Tag Archive | hormone free beef

Making Your Own Cottonwood Bud Oil

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Spring time in the Rockies!   What a beautiful time of year!   The grass is beginning to grow, the baby calves are being born and it looks like summer is within sight!

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We recently watched a reality show where the people made their year’s supply of a wonderful salve that they claimed to use on everything from sore muscles to diaper rash.   Also known as balm of gilead, the salve contains a bounty of medicinal properties.   It’s made from cottonwood buds whose resin contains “salicin” – which is the same compound that gives aspirin it’s pain relieving, anti-inflammatory benefits.   Using the balm as an external rub will reduce joint pain (as with arthritis and rheumatism) and will ease sore muscles.

Because cottonwood is high in antioxidants, it is useful for healing the skin, including sunburn.   The buds are also antiseptic and can be added to other oils to prevent rancidity and molding.

Since we live on a creek bottom full of cottonwood trees, my interest was piqued.

The best time to harvest the buds is in late winter to early spring – so I grabbed a plastic bucket and headed for the woods.

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I picked these buds in early February – they were just beginning to swell.   You can see the little drop of resin.

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While most recipes called for placing the buds in olive oil, I did find one recipe that used rendered beef fat.   I have LOTS of that – beautiful grassfed beef fat – rendered and frozen in blocks.   It got my vote!

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I placed the frozen fat in my crock pot and put the temperature on low to let it melt.   After removing the buds from the twigs I had gathered, they were chopped quickly in a blender.

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Then, I combined the melted beef fat with the chopped buds in the crock pot – and gently simmered for about 48 hours.   Upon waking on the second morning, our house had a wonderful, aromatic smell!   The resin from the buds had turned the rendered fat a slightly orange-ish hue.

I strained the mixture through cheesecloth, wringing to extract all of the oil.   At this point, the oil is done – but it is runny (like a baby oil consistency).   I wanted to use it more like a salve, so the oil was then warmed with a small amount of candellila wax to “thicken” it.   Use about 1 ounce of wax to 5 ounces of oil.

It was poured into jars and then cooled, sealing with a canning lid.   Store your salve in a cool, dark place.

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A note of caution – I have read that people who are allergic to aspirin may also be allergic to cottonwood bud oil.   Please check with your doctor before using if this is the case.

This lovely salve has been our “go to” for arthritis pain and sore muscle rubs.   It helped a friend who rubbed it on his elbow afflicted with tendonitis, and it calmed an injection site from a tetanus shot.   I think we will be gathering cottonwood buds for years to come!

Sous vide……..What a Great New Way to Cook!

The holidays are always greatly anticipated at our house, especially when we are privileged to host our family and friends. We go into high gear – and this year, it was even more fun than usual.

A couple of weeks ago, a new-found friend had been explaining a cooking technique he used. It was called sous vide. What??? How do you spell that?

It's French, pronounced “soo veed” and it means “under vacuum”. After our friend's animated description, we looked at each other and decided we just had to check into this technique a bit further. Off to the Internet we went, reading different recipes and understanding the whole concept of this type of cooking. The sous vide technique cooks your food in a vacuum sealed bag while it is submerged in a water bath at a precisely controlled temperature —- whew! That's a mouthful!

In a nutshell, you take your piece of meat, for example, and place your favorite spices, fruits, and/or rubs inside the bag. Vacuum seal the bag closed and submerge it in the sous vide cooker. It is preset to a special temperature and the cooker will hold water within one degree of that temperature for the entire period of time it cooks. The natural flavors and juices are locked inside the bag as it cooks. The nutrients found in the food are retained – compared to grilling or baking, where they may evaporate or stay within the pan.

The time and temperature that you cook your meat varies. We did a brisket for 48 hours (yup, you heard it right!). Beef tenderloin – 4 to 6 hours. Pork tenderloin took 6-8 hours and salmon was done in fifty minutes. Each cut of meat was sealed in it's own bag with it's own variety of seasonings. The low, slow way of cooking made the meat OH so tender and moist.

We chose to purchase a sous vide cooker, but have been told that you can make your own by purchasing a heating element and circulator on-line. I will tell you that the cooker, itself, was pricey – but we seldom go out to eat and I would liken the price to a fancy dinner out for four. The water temperature and the cooking time determine the “done-ness” of the food – so special attention was given to the cooking manual!

Not to be outdone by the main dish, we had to have some homemade Thanksgiving bread to complete the look. We made a batch of dough, shaped the rolls into balls and scored the sides with a sharp knife. As the dough rose, it spread apart and gave the appearance of a little pumpkin. We stuck a nut in the top to give it a stem – and off to the oven they went.

After a wonderful day of great family, friends, and food – we paused to say “thanks” for another holiday….and bustled off to the car to go see Santa!!

 

The Love in a Mother’s Milk

Sometimes nature can be so cruel. A storm has taken hold of eastern Colorado, dropping a good twelve inches of snow. We celebrate the moisture surely, however, also hold our breath hoping that our soon-to-be momma cows will wait for a different day to give birth. Delivering in a storm like this is a rancher’s fear – but it’s hard to control Mother Nature.

