Q&A: Non-toxic ways to deal with grain beetles?

  • August 22, 2012 7:49 pm

Question:

Dear Alexandra,

This weekend when I went to my pantry I found grain beetles in there. I’ve been suspecting them for a while, but now it’s undeniable. I prefer not to use the conventional toxic products people use. Are there any non-toxic ways to get rid of them?

Thanks.

-Henry

Answer:

Henry,

I feel your pain and am glad you don’t want to use bleach or a conventional pesticide to get rid of grain beetles. I did a little research for you, including posting on my Facebook author page for suggestions. Here’s what my FB fans had to say:

  • “I just washed everything down with safe dish detergent and kept everything in glass jars or tight fitting lidded enameled cans after.”
  • “Just composted ALL the boxed crackers/pasta/etc. that were open/infested, plus the bulk items…if sealed in glass they are easy to contain. It was mostly crackers that got nasty. And old stuff. Even paprika!”
  • “Skim beetles off the top of the rice when you cook it. Whatever. No big deal, really. They ARE in there, no matter what.”

All in all some good advice here. The key is to methodically go through what’s in your pantry–spices and all–and compost (or, sadly, throw out) what appears to be infested. Peer into open boxes of pasta, crackers, nuts, rice, corn kernels, flour, dried fruit–everything. Once you’re sure you’ve looked at everything, wipe the cabinets down with plant-based dish detergent. If you have honey, vinegar, or oils in your cabinet that have dribbled, wash these bottles off, too. You can then keep sealed containers of food in your pantry. If you don’t want to bother with sealing everything off, you can always keep rice and other grains–once opened–in the fridge.

I hope this does the trick. Let me know how it goes.

Best,

Alexandra


Q&A: Killing Bugs?

  • July 18, 2012 8:48 am

The Question:

Hi! I am reading your blog, and I also love the eco life! I also try to teach my kids respect for all living creatures. However, yesterday when a big spider stumbled across the kitchen floor I calmly took a piece of kleenex and promptly squished it! But, when I am standing there, satisfied with dead spider in hand, I suddenly see the question in my three year old boys look, and feel ashamed! How do I explain this? I am not that afraid of spiders, I just killed it because it was there! How do you deal with these sorts of things? Do you also squish spiders in front of your kids, and do you own a fly swatter and swat flies and wasps? And how do you explain this to your kids?

Jenny

The Answer:

Hi Jenny,

Thanks for writing. And good timing; I’m spending a lot of time in the buggy country this month to escape the heat of my urban hometown. When we’re in New York City and we find a bug–that isn’t a roach!–we tend to release it out the window. Not exactly sure a bug prefers being flung out of an urban window versus smushed, but my animal-loving 6-year-old daughter prefers it. That said, she also likes to capture fireflies and has killed more than a few of these beloved bugs herself, unwittingly.

Here’s the thing: We eat meat but we also have a family cat we refer to as her sister. I wrote a book with my butcher. During that research process I went to more than a few slaughters of local animals and toured a local slaughterhouse. This is complicated stuff. Is a spider more important than my cat? Is the cat more important than the pig or the steer I watched be slaughtered? You feel bad about that spider, but how about a mosquito? Or a tick embedded in your son? Or a water bug scuttling across your bathroom floor?

I was chatting about your question–and my above questions–with my lovely intern Kelley and she wrote me a very thoughtful email I want to share with you:

“This question made me think about my environmental ethics class I took last
semester.  In one unit we talked about what things in nature get
respect, so what has value in nature.

And there are these different ethical theories to it:
Biocentrism (or taylorism)–ALL things in nature have value, whether a
dolphin, ant, or flower. Killing either would be wrong.

Strong Anthropocentrism–Only humans matter, and we should not be
concerned about harming the environment or animals

Weak Anthropocentrism–Humans still matter the most but some things in
nature count too. So killing an ant wouldn’t be wrong, but killing a
whale would not.

I wrote a paper on it somewhere on which theory was the most
justifiable. But this just reminded me of what you said about your
book on butchering. How people are very concerned about slaughtering
pigs, and cows, but people never think twice about squashing a bug.”

So this is a long-winded answer from me and Kelley that isn’t really an answer. Most humans, devout vegans aside, do some sliding scale of animal killing. I certainly have done my fair share and I have mixed feelings about all of it–minus what I somehow believe can bring me and mine “harm” like those mosquitoes and ticks. My daughter is basically a vegetarian who devours bacon, and claims she wants to protect all animals, but also likes to pull worms apart and poke jelly fish with sticks. It’s complicated. If the look in your kid’s eyes gives you pause, take that pause and think about how you feel about what you’re doing, and the message it gets across. It may not change how you react, but it’s certainly a good thing to think about.

Hope this helps in some way.

Best,

Alexandra

Fleisher’s Brooklyn Outpost Is Open!

