LOCAL LUXURY: What Makes Alberta Beef Unique?

what makes alberta beef unique

 

Lifelong Albertans may take it for granted, but the beef produced in this province is recognized around the world for its rich taste and consistent quality. Of course, beef does not start at the butcher’s counter– all meat begins as an animal raised with care by a rancher on Mother Nature’s land. There is more to Alberta beef than just taste and quality, keep reading to find out more!

 

WHERE, WHY & COW

As with most of the world, cows are not native to North America– they were spread by European settlers as they colonized the West. To encourage settlement in Alberta and elsewhere, large parcels of land were given to ranchers and cattle was allowed to be imported without taxation. Innovations in irrigation and animal welfare were all fully developing as many Albertan cattle ranchers were established. By standing on the shoulders of those before them, the Alberta beef industry made the most out of an already advantageous climate and geographic location.

RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

Many rural regions could support a large agricultural industry like Alberta’s, but it would take a lot to match the province’s commitment to developing its own strengths. The oil industry is the main source of this advantage, because there is little financial pressure on agriculture to be our main export. Reinvestment in the farming world exists as subsidization, research and education, so Alberta also enjoys the benefits of being a leader in technological innovation in this discipline.

FEED & FINISH

So now that we understand how Alberta came to be a powerhouse in cattle production, how does our product differ from other types of beef? Alberta’s beef products boast rich taste, even fat distribution and consistent quality– but it’s no secret: the answer lies in the diet of our cows. Major cattle producing areas (like Ontario or the US) often rely on corn for feed, but Alberta is too far north to grow enough to support our herds. Instead, ranches in our part of the world usually feed and “finish” cattle with resilient grains like barley and rye. Combined with Alberta’s other advantages, this unique diet is just the final touch our high quality product needs to help it stand out from the herd.

**NOTE: “Finishing” is the process of changing a cow’s feed as they transition to slaughtering age and size. Outside of Alberta, cattle is typically raised on corn and grass or grain is only introduced in the finishing stage.

D’Arcy’s Meat Market is proud to carry top grade, local beef because we understand that quality food starts with quality producers. From fresh ground chuck to a dry aged porterhouse; from sustainably grass-fed to traditionally grain-fed– D’Arcy’s has everything you need and can always provide custom orders with enough notice. Contact or visit us today!

BEEF BRISKET: A Cut Above

beef-brisket-edmonton

WHAT IS BRISKET?

Between the rising popularity of BBQ restaurants, cooking shows on TV and gourmet food at home– beef brisket has become more commonplace these days. The term “brisket” can actually represent a few distinct food items, all of which are made out of beef cut from the cow’s chest. Tougher than most cuts, brisket is generally available in two different boneless cuts or brined in salt and sold as corned beef:

  • Flat half (aka thin cut, flat cut, first cut or centre cut): Leaner, more expensive cut of brisket.
  • Point half (aka front cut, point cut, thick cut or nose cut): Fattier, less expensive cut. Often the more flavourful of the two cuts.
  • Corned beef brisket: 
    Cured or injected with salt brine. Popular as deli or sandwich meat.

HOW DO I SERVE BEEF BRISKET?

Depending on how familiar you are with the cut, preparing a brisket can seem like an intimidating process. Luckily, there are two simple keywords that will always save the day: low and slow. Brisket is best when cooked over a low heat over a long period of time, most of which can be unattended. Try the following preparations next time you tackle a brisket:

  • Slow cooker or crockpot: The old stand-by… Slow cookers keep food at a very accurate, low heat and can be left alone for hours at a time. The combined effect produces an incredibly tender and flavourful result– even better: it’s almost impossible to overcook!
  • In the oven: Another simple option that can be customized to any taste. Combine your favourite chopped vegetables, two or three complimentary spices and enough liquid to cover the brisket in a deep pan. Roast for a few hours until tender and serve sliced to rave reviews.
  • Stovetop: Best done over an even heat in a deep, heavy pan (such as a Dutch oven). First, sear or brown the beef; then, add and caramelize vegetables; top with wine, broth, water– almost any liquid– and bring to a boil; finally: reduce heat, cover and simmer for a few hours. Serve as above and retain liquid to reduce into a sauce.
  • Smoked: For the truly ambitious! If you own a smoker, you may already know the process– but not all of us have a dedicated smoker. Alternatively, place a tray of wood chips over one element in your BBQ or oven. Dry rub your brisket with spices and place it off of the heat, allowing it to cook in the smoke and low heat for many hours. Do your research! There’s a reason BBQ pitmasters spend lifetimes perfecting the art of smoking a brisket.
  • Corned: Corned beef is widely available prepackaged or premade, but you can also brine your own brisket. A longer process that preserves the meat with salt, corning produces a flavourful and long-lasting brisket that is used in many traditional recipes.

Let your brisket stand after cooking to desired tenderness. Use your sharpest knife and slice against the grain, producing thin and even portions. Leftover brisket is perfect for sandwiches and keeps well in the freezer.

Ready to braise a brisket like a boss? Come on into D’Arcy’s where we provide only the highest quality and freshest beef, cut to your specifications. We can offer guidance, recipes— even our favorite BBQ sauce— to help you master the perfect beef brisket.

Ways To Cook Beef This Winter

man slicing beef

 

The snow is falling and you’re cozied up under a blanket inside… and then your stomach growls with hunger. If you’re bored of your same old beef recipes, read on for some cooking methods and recipes that will leave you with the hearty, full-flavored recipes that are perfect for these cold winter months.

