Simple Living Archive


Back to Basics with Fermentation

Monday, September 15th, 2014

For thousands of years, people have been using fermentation as a nourishing way to eat and preserve a variety of foods including vegetables, fruits, milk, grains, beans, meats, and more. Only in the last century has our culture distanced itself from this traditional approach to nutrition and adopted an industrialized food system complete with highly processed and genetically modified foods.

This month, we are celebrating Chelsea Green authors that are committed to bringing the nutrient-dense, traditional foods and preparation methods of our past back into the mainstream.

The fermentation revivalist himself, Sandor Katz, deserves to be recognized as one such revolutionary. Katz is the author of Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentationa New York Times Bestseller and the definitive guide to do-it-yourself home fermentation.

His books have inspired a new generation of home fermenters—even author Michael Pollan caught the bug. “Sandor Katz writes about the transformative power of fermentation with such infectious enthusiasm that he makes you want to try things just to see what happens,” writes Pollan in his foreword to The Art of Fermentation.

With Katz’s simple, 4-step method to fermenting vegetables, attempting a homemade sauerkraut has never been easier. All it takes is Chop, Salt, Pack, and Wait. Check out the excerpt below for details.

And, here are some other books featured in our series on nourishing foods…
The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet by certified holistic health counselor Hilary Boynton and whole-foods advocate Mary G. Brackett – You’ll find additional info on this restorative diet and a sampling of appealing, family-friendly recipes here.

Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection by chef and food activist Jessica Prentice – With recipes that display the richly satisfying flavors of foods tied to the ancient rhythm of the seasons, this book will resonate with anyone interested in traditional food philosophies like the Paleo diet, the Weston A. Price approach to nutrition, and, of course, fermentation.

Fermented Vegetables: The Basics

(The following excerpt from The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz has been adapted for the web)

The English language does not have its own word for fermented vegetables. It would not be inaccurate to describe fermented vegetables as “pickled,” but pickling covers much ground beyond fermentation.

Pickles are anything preserved by acidity. Most contemporary pickles are not fermented at all; instead they rely upon highly acidic vinegar (a product of fermentation), usually heated in order to sterilize vegetables, preserving them by destroying rather than cultivating microorganisms. “For pickles, fermentation was the primary means of preservation until the 1940s, when direct acidification and pasteurization of cucumber pickles was introduced,” writes Fred Breidt of the USDA.

My vegetable ferments are usually concoctions that do not fit any homogeneous traditional ideal of either German sauerkraut or Korean kimchi. But of course, everything I’ve learned about sauerkraut and kimchi reveal that neither of them constitutes a homogeneous tradition. They are highly varied, from regional specialties to family secrets. Nonetheless, certain techniques underlie both (and many other related) traditions, and my practice is a rather free-form application of these basic techniques rather than an attempt to reproduce any particular notion of authenticity.

In a nutshell, the steps I typically follow when I ferment vegetables are:

1. Chop or grate vegetables.

2. Lightly salt the chopped veggies (add more as necessary to taste), and pound or squeeze until moist; alternatively, soak the veggies in a brine solution for a few hours.

3. Pack the vegetables into a jar or other vessel, tightly, so that they are forced below the liquid. Add water, if necessary.

4. Wait, taste frequently, and enjoy!

Of course there is more information and nuance, but really, “Chop, Salt, Pack, Wait” is what most of it amounts to.

Photo: Sandor Katz illustration by Michael Tonn
Photo: Shredded vegetables in jar by Devitree

Take it Slow: 15 Life Lessons from a Unicyclist

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Have you ever wanted to slow down, let life’s winds wobble you, and devote yourself to the act of anticipation rather than immediacy? Simple. Learn how to ride a unicycle. Or, if that’s not your speed you could follow a few of author Mark Schimmoeller’s thoughtful, guiding principles.

Even for those of us who have never experienced the peculiar pleasure of seeing the world from atop a unicycle, Schimmoeller’s lessons are relatable and strike a deeply human chord. Take a read through his book, Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America, and you’ll see what we mean.

His memoir is about more than a cross-country trip on a unicycle; it’s a meditation on a way of life that Americans find increasingly rare: one that practices a playful, recalcitrant slowness.