  • October 9, 2011 11:20 am

Another weekend post from Glenny:

This past week Fleisher’s, of Hudson Valley butcher fame, opened their Park Slope outpost!  Bravo Jessica and Josh!  The neighborhood was hungry for well-raised high-quality meat, and I for one will be frequenting the shop.  The space is polished and inviting, bustling with Brooklynites excited about what’s for dinner.  The cases are bright and filled with various cuts of chicken, pork, lamb, and beef.  The smiling employees will be happy to instruct you on any chop, loin, rack or shoulder that is new to you.  And don’t forget to pick up some local cheeses, crackers, and jams to round out your meal.

When I stopped by the shop, I was heading to my family home in the Catskills, so I was interested in buying some lamb for the grill.  I figured it would pair nicely with the eggplant and sunchokes I found at my Greenmarket the morning before.  Besides, it might be getting colder, but I’m reluctant to ditch the grill yet.  Josh suggested the loin and rib chops.  Experiment with seasonings: parsley, garlic, cumin, lemon zest, rosemary, mint, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  On a hot grill, they only need to cook 5 to 6 minutes per side.  They were beautifully pinkish on the inside, full of deep lamb flavor.  I preferred the loin chops, which were a bit meatier and had a stronger, more serious gamy and grassy taste.

Lamb from Fleisher's. Gorgeous, no?

Not much is better than being able to escape the city for a few days, and I must admit, the highlights of the excursion were definitely the meal times.  Even if you don’t have access to a grill, I highly recommend paying Josh, Jess, and their fabulous crew a visit – you’ll leave with a bag full of something delicious (and sustainable) and will definitely learn a thing or two in the meantime.

What You Don’t Know: Fat

  • September 7, 2011 10:32 am

When you’re cooking with meat, do you try to use every last morsel?  If the answer is no, you’ll be surprised by the rewards.  I try to waste nothing, whether I’m cooking with vegetables, fruits, grains, or meat.  I should say especially meat. I never forget that something has died for my dinner. Every last bit of that needs to be used. When I discovered, while reporting The Butcher’s Guide To Well Raised-Meat, how many ways fat could be used, I was delighted to also discover how easy it is to render, store, and eat.  Basically I’m talking about potatoes roasted in bacon fat. If you haven’t tried it, do.

Here’s an excerpt from The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat on many other kinds of fats and how to best use them. Do you use any of these? How? Let me know in comments.

Part of the nose-to-tail butchering is coming up with uses for fat, which makes us roughly 15 percent of an animal’s body weight.  Over the years we have gotten pretty creative – we have made beef tallow citronella candles (short-lived – they smelled like a barbecue gone horribly wrong) as well as lovely smelling tallow-based soaps.  But mostly we just make our fat into chunks of tallow, blocks of lard, and tubs of duck fat for our customers to (hopefully) cook with.  Here’s the skinny on what’s what in the world of fats:

Caul Fat is the fatty lining of a pig’s stomach, which looks like a sheet of diaphanous webbing.  It is used to wrap lean meats while roasting; this technique is called barding, and it imparts moisture into the meat as the fat melts.

Duck Fat Is there anything better than duck fat?  Use it to panfry potatoes, like they do in French bistros, or confit a couple of duck legs.  Duck (and goose, too) fat is great, but often hard to come by.

Lard, or rendered pork fat, is nearly 100 percent fat, as opposed to butter, which is about 80 percent fat and 20 percent water.  Though animal fats have gotten a bad reputation as heart-stoppers and artery-cloggers, lard is still well loved among bakers and intrepid cooks who prize its ability to produce flaky crusts and silky sauces.  Lard has a high smoke point, making it exceptional for frying things like chicken.  It’s also healthier than manufactured hydrogenated  fats like most vegetable shortenings.

Leaf Lard is the dry, hard, crumbly fat cap that surrounds the kidney of the pig.  This fat contains the fewest impurities, making it the gold standard for baking.  Mix this with butter (a 1:1 butter-to-fat ratio is good) for the best pie crusts you have ever made.

Tallow is rendered beef, veal, or lamb fat.  It is used mainly commercially to make animal feed, soap, and cosmetics, or for cooking.  McDonald’s managed to piss off a lot of vegetarians a while back by cooking their fries in tallow without informing the public – no wonder they were so addictive after a long night of drinking.  We use lamb fat in our chicken sausages to get that rich, decadent taste that you just can’t get from plain old chicken.  And we also know hunters who add lamb fat to their venison burgers for a more fatty, luscious taste.

HOW TO RENDER FAT

It’s simple to make high-quality lard or tallow that can be used for baking, cooking, or soap making.  Fats should be stored in the refrigerator, where they will last for three months or can be frozen for a  year.  We like to cut our lard into manageable 1/2-pound chunks and freeze it – it defrosts quickly, and does not have to be defrosted in the refrigerator.

-Buy pork fat, beef suet, or lamb fat from your butcher shop or farmer.  Make sure the fat is fresh, clean smelling, and not slimy.  Whatever you render, count on getting a 75 percent return.

-Cut the fat into 1-inch squares and then finely dice it (we run ours through the meat grinder).