 

Marinade It

Using a beef marinade is a great way to add flavor and increase tenderness. Marinades contain acids which break down the proteins in the outer layer of the meat, making the meat soft and flavorful.

A few marinading tips:

  • don’t overdo it! Smaller cuts of meat only need a few hours; larger cuts can be left overnight. Marinading for too long can ultimately make the meat spongy (ew).
  • marinade first in the fridge and then let the meat and marinade sit at room temperature about 30 minutes before you start cooking. This will ensure the marinade is properly absorbed without giving bacteria a chance to grow.

Looking for a new winter marinade? Try adding a dry red wine to your next marinade. You can even save some of the marinade and boil it down to a syrup for dipping!

Try A Dry Rub

If you have the courage to step outside to the BBQ this winter, grilling steaks with a dry rub on them will create a crisp crust that is full of flavor. Lightly scoring the beef will allow the rub a chance to penetrate the meat. How long you let the rub sit on the meat before cooking will depend on the thickness of the meat and the strength of the rub.

For a dry rub that will leave you feeling warm inside, try a mixture of thyme, basil, cumin and curry powder.

Braising

There’s nothing better than coming home at the end of the day to the smell of a beef pot roast that has been simmering in a slow cooker all day. Braising is a method cooking that involves searing the meat, and then cooking it in liquid low and slow. Tougher cuts of beef are best for braising, as the high collagen content will break down and tenderize the meat.

Looking for a switch to the traditional pot roast recipe? Try a combination of cocoa, cloves, cinnamon and stone fruits. Not only does it taste great – but your house will smell amazing!

Buy Local, Alberta Beef

Get the best beef available from the best local farmers at D’Arcy’s Meat Market. Give us a call or stop by our shop to pick up some beef for your next meal.

 

JERKY TO SUCCESS: What’s the Story on Beef Jerky?

Beef jerky– we’ve all seen the processed stuff: cookie-cutter bits of greasy meat, hanging in a row of colourful plastic and foil at the gas station or convenience store. This version is not real beef jerky, it’s something of which our Albertan forefathers would be ashamed! D’Arcy’s only carries real jerky, handmade locally with high quality beef. Keep reading for our crash course in beef jerky, the king of snacks.

HOW IT’S MADE

First, high quality cuts of Alberta beef are deboned and trimmed of fat to prepare them for curing. The meat is then seasoned with a signature mix of spices and dried at a precise temperature for an exact amount of time. Once cured to preferred tenderness and flavour, it is now “beef jerky” and ready to be packaged for consumption.

HISTORY LESSON

Almost all civilizations throughout history have some sort of cuisine or culture based around dried, preserved foodstuffs. Typically, what wouldn’t be eaten of the day’s hunt would be salted and dried for long-term storage. Dried or salt meats, like the predecessors to modern beef jerky, were essential for travel, drought or long winters.

HEALTH FOOD

Beef jerky should be enjoyed as a treat or light snack, but it is a surprisingly healthy one! Most jerky is very lean (low fat) and rich in protein, so it can be extremely filling and good for those avoiding high carbohydrate foods. High cholesterol and sodium levels in beef jerky should be kept in check with smaller portions.

That’s it– any questions? Contact or visit the beef jerky experts at D’Arcy’s Meat Market today! Our selection and knowledge of local products is second-to-none… and we love sharing it with our customers.

JUST SUET: Chewing the Fat About Your New Kitchen Essential

Steamed Suet Pudding in a Pudding Basin

When it comes to pastries and deep-frying – butter, oil or lard are the most common ingredients. With growing health concerns and the organic movement, why choose a product that is more processed? Suet is the natural fat produced in cow or mutton, specifically around organs like the kidneys. A cornerstone of traditional British cuisine, suet can be used to add moistness to baked goods and to achieve that perfect, golden brown finish on a deep-fried treat.

 

WHAT IS SUET?

As stated above, suet is the hard fat of cow or mutton – refrigerated for longevity. It is available in its natural form or sometimes preserved in blocks. Once rendered and processed, suet becomes tallow that can be stored at room temperature. Raw suet’s low melt- and smoke-points make it particularly effective for pastries and deep-frying.

 

HOW DO I USE SUET?

Suet can be grated while cold and added easily to pastries in place of butter or lard. Unlike flaky, pie-type crust, suet pastry is soft and fluffy. For deep-frying, a block of suet is melted and can cook safely up to temperatures near 200 degrees Celsius. Another effective use for suet is to add fat content to a lean ground meat mixture in any recipe.

 

WHAT ARE SOME RECIPES THAT CALL FOR SUET?

The following is only a sample of the many recipes to which you can add suet (many are from traditional British cuisine):

  • Steak and kidney pie;
  • Christmas pudding;
  • Spotted dick;
  • Jam roly-poly;
  • Dumplings;
  • Haggis;
  • Mincemeat tarts and pies;
  • Sausages;
  • Jamaican patty;
  • Hamburgers.

We are creatures of habit: we often buy the same butter and oil that we always have without ever considering why. As they say, variety is the spice of life – so why not try suet in your next kitchen experiment? Suet removes steps between the farm and your table, making it a more natural choice as well. Visit or contact D’Arcy’s and ask your butcher about suet and its uses today!