Peppered throughout the book are what Schimmoeller considers his “guiding principles”—moments of often humorous, pithy advice on how unicycling is inherently connected with the nature of slowness and the art of getting there, no matter where “there” exists. Fifteen of these principles from Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America are listed below.

In Schimmoeller’s characteristically unassuming way, these best practices appear to be for fellow unicyclists, but truthfully he is reminding us that it isn’t the means of transportation that matters.

These ruminations on the importance of mindfulness end up speaking to each of us, if not as literal unicyclists, then as travelers traversing often rocky terrain without stopping to enjoy the view.

Could you benefit from taking a moment to slow down to a unicyclist’s pace? How many of the following guiding principles can you relate to? Share your favorite on Facebook or Twitter today using #slowspoke.

15 Life Lessons from a Unicyclist

(adapted from Slowspoke: A Unicyclists Guide to America by Mark Schimmoeller)

  1. Relax the emphasis on arrival.
  2. In squandering time you demonstrate its availability.
  3. Unicyclists must become devotees of anticipation.
  4. If you find yourself looking up at the sky instead of at the terrain in front of your wheel, it’s likely you have fallen.
  5. Don’t go on a straight road unless you can curb your desire to get someplace.
  6. Adventure begins only from a feeling of security.
  7. Motion without consideration of beginnings and endings can shelter a unicyclist from time and speed and progress.
  8. The art of unicycling is knowing, in part, when to give in to desire.
  9. It doesn’t make a difference one way or the other if a unicyclist takes a break.
  10. The act of falling partway plus corrections equals movement.
  11. The simple act of reducing your velocity…could eliminate a significant number of sharp turns in the world.
  12. It’s conceivable that someone could study wobbliness long enough to discover a corollary of strength.
  13. When it comes to attracting the opposite sex, don’t compete with bicyclists.
  14. There are limits, too, to slowness on a unicycle…The pace should inch just ahead of sorrow.
  15. A unicycle is who you are. For whatever reason, you are not any other form of transportation. You are a unicycle. Please love yourself.

Photo: Roger Cornfoot, Wikimedia Commons

The Endless Arugula Bed

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Want to save time and money while enjoying your greens as soon as possible in the spring? Consider extending your growing season by overwintering your crops—it’s both frugal and forward thinking.

Ben Falk, author of The Resilient Farm and Homestead, experimented with a bed of arugula by planting it in late September. Using a simple structure of quick hoops and greenhouse film to overwinter the crop, he was able to harvest the sweetest, most flavorful arugula he has ever tasted as early as mid-March!

Try producing your own endless bed of arugula, or experiment with another crop of your choosing, using these instructions from Falk’s book. If you do, you’re sure to have an ample supply of pesto in your future from your excess harvest.

The Resilient Farm and Homestead

New Inspiring Books from our Publishing Partners

Friday, August 29th, 2014

From learning how to address personal, social, and environmental concerns in simple practical steps in our daily lives to building a low-impact roundhouse, we’re bringing a handful of new books to US readers for the first time.

At Chelsea Green Publishing, we partner with like-minded publishers and writers around the world to bring their books on sustainable living to a wider readership in the United States. Below is the latest selection of books available from one of our strongest publishing partners, Permanent Publications. They publish books that encourage people to live more healthy and resilient lives, as well as the internationally recognized magazine Permaculture: Practical Solutions for Self-Reliance which is read in 77 countries.

New Books from Permanent Publications:

Sacred Earth Celebrations explores the eight Celtic festivals, how they were celebrated and understood in the past, the underlying changing energy of the Earth, and the ways we may use this energy to create meaningful celebrations for today to deepen our connection to the Earth and our fellow human beings. It is an uplifting and inspiring source book for anyone seeking to celebrate and honor the changing rhythms and seasons of the Earth and her cycles.

Building a Low Impact Roundhouse is a captivating story of one of the UK’s most unique homes. Now in its third edition, Author Tony Wrench shares his many years of experience, skills, and techniques used to build this affordable low-impact home. He offers advice on roofs, floors, walls, compost toilets, wood stoves, kitchens, windows, and planning permission. Complete with color photographs of life in and around the dwelling, this is both an engaging story and a practical “how to” manual for anyone who loves the idea of low-impact living.