-Place the diced fat into a heavy-bottomed pan set over low heat.  Melt the fat, without stirring, until it is literally a pool of oil.  Alternatively, you can melt the fat in a Crock-Pot.

-Let the fat cool until it is still in liquid form but not hot.

-Strain the fat through a cheesecloth-lined mesh strainer.

What You Don’t Know: How To Store Meat Correctly

  • August 2, 2011 8:19 pm

Meat storage isn’t the sexiest of topics, but it sure is useful. So, you’ve gone to the butcher you trust and bought wonderful well-raised meat.  Now that you’re home, you have the challenge of properly storing your purchases.  Follow these excerpted guidelines from The Butcher’s Guide To Well-Raised Meat and you’ll be golden. One thing not to do? Pick up the phone and tell your butcher something smells funny. They’re pretty amazing people but even they cannot smell through the phone. Some of this information was totally news to me when I started reporting the book. What tricks do you have up your sleeve? For freezer guidelines and more, pick up a copy!

In the Fridge

When you get home from the butcher, loosen the wrapping around the meat, except for chicken, and put it on the plate.  Rotate the meat daily to let air flow around it until you use it.  Larger bone-in pieces can be kept the longest; most processed cuts and grind are good only for a few days.

BEEF

Fresh beef will keep in your fridge for

-2 to 10 days if not vacuum-sealed, depending on the cut.  If it has a coating and smells sour, it’s done.  Discard it.

-2 to 3 weeks if vacuum-sealed.  After that, smell check it.

PORK

Fresh pork will keep in your fridge for

-2 to 7 days if not vacuum-sealed.  The more air you give it, the longer it will last.  If it darkens, that’s okay, but if it’s tacky or slimy, throw it out.

-2 to 3 weeks if vacuum-sealed.  After that, smell check it.

LAMB

Fresh lamb will keep in your fridge for

-5 to 7 days if not vacuum-sealed.  If it gets tacky, has a sour smell, or is otherwise clearly not pleasant, you should not be putting it in your mouth.

-2 to 3 weeks if vacuum-sealed.  After that, smell check it.

POULTRY

Fresh poultry will keep in your fridge for

-4 days if not vacuum-sealed.

-10 days if vacuum-sealed.  Give it a rinse under cold, running water and let it sit on a clean plate uncovered for ten minutes.  (It sounds obvious, but do not use soap on any meat product ever.)  After that, if it smells sulfuric or sour, or if it feels tacky, immediately throw it out and clean the plate and your sink with bleach or vinegar.

Loyal readers will know there is no bleach in my house! I use plant-based dish soap and warm soapy water and sometimes vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.

What You Don’t Know: You Can Afford Well-Raised Meat

  • July 6, 2011 10:03 am

One of my absolute favorite things from The Butcher’s Guide To Well-Raised Meat is where we explain how to afford well-raised meat. So many people lament it can’t be done. I disagree. Here’s how I do it, excerpted from the book. Enjoy!

People often complain that grass-fed and organic meat (and everything else organic) is too expensive, that they can’t afford it, that it’s not for them, or that it’s elitist.  We firmly believe that well-raised meat is for everyone.  If you share any of these concerns, first consider the amount of meat you eat- generally Americans buy and eat too much meat.  You don’t need mountains of sausages or pounds of ground beef to make a sauce.  Reduce portion sizes.  It’s better for you, and it will make well-raised meat affordable.  If you would like to try something like filet but can’t get over the sticker shock, buy 1/4 pound of it and don’t make it the centerpiece of your meal.  Beyond eating less and shrinking portion size, you can also lower costs by buying cheaper cuts instead of rib eyes and strips.  And plan for leftovers – a big roast can be dinner tonight and sandwiches tomorrow.  If you buy smart and cook smart, you can make up the price difference between conventional and pastured meat.  When people say our prices are too high, Jess invites them to throw $50 on the counter and watch her work.  She can get them ten meals for half a bill.  When she first made the claim, I must admit even I didn’t believe her.  But she proved me wrong.

TEN MEALS FOR HALF A BILL

Here is Jessica’s list of ten quick, delicious, easy-to-prepare meals for four.  The meat costs only $50 and change.  If you don’t eat meat every day, that means enough meals for two weeks.

1. Ground Beef (1/2 pound) $3

Beef and Bean Enchiladas

2. Bacon (1/4 pound, or about 3 slices) $3

Collard Green and Black-Eyed Pea Soup

3. More Bacon and Eggs (1/4 pound, or about 3 slices, and 3 eggs) $5

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

4. Sausages (3/4 pound, or 3 sausages) $6

Chinese Broccoli with Sausage and Polenta

5. Chicken Thighs (1 pound) $5

Thai Chicken Stir-fry with Vegetables

6. Pork Stew Meat (1 pound) $8

Quick Pork and Chile Stew with Hominy

7. Stir-fry Beef (1/2 pound) $4.50

Stir-fry Beef with Rice Noodