaking on a scone, cheesecake or even on toast. It’s light, crisp with a hint of tart. It’s lovely and I ended up making two batches because it’s going to make great gifts.

IMG_3666

*based on Southern Living’s recipe

You also might wanna try:

Blueberry Jam with Mint

Blueberry Mojito Jam 

 

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ONE Alltech Ideas Conference: Part I

The first day. I was very excited to have an opportunity to attend this conference and I think everyone knew it.

The first day. I was very excited to have an opportunity to attend this conference and I think everyone knew it.

I had never been to an Alltech convention before this. I, of course, was familiar with them because of their products and I see booths and such at other conventions and events. But I had no idea what I was in for when I packed up my favorite cowboy boots and left the ranch on a red eye flight to Lexington, Kentucky. This two part blog will cover what I experienced during this convention.

Because I had a press pass I got a point of view most do not get. For a girl that doesn't get off the ranch much, it was quite the experience. Rupp Arena from the stage.

Because I had a press pass I got a point of view most do not get. For a girl that doesn’t get off the ranch much, it was quite the experience. Rupp Arena from the stage.

I’ve been to hundreds of agriculture related events in my lifetime. I have never experienced a convention like ONE: The Alltech Ideas Conference. Ever. It is a stand alone conference. It was a cross between a Broadway show, a graduate class, a college agriculture party, a field day, and a team building retreat. Over 3,000 people from 71 countries were in attendance. If you are involved in agriculture or food, or even if you have an interest in agriculture, this is an event you need to attend next year.

IMG_3395

Part of what made this conference so unique was the fact it was deeply entertaining. It included keynote speakers that were not from agriculture, which brought a whole new perspective and vibe. The Governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, welcomed us the first day. Alan Mulally of Ford, received the Alltech Medal of Excellence Award and gave us some excellent leadership advice, “working together always works”.

IMG_3441

John Calipari, the Head Coach of the University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball Team, spoke next. I’m going to make a confession here, and I don’t want you to judge me too harshly. Before this event I had no clue who “Coach Cal” was, however now I’m ordering his book. I loved his outlook on life, “when you make life about other people, it becomes easy”. Listening to him speak about how he was able to practice what he preaches and make life better for his players and community made me ponder how I could do the same.

IMG_3438

This morning plenary left me excited and inspired, deeply stimulated and ready to learn and affect change! Perfectly primed for the in-depth and new knowledge industry experts shared with us in special sessions.

Selecting the special sessions I wanted to attend was the worst part of the conference. I had a hard time choosing because many were both interesting and relevant to me. I ended up seeing part of Global Beef Opportunities, The Business of Agriculture and Opportunities in the Pig Industry. I would have loved to have attended Craft Brewing and Distilling because that’s something I’d like to start doing. The Aquaculture session, especially after last summer’s experiences, and Emerging Markets and Trends and Innovative Agriscience because I love to be on the cutting edge of new ideas.

Alltech made sure to showcase the best Lexington had to offer. Having dinner in the arena of The Kentucky Horse Park was probably an once in a lifetime experience for me.

Alltech made sure to showcase the best Lexington had to offer. Having dinner in the arena of The Kentucky Horse Park was probably an once in a lifetime experience for me.

 

The arena set up for our dinner. It was beautiful!

The arena set up for our dinner. It was beautiful!

However, the sessions I did attend were perfect for me and what I need to know right now. I started in the Beef session sitting next to a real, live meat scientist. If I had questions about something I could simply lean over and ask her to clarify. It was glorious. I left the session feeling deeply validated about the methods we are using on our Ranch and eager to learn more about how nutrigenomics will continue to play a part.

I then transitioned into the The Business of Agriculture session where I was able to hear Mary Shelman’s session about food rules (there are no food rules!). We learned about brands like Ben and Jerry’s and Emerald, that broke the “food rules” and became very successful. She spoke about how “food is a hot thing to talk about”. Food trends amongst our younger generations are changing, they are rejecting big ag and big food, they want a product that is good for the environment and communities and are willing to pay more. They trust their friends more than advertisements.

Something I repeat often. Local doesn't always mean safer.

Something I repeat often. Local doesn’t always mean safer.