The Unselfish Spirit is an essential twenty-first-century guide to unlocking the secrets of how we as a race can collectively grow our consciousness to solve the complex web of challenges that threaten life on Earth. Author Mick Collins draws inspiration from such diverse fields as cosmology, new biology, and quantum physics, along with insights from depth psychology, occupational science, and mysticism. More than just a learned exploration about psycho-spiritual transformation, this book is a pathway to evolving entirely new ways of living creatively and harmoniously as a species.

7 Ways to Think Differently explores ways to address personal, social, and environmental concerns in simple practical steps in our daily lives, helping us to make incremental, achievable changes. As well as addressing our internal landscapes, author Looby Macnamara explains how individuals and communities can work together to achieve positive change. This book is for anyone who wants to make a difference in the world. It offers potent medicine for a world full of challenges. (this book is available September 24, 2014)

Easy to Make Drying Trays

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Looking for a way to enjoy the edibles from your summer garden into the winter months? Expand the lifespan of your fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, and herbs at home by making your own drying trays.

Assembling your own trays and drying produce at home is easy, environmentally friendly, and inexpensive—not to mention you can reap the benefits of your summer harvest all year long!

For more preserving techniques like this one (as well as recipes), read Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canningon sale now for 50% off until September 7!

How to: Drying Methods and Materials

Photo: Leslie Seaton, Wikimedia Commons

One Man, One Wheel, and the Open Road

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Mark Schimmoeller’s Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America is about more than a cross-country trip on a unicycle; it’s a meditation on a way of life that Americans find increasingly rare: one that practices a playful, recalcitrant slowness. Award-winning author Janisse Ray (The Seed Underground) identifies with this pace.

“Schimmoeller’s narrative—of his slow and deliberate journey across the country, of his homesteading off-the-grid life in rural Kentucky, and of his battle to save old-growth forests from the developer’s ax—demonstrates that one’s worth is not defined by how much can be accomplished in five minutes, days, or even years, but by what is done with that time,” writes Ray in her foreword to Slowspoke.

She goes on to impress how important a book like this is for our throw-away society. “I really love Slowspoke. It has made me happier than any book in a long time, because it’s the kind of thinking that humankind needs right now, in that it asks that we claim what we value—what we believe in, what we call precious—and divine how to preserve it.” Read Ray’s full foreword, along with all of chapter 2, in the excerpt below.

Author Bill McKibben echoes Ray’s sentiment, “This is just the kind of epic we need right now—humble, sweet, and very deep indeed. As good a travel story—within and without—as you’ll read anytime soon!”

Schimmoeller’s writing style engages you right from the beginning. You feel an intimate connection with him as he guides you seemlessly through his past, present, and even subconscious recollections. “There are books like this that are so nice that, like Holden Caufield, you want to call up the author and tell him (or her) what a great job he (or she) has done,” writes a reviewer from RALPH Mag (The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and Humanities).

“This is not only the tale of a man on a unicycle, one who has turned his back on freeways and power plants and supermarkets and television. More, it’s a man who has honed a fine edge to what he has learned: what works, what doesn’t work, what you need, what you don’t need in life; details that end up making Slowspoke a classic.”

Why a unicycle? Why a cross-country trip? Why leave a prominent New York magazine and return to the simple life in Kentucky?

These are all logical questions you might find yourself contemplating when settling in to read Slowspoke. However, as Schimmoeller introduces you to his slow pace and draws you in to his simple world, answers are revealed.

“My parents gave me a unicycle for an Easter present when I was twelve,” Schimmoeller writes. “About the time my classmates began focusing on four wheels, I became obsessed with one. Unicyclists, it occurred to me, experience arrival less often than others. They must become devotees of anticipation. Rushing, I learned under the tutelage of my unicycle—whether down the driveway or toward adulthood—would cause a fall. Instead, after school and on the weekends, my task was to dwell in inefficiency, to wrinkle speed, to arrive somewhere only after much ambling about.”

Written with poise and humor, Slowspoke earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, who described it as a, “profoundly simple, funny, and sincere memoir.”

Anyone who has gone back to the land or wondered if they could, who has slowed down to experience life at a unicycle’s speed or who longs to do so, who has fallen in love, who has treasured tall trees or mourned their loss, will find a voice in Slowspoke.

Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America is on sale for 35% off until August 7th.

Slowspoke: Foreword and Ch 2

DIY: Make Whole Fruit Jam

Monday, July 28th, 2014

The supply of fresh summer fruit is about to be in abundance and before you know it, apples and pumpkins will abound.