We are almost half-way through our calving season. Thirteen down, fifteen to go. It’s a small number compared to the big ranches, but a big amount for us. It’s more than any other year as we continue to grow our grassfed beef operation. All thirteen babies have been successfully delivered, but sadly we lost one of our two-year old heifers about ten days ago. She was a lovely, quiet Angus-cross, but her baby was immense for a first-time momma. She died in childbirth. We have been heartsick at her loss, but smile each time we see her calf – a big feller we have dubbed as ‘Rex’ as in T-Rex. He is a bouncing baby bull calf with an insatiable appetite. He finishes his bottle and looks for more. He wraps his lips around anything that resembles a nipple. Morning, noon and night he gleefully gulps his milk replacer and hunts for more!

We are a close-knit group out here in the country. Your neighbors are as close as family, so when the phone rang yesterday morning and a fellow rancher asked, “do you still have your orphaned calf?” we were not surprised. Our friend explained that he had lost a calf during the storm, and was willing to bring the momma to our calf!

Over they came, pickup and trailer, rancher and momma cow. She hesitantly stepped off the trailers. She had to have been distraught at everything that had happened to her in the last twelve hours, but still – there she stood, calmly looking at our calf.

Our little guy had never had the pleasure of his momma’s milk – knowing only a human’s touch as we tried to keep him healthy. He was clueless! He ran after us knowing a human as his only source of food.

We waited for a little while, watching quietly. She appeared very willing. Her udder was distended with colostrum and milk and she murmured to him. The little guy wasn’t sure, so we decided to milk the cow and put the liquid in his bottle. Coaxing him to come to her with the bottle, we leaned down and transferred his mouth from the rubber nipple to the real thing. She immediately quieted with the pressure being relieved in her udder. The calf nursed and nursed.

We were hopeful as he got his belly full. He fell fast asleep! We too slept well with the hope that he finally had the presence of a mother so willing to love our orphan – even after the loss of her own baby.

As morning dawned, we were eager to see how the two had gotten along. We couldn’t tell if he had nursed on his own, so we guided him over to the cow again. He took to the promise of a full belly even faster than he had done the first day. Even though he needed to be coaxed a bit, he latched on and drank like a pro.

This evening we sat a distance away from them both, watching through binoculars to make sure we didn’t disrupt them. Kevin turned to me and said, “I think he is nursing right now!!!”. Sure enough, his whole face was covered with milk. At one point, the momma cow turned 180 degrees for him to nurse the other side. We were amazed.

We are truly grateful for the friend who lent us this quiet momma and her life-giving milk. The only one who was disappointed with the whole situation was Lolli, our chocolate lab, who loved to catch all the drips off the calf’s mouth as he drank his bottle!!

Grassfed Beef – It’s What’s for Dinner at Our House!

For the past twenty years or so, we have raised our own beef. In the early days – even as late as about 2006, the final days to “finish” a beef included lots of corn. Yeah boy, get that good marbling in those steaks. It wasn't until I read an article about the healthier ways to raise beef that our family changed it's ways.

I'll never forget the day….I looked at my husband and said, “We will never finish our beef with grain ever again!”. The mystifying look was legendary – followed with a “huh???”

Here is what I learned that day, and it has changed my life.

If cows are raised eating their normal diet of grass, the meat produced will have the right balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fats. However, if cows are fed grain, the omega-3 content is lost. The key with omega-3 is not just digesting enough of it, but getting the right ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s. If there are too many 6s and not enough 3s, you'll develop many of the problems victims of modern food production face today – inflammation, weight gain, depression and disease.

So, what does that all mean? Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that play an important part in growth and metabolism. They can't be synthesized by the human body, so they have to come from our diet. Omega 3s reduce inflammation, lower the amount of serum cholesterol and triglycerides, prevent excess clotting and reduce the risk of cancer. While both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are important individually, they also work in tandem and the ratio is critical.

So, here was the clincher for me…..grainfed beef have a ratio of 20:1 of Omega 6 to Omega 3. Grassfed/grass finished beef have a 4:1 ratio – the ratio your body needs!

Cattle were designed to eat grass, which means that they process it and maintain a healthy digestive system. Feedlot cattle are finished with a grain diet, mainly corn and soy, which makes for a quick weight gain and a higher percentage of fat in the tissues.

Grainfed cattle also receive hormones in their diet, again to make them grow fast and gain weight quickly. This also results in a higher fat content in the muscle. Pasture-raised cattle are not given artificial hormones and so are naturally more lean – the overall total fat content of pasture-raised cattle is usually about 25 percent lower than the grainfed beef.

Now, I am not here to blast feed lots – I am only saying that for me and my family, this is our way of life. Raising cattle naturally, no antiobiotics, no hormones, no grain. Nothing but good forages that they were designed to eat!