Dr. Johanna Fink-Gremmels took the stage. She covered soils, fungi, bacteria and how they play a part in health. She shared “gut health is the key to animal health and productivity” and “feed the soil and you will feed the world”. She stressed that we have a major responsibility to our partners, our environment and animals, for the benefit of the people.

This is advice I have been trying to implement for my ranch.

This is advice I have been trying to implement for my ranch.

Aidan Connolly, Chief Innovation Officer and Vice President, Corporate Accounts, Alltech then spoke on antibiotics. This is a hot topic that I see many people, both in agriculture and on the consumer side, talk about often. He said the  “U.S. estimates 506 antibiotic prescriptions per 1000 people annually when only 353 were necessary”. That is  some serious food for thought. He had a term and idea that I loved and I see working for me. Prosumer – the idea of connecting with our consumer and getting them to advocate for you and your brand, business and product. As Ms. Shelman pointed out earlier, our younger consumers want this.

Dr. Mark Lyons talks about pork production in China

Dr. Mark Lyons talks about pork production in China

Because I still have much to learn about hog production, especially commercial production, I was especially excited to attend the Opportunities in the Pig Industry Special Session. Russell Gilliam started the session with Disease Prevention and Eradication. He pointed out, “is it safe” is the number one priority to consumers. He then covered factors that contribute to poor animal health and how we can prevent them. Lance Barton of Belstra Mills then shared his ideas and experiences about engaging the 98% that are not involved with production agriculture. Jacob Dall and Dr. Mark Lyons then shared information about hog production from Denmark and China. Comparing pork production methods from the two counties was enlightening and I am going to be applying some of my new knowledge to my operation.

from Lance Barton

People’s reaction to a hog farm. From Lance Barton.

I finally had time to visit Alltech’s One Vision exhibit. Again, before this point, I have never experienced anything like this. It was interactive, innovative and inspired. It felt like an utopia of what our world could be. Allergy free peanuts, edible food packaging and lab grown meat were all ideas explored. So often we are bombarded with negativity and worst case scenarios. This was like a breath of fresh air, it was positive and hopeful and I walked out I was asking myself what was the ONE thing I could do in order to be apart of a solution. We need more exhibits and interactions like this.

Photos of the ONE exhibit does not do it justice. You need to experience it.

Photos of the ONE exhibit does not do it justice. You need to experience it.

The rest of this blog will be posted tomorrow. In the meantime please check out what these other women in agriculture thought…

Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom

Dirt Road Charm

Mom at the Meat Counter

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I Went to the South, Y’all!

You might have noticed I took a little break from blogging life for the past few months. It wasn’t planned, I just got so busy I haven’t had the drive or time to do much for The Beef Jar. I’ve written some freelance articles, participated in an AgChat conference and the coolest thing is I went to the South. Twice!

The menu from Saw's. I weep at the memory.

The menu from Saw’s. I weep at the memory.

I haven’t traveled for a long time. In fact, the last time I took a vacation that was away from the ranch for more than two nights in a row was back in 2007. It was time to leave the ranch. The guy I was dating is from Alabama, so I was able to visit him. I went once in December and since I had such a good time, I went back in January!

Coosa County, Alabama

Coosa County, Alabama

It was a wonderful experience both times. I’ve always been fascinated by southern food and culture so needless to say, I was in heaven. I got ushered around the Southeast by a local, eating amazing food and having the time of my life. I got to see several southern places, including Nashville, Lynchburg, Atlanta, Birmingham, Asheville and Washington County, Tennessee.

My ex-boyfriend’s family has a plantation in Coosa County, Alabama. That was home base during my time down there. It was an amazing farm with totally different agriculture from what I was used to. I got to spend several days on their farm learning about local agriculture, history and again, food.

Conecuh sausages are amazing! Try them!

Conecuh sausages are amazing! Try them!

Until this point in my life, my knowledge of southern things comes from Paula Deen, Jill Conner Browne, Alton Brown, and other various southern authors. Oh and Reese Witherspoon movies. I imagined magnolia trees, dripping with Spanish moss, acres and acres of cotton, tobacco and sweet potatoes and BBQ everywhere. I’m sure it’s like when people think of California and think we are just beaches and movie stars. The South was so much more varied and different than what I expected (I mean, except for the BBQ part, and that was super cool)!

 

The Places

I was amazed at all the pine trees in Alabama. For some reason I had no clue Alabama had so many pine trees! I was expecting it to be far more open farmland and magnolias. I did see a cotton field and lots of cow/calf operations. However, one thing I noticed that really bummed me out was it seemed like there was a lot of abandoned farms. It kinda made me want to buy one and move to the South.

I went white tail buck deer hunting. It was so different from hunting here!

I went white tail buck deer hunting. It was so different from hunting here!

Since I did get to see several different areas of the southeast, that means I also got to see some of the Smoky Mountains. They were beautiful. I’ve seen enough photos and movies about them that I knew what to expect, and they did not disappoint. I want to go back and take pictures and poke around – I might even consider camping there. Maybe.

One of the happiest moments of my life happened in Nashville.  I was in a boot store on the strip. The smell of new leather and BBQ was in the air. I had a slight Pabst beer buzz. I had just seen an amazing country band. I was eating chocolate because, of course, there was an old fashioned candy store next to the band and bar. I actually had to stop and ask if that was real life. The Country Music Hall of Fame was also a major highlight! So many neat costumes, cars and instruments! 

My Nashville boots.

My Nashville boots.

I think my favorite though were the rolling green hills of Tennessee. The farms were all gorgeous, stuff of dreams. I had serious agriculture envy the whole time I was there. I was seriously looking up the farms and ranches I saw for sale, because I really could live there and happy raise pigs and cows.  

I was also shocked at the water. The rivers and lakes seemed to be everywhere and they were huge! Coming from drought stricken Nor Cal, it was almost overwhelming!

The cemeteries were a trip to me. They were everywhere. And the were old. It was a good reminder just how “new” California is. Many families had their “own” graveyard on their family farms. My goal when we were in Washington County was to find my family graveyard. I was so close, but that is for another post.

I was amazed that they could park against traffic, still had cigarette machines, and awesome fire works!

I was amazed that they could park against traffic, still had cigarette machines, and awesome fire works!

Birmingham was awesome. It was there where I had real BBQ for the first time. I got to go to Good People and Avondale Brewing. Just getting to walk down the streets and see some of the amazing old homes was enough to make me really happy.

I almost had a come-apart in Atlanta when I finally saw a real alligator and an albino one at that! One of my major goals while in the South was to see an alligator. I’d been to Florida in September, and was sorely disappointed I didn’t get to see one then. The alligator I did see was at the  Atlanta aquarium. It was amazing, really. It breathtaking. I missed the Coke experience by a few minutes (it closed), but I’d like to see that at some point.

Oh Atlanta.

Oh Atlanta.

Asheville. I understand why the second Sierra Nevada is there. It has a Chico vibe to it. I made the treck to the second Sierra Nevada, like all Chico natives should. It was a glorious building and the food was fabulous. We went out on the town after Sierra Nevada and again I had a ball! It was freezing and snowed while I was there, but the amazing music and people made the cold bearable. I’d love to go back to Asheville and spend a few days, it deserves it.

Sierra Nevada, Asheville

Sierra Nevada, Asheville

 

The Food

Let’s talk about the food now. Southern food is better. There I said it. I can simply never go back to how I was before. I actually ate skin from fried chicken and loved it. Sweet tea is nectar from the gods, and BBQ is mana.

I miss the food.

I miss the food.

I actually tried to experience as much regional food as I could. Blue Bell Ice Cream? Check. Duke’s mayonnaise? Check. Boiled peanuts? So good. White Lily Flour? Took 10 pounds home. 30 pound Country Ham?  It was in my carry-on. Okra, I love it now. Fried pickles? I have a recipe. White BBQ sauce? White yum.  (if you send me Duke’s or Lily White, I’ll send you jam, jelly, pickles or California olive oil).

I did my best to bring as much home as I could.

I did my best to bring as much home as I could.

I’ve experienced SAW’S, Dreamland BBQ and Jim and Nick’s. BBQ is not a joke down there. It changed me. Southern’s do magic with a grill and some smoke. Magic, I tell you. If you haven’t experienced real southern BBQ go ahead and just book yourself a flight and go find some. Do it. I’ve been working very hard on recreating many of the dishes I had while in the South, I’m getting good, but it’s just not the same.