If you’re lucky and berries or stone fruits are providing a bountiful array of flavor, try this easy method of preserving them: whole fruit jam.

This recipe relies on the natural sugars in fruit to provide a balanced flavor and sweetness in this complimentary spread.  Preserve the last of your seasonal fruit simply – no added sugar and no freezing.

The following is an excerpt from Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning by the Gardeners and Farmers of Terre Vivante:

Sugar is a practical and economical method of food preservation—so much so that we tend to overindulge, and make jams that contain more sugar than fruit! When we discover that excess sugar is one of the great scourges of the modern diet, we might think it best to renounce jams completely. Besides, replacing white sugar with brown sugar is only a relative improvement. Whole or raw sugar (evaporated juice from sugar cane) would be a better substitute, but its strong flavor often masks the taste of the fruit.

The solution to this problem is twofold: avoid eating too much jam and other sugary foods, and make these foods using far less added sugar, or none at all. Knowing and applying these techniques, we can continue to preserve food properly and successfully. For example, certain jams made with very little sugar must be refrigerated once opened, preferably in small jars, to prevent premature spoilage. For those recipes that require sugar, we will use either brown or whole sugar. Other recipes are “sugar-free,” or use honey instead.

Note that the term “sugar-free jam” in essence is a contradiction in terms, since by definition, sugar is the preservative agent in jams. To be more precise, we should discuss “jams with no added sugar.” In reality, jam already contains sugar: both glucose and fructose, which naturally occur in all fruit.

Jams with no added sugar were not invented by health-food advocates wanting to reduce their sugar consumption. These preserves are an old tradition dating back to a time when sugar was scarce and expensive (or even nonexistent). Three classic examples, and the most commonly known jams of this type, are pommé (apple jelly), poiré (pear jelly), and raisiné (grape jelly). The first two have been made for centuries in certain regions of northern Europe, particularly Belgium and Germany, whereas the raisiné is a tradition of Périgord in southwestern France. Carob “honey” is a similar preserve that is found in the Middle East, Galilee (recipe follows in this chapter). All these preserves share this common feature: They are made from the juice only, and not from the whole fruit. Thus, they are jellies or thick syrups, rather than jams. Their preparation is based on this simple principle: Prolonged cooking evaporates enough water to concentrate enough of the naturally occurring sugars for preservation to take place. Jams from whole fruit can also be prepared by following the same principle. In general, after pouring hot jam or jelly into a jar and sealing it, turn the jar upside down. This will sterilize any air remaining in the jar and ensure preservation. It’s also a good idea to store the jars upside down.

Whole Fruit Jam
Very ripe fruit (any type)
A preserving pan or large saucepan
Canning jars and lids

This method is good for all types of fruit, including grapes, greengage plums, and so on. Use fruit that is very ripe; simply cut and crush it roughly. Bring the fruit to a boil; then cook it over very low heat for a very long time.

It is impossible to recommend a precise cooking time, since this depends on the type of fruit used, and its ripeness and water content, both of which vary from one year to the next. In any case, you should allow as much water as possible to evaporate. Stir often, because certain fruits have a tendency to stick during cooking. The jam is ready when it does not run off of the spoons but forms a bead that sticks to the spoon. At this stage pour the jam into scalded screw-top jars. It will keep for at least two years.

Dried Tomato Recipes: Enjoy Your Harvest All Year Long

Monday, July 7th, 2014

As your tomatoes start ripening on the vine this season, think ahead to how you want to preserve your summer harvest and enjoy it all year long.

Here are a few versatile dried tomato recipes that are easy to make and don’t require freezing or canning.

For more recipes using traditional preserving techniques like salt, oil, drying, cold storage, vinegar, and fermentation, read Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning by the Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivante.

Tomatoes Dried Naturally

  • Tomatoes
  • Almond oil (or another mild oil)
  • A clean rag
  • Drying apparatus
  • A glass jar

Tomatoes are by far the vegetable most often preserved by drying in various forms.

We prefer to use the ‘Beefsteak’ variety, a pulpy tomato with fewer seeds.

Peel the tomatoes. (If this poses a problem, soak them for a few seconds in boiling water.) Cut them lengthwise (from bottom to top) into slices approximately 1/4-inch thick and remove the seeds. Place the slices on a clean rag to absorb the juice. Oil the dryer screen lightly, preferably with mild almond oil, so that the slices will not stick. When the slices are dry on one side, turn them over; they will be hard when dry. Store the tomatoes well packed in a glass jar.

To use, pour one cup of boiling water over one-half to three-quarter ounces of dried tomatoes per person, and leave them to soften for a few minutes. Add a teaspoon of olive oil, season to your tate, and serve with a purée or a grain dish. We also add these tomatoes to grains or vegetables that are nearly done cooking.

Odile Angeard, Cognin

Stuffed Dried Tomatoes in Oil

  • Tomatoes
  • Parsley
  • Garlic
  • Anchovy fillets (optional)
  • Fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • Oil
  • Drying apparatus
  • A glass jar

I dry my tomatoes in a solar dryer, cut in half and seeded (easily done with a small spoon). When the tomatoes are dry, stuff a little finely chopped parsley and garlic between the two halves. If you like, add an anchovy fillet, or a basil leaf. Place the reassembled tomatoes in a jar and cover with oil. These are delicious added to a salad during winter.

Anonymous

Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Oil

Variation 1:

  • 4 lbs. tomatoes
  • 1 lb. coarse salt
  • Oil
  • Drying apparatus
  • Gauze
  • A clean, dry cloth
  • Glass jars

Choose very ripe, small, oblong tomatoes. The Italian variety “Principe Borghese’ is an excellent drier, as are many smaller plum or “paste” tomatoes.

Cut the tomatoes in half, place them on a tray set in the sun, add salt, and cover with gauze to protect from insects. During the day, turn the tomatoes over twice; at night, bring them inside to protect from moisture.

A few days later, when you see that they are very dry but not totally dehydrated, remove some of the salt with a clean, dry cloth. Put the tomatoes into jars and cover them with approximately three-quarters of an inch of oil over the tomatoes, coming up to three-eights of an inch below the rim. Close the jars tightly and store them in a cool place. In Italy, tomatoes preserved in this manner are eaten as hors d’oeuvres, with no additional preparation.

Marie-Christine Martinot-Aronica, St. Dizier

Variation 2:

  • Tomatoes
  • Vinegar
  • Hot peppers, mint leaves, or whole garlic cloves (optional)
  • Oil
  • Drying apparatus
  • A glass jar

Choose tomatoes that are firm and completely intact, preferably plum tomatoes. Cut them in half lengthwise. Allow them to dry on trays in the sun, bringing them in whenever it is humid, and in at night to avoid dampness. When they are dry, soak the tomatoes in warm vinegar for twenty minutes. Drain and put them in a jar, alternating layers of tomatoes with one or two hot peppers, mint leaves, or whole cloves of garlic. Press well to allow any air to escape, and then cover with oil. These tomatoes will keep for a very long time. We eat them as hors d’oeuvres or with rice, pasta, meat, or fish.

Babette Cezza, Vergt

Build a Wood-Fired Oven in Your Backyard

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Ever dreamed of building a wood-fired oven and baking crispy pizzas, flatbreads, pastries, or even braising meats in your own backyard? Dream no longer, as you’re sure to find inspiration in Richard Miscovich’s book, From the Wood-Fired Oven: New and Traditional Techniques for Cooking and Baking with Fire.

Miscovich, a bread expert and instructor, offers a wide range of useful recipes for home and artisan bakers as well as oven designs, live-fire roasting techniques, and methods that maximize the oven’s complete heat cycle, from the initial firing to its final cooling. In the excerpt below you’ll find a few general masonry design recommendations to get you thinking about how to turn your dream wood-fired oven into a reality.

For an in-depth bread baking tutorial from Miscovich, check out his online class, Handmade Sourdough: From Starter to Baked Loaf, at Craftsy.com.

General Masonry Oven Design Tips by Chelsea Green Publishing

How to Cook the Perfect, Tender, Grass Fed Steak

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Today is Memorial Day, one of America’s first “BBQ Holidays” of the year. It’s finally warm enough to grill outside in most of the country, and almost everyone has the day off to bask in the glory of the coming summer.

Treat your tastebuds to an ethical feast: grill up some grass fed steak this year! You’ll probably pay a little more for your t-bones, but you’ll be supporting small-scale farmers and those who use the most planet-friendly methods of raising livestock possible. In fact, if you support truly well-managed grass fed beef farmers, you don’t need to feel guilty at all. After all, haven’t you heard that cows can save the planet? It’s true…

But in the meantime, you probably need some pointers on how to treat your premium, pasture-raised porterhouse cuts or filet mignons. Grass fed beef is a different animal than your bargain-priced grocery store steak.

Here to help you cook it to perfection is farmer and cookbook author Shannon Hayes. Check out her books Long Way on a Little, and The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook for more amazing recipes.

By Shannon Hayes

The simplest, most commonly heard distinction made between grassfed and factory-farmed meat is that grassfed is leaner. As we’ve just seen, that is not always the case. The real difference lies in the fact that, by virtue of a beef animal’s active and healthy life, there is true muscle integrity in the meat. This is wildly different from the feedlot animals, which get little or no exercise, resulting in more flaccid (and, hence less flavorful) cuts. This does not mean that grassfed steaks are less tender - on the contrary. Cooked more gently, grassfed meat is wonderfully tender. The healthy muscle texture does, however, mean that grassfed steaks will be more variable than grainfed meats. Taste and texture of steaks will vary based on breed, farming practices, pastures, and individual animal characteristics. Thus, the trick to cooking a delicious steak is to work with the variability and take advantage of that beautiful muscle quality.

We should be treating this meat as “tenderly” in the kitchen or on the grill as the farmers treated the animals in the fields. When cooking a grassfed steak, we want to achieve a delicious sear that creates a pleasant light crust on the exterior of the meat, then allow it to finish cooking at a much lower temperature; this allows the naturally-occurring sugars to caramelize on the surface, while protecting those muscle fibers from contracting too quickly. Tough grassfed steaks result from over-exposure to high heat, which causes the muscle fibers to contract tightly and become chewy and overly dry.

Keeping these principles in mind, below are two techniques for cooking a fantastic steak, using the same seasonings. The first technique, taken from The Farmer and the Grill, is for working outdoors with open flames, my preferred method, YEAR ROUND. If you plan on winter grilling, be sure to check out the list of tips for safe winter grilling that appear at the end of this article.

The second technique is taken from my newest cookbook, Long Way on a Little: An Earth Lovers’ Companion for Enjoying Meat, Pinching Pennies and Living Deliciously. Much to my surprise, not every family on the North American continent has access to an outdoor grill – hard to believe! Thus, in an effort to include you in the thrill that comes from eating the best-tasting steak available, I’ve included an indoor steak recipe that guarantees your grassfed meat will remain tender and juicy. Enjoy!

THE BEST STEAK – OUTDOORS

Recipe adapted from Farmer and the Grill: A Guide to Grilling, Barbecuing and Spit-Roasting Grassfed Meat…and for saving the planet, one bite at a time, by Shannon Hayes

(The amount of seasoning you will use will vary based on the size of your steak. If it is close to one pound, use less. If it is closer to 2 pounds, use more.)

  • 1-2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Either 1 sirloin, sirloin tip, tri-tip, top round or London Broil, rib eye, porterhouse, t-bone, top loin (NY Strip) or tenderloin (filet mignon) steak. Steaks should be at least 1 ¼ – 1 ½ inches thick.

Combine the salt, pepper and garlic in a small bowl. Rub the mixture into both sides of the steak, then allow the meat to come to room temperature while you prepare the grill.

Start the grill and warm it until it is hot. If you are using a gas grill, turn off all but one of the burners once it has come up to temperature. If you are using charcoal, be sure all the coals have been raked to one side. Use the hand test: the grate will be hot enough when you can hold your palm 3-4 inches above the metal for no more than three seconds.

Sear the steaks for 2-3 minutes on each side directly over the flame, with the lid down. Then, move the steaks to the part of grill that is not lit. Set the lid in place and allow the steaks to cook, without flipping them, until they reach 120-135 degrees**, about 10-20 minutes, depending on the size of the steak. Remove the steaks to a platter and allow them to rest a few minutes before serving.

THE BEST STEAK – INDOORS

Recipe taken from Long Way on a Little: An Earth Lovers’ Companion for Enjoying Meat, Pinching Pennies and Living Deliciously, by Shannon Hayes

(The amount of seasoning you will use will vary based on the size of your steak. If it is close to one pound, use less. If it is closer to 2 pounds, use more.)