My first time at Waffle House. I was very, very, excited.

My first time at Waffle House. I was very, very, excited.

Waffle House. Oh my Lawd, I did not know.  I mean, I’d heard some great things from Anthony Bourdain. But Waffle House is something you must experience to understand completely. Drunk college kids in California do not know how amazing Waffle House is and what they are missing. I was urged to try and have a drunk Waffle House experience, I did, in Birmingham, and was again one of the more glorious experiences of my life. Drunk southerner’s, amazing waffles and smothered hash browns – it should be a reality show.

I loved it there.

I loved it there.

Cracker Barrel – food, candy, clothes, games, all the things. Cracker Barrel is like the mecca of the South. Go there, rock in a rocking chair, eat some chicken and dumplings, and pay your respects.

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The People

Southerner’s are nice. They are friendly. Pleasantries are exchanged at every opportunity. They buy you a lot of drinks when they hear you are from California. They have manners. Door’s are held open, ‘bless you’ said after a sneezes, polite chat is made.

I loved it. I always embarrassed my friends and family because I will randomly start conversations with people. In the South, it felt like you were rude if you didn’t. I’m pretty sure I belong there.

The homes!!

The homes!!

I never really harbored the idea of ever living anywhere but on the Ranch, here in California (this is God’s country after all) but after seeing the southeast, I daydream about owning a little farm in Tennessee. Or Georgia, or anywhere. Seriously, The South is America’s travel secret.

I just renewed my passport and was starting to plan another trip back to Europe. But I’ve decided I’d rather spend my money and time in the South. Learn more my own history and culture.

So I’ve started planning my trip back this winter. A couple of my girlfriends are looking into going back in December or January. I’m in my early stages of planning but I’m thinking maybe about flying into Nashville, doing a bourbon tour, going up to Bristol, Asheville and leaving out of Atlanta. However, I know I have lots of Southern friends, so I am open to suggestions. Is there something I need to experience? Tell me! Give me advice!

But in the meantime if you an agricultural organization and you need a speaker, panelist or moderator, let me know. I’ll waive my fee, just pay for my flight and a bed and point me to the nearest BBQ joint when we are done.

 

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, Field Trip, food, Humor, photos, Uncategorized

White Bean and Collards Soup 

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Remember a few months back when I posted the collards recipe? Well since then I’ve become even more obsessed with Southern Food and have made collards like 10 times as part of my “practicing”. It’s great though! Collards freeze so well, I always have a stash of leftovers in my freezer for soups and easy meals!

This soup is one of my current favorites. It’s hearty, flavorful and and deeply comforting. It’s also one of those soups that I can toss together fairly effortlessly since I tend to usually have all the ingredients in my freezer or pantry. It’s also great for tossing leftover things into. I had some extra parmesan cheese rind and some tortellini that I used the first time I made this and I cannot imagine not using those again!

See that big white thing? It's the rind from some parmesan cheese I used. Never through that away. Freeze it and add to soup bases. Just remember to fish it out before you serve your soup.

See that big white thing? It’s the rind from some parmesan cheese I used. Never throw that away. Freeze it and add to soup bases. Just remember to fish it out before you serve your soup.

It also freezes really well. Since I do live alone I always have a crapton of leftovers. It’s great though because I ALWAYS have a selection of soup frozen in our deep freezer. If you ever got a cold and need some TLC in the form of soup, call your friendly neighborhood rancher and I’ll take care of you.

White Bean and Collards Soup

1 package of white beans
1 onion, chopped
5 carrots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart chicken or beef broth (I usually use chicken and it usually has hunks of chicken in it because that’s how I use up my chicken carcasses)
Leftover collards (including the sweet, sweet pot likker)
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf (remember to fish that sucker out before you serve)
1 package tortellini (optional)

This step adds more flavor!

This step adds more flavor!

Soak the beans overnight in water. Rinse and discard any sub-par beans. Saute your onion and carrots in oil until they start to soften. Add garlic and stir. Add beans, leftover collards, broth and spices. Add water to cover all the ingredients if needed. Cover and simmer for one hour. Add tortellini and serve with some good crusty bread.

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, food, Know a California Farmer, meat, photos, Ranch life, Uncategorized