  • 1-2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter, tallow or rendered lamb fat
  • Either 1 sirloin, sirloin tip, tri-tip, top round or London Broil, rib eye, porterhouse, t-bone, top loin (NY Strip) or tenderloin (filet mignon) steak. Steaks should be at least 1 ¼ – 1 ½ inches thick.

Combine the salt, pepper and garlic in a small bowl. Rub the mixture into both sides of the steak then allow the meat to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, then heat a large cast iron skillet or other oven-proof skillet over a high flame. Once the skillet is so hot that you can see a little smoke rising off of it, add the butter or fat. Sear the steak for two minutes on each side. Turn off the flame, and insert an instant-read meat thermometer into the boneless edge of the steak – do not insert it into the top, as there is not enough thickness for the thermometer to take an accurate reading. Leaving the steak in the skillet, place it in the oven and allow it to finish cooking, about 10-20 minutes depending on the size of the cut, until the internal temperature reads 120-135 degrees.** Allow the meat to rest five minutes before carving and serving.

**Weren’t aware that grassfed meats have different internal doneness temps than grainfed? Get a handy magnetic grassfed temperature guide, the Don’t Overdo It Magnet, from grassfedcooking.com. They’re inexpensive, and you can feel good about them, because they are made by a small, locally owned factory in my community.

WINTER GRILLING TIPS

Yes, the indoor method described above is terrific. The meat is super-tender and juicy. But I prefer to season with a little smoke and flame. Thus, I’ve become one of those hard-core advocates of year-round grilling. If you are new to the idea, here are a few tips to get you started.

  1. Choose a safe place for grilling outdoors. The garage may not be your best bet, since it probably contains a few explosives, such as cans of gas, or lawn mowers, chainsaws or other vehicles that contain gasoline. I actually have a screened-in porch with a brick floor that shelters me for winter grilling. That’s a little more deluxe than most folks have – just try to choose a sheltered spot that isn’t too close to your house.
  2. Keep the path to your grill site, and the area around it, free of snow and ice. It would be deeply annoying to ruin a perfectly good dinner because of a last-minute trip to the emergency room.
  3. Dress wisely. I find that my charcoal throws up a lot more sparks in the winter…or perhaps I’ve just noticed them more, because I’ve made the stupid mistake on occasion of wearing drapey and flammable garments, such as winter scarves, out to the coals. Learn from my experience, and don’t make the same stupid mistake.
  4. Limit your grilling repertoire. It’s cold out. Barbecuing is a culinary tradition from the warm south. Unless you have some pretty sophisticated equipment, and are some kind of BBQ Macho-Man (you know who you are), smoking and barbecuing are best relegated to summertime pleasures. Stick to the steaks, burgers and chops. They minimize the trips out to the grill, keeping the cold out of your house and out of your bones.
  5. Allow extra heat-up and cook times. Extreme outdoor temperatures will affect the warm-up and cooking time of your grill. To accommodate for this, always grill with the lid down, and monitor the internal temperature of your meat with an instant-read meat thermometer. If you are considering buying a gas grill and you plan to use it through the winter, buy the highest BTU rating you can afford. The cold truly slows the heat-up process. Also, high BTUs often accompany higher quality grills, which will do a better job holding in the heat during the winter months. If you are on a budget (like me) or just prefer the flavor (like me), a simple little Weber charcoal kettle will work beautifully for outdoor winter grilling (no, I do not work for them).
    Winter grilling is much easier if you are working with the ecologically responsible charwood (available in many hardware or natural food stores) because it is much easier to light, and it quickly gets a lot hotter than composite briquettes. I find that, with the exception of the most extreme weather conditions, I can keep to my normal cook times by simply using a few more coals in the fire. The bonus is that charwood is better for the planet.

    For more tips on ecologically responsible grilling, check out my book,
    The Farmer and the Grill: A Guide to Grilling, Barbecuing and Spit-Roasting Grassfed Meat…And for saving the planet, one bite at a time. 

Shannon Hayes is the host of grassfedcooking.com and radicalhomemakers.com. She is the author of Radical Homemakers, Farmer and the Grill, and The Grassfed Gourmet. Hayes works with her family producing grassfed and pastured meats on Sap Bush Hollow Farm in Upstate New York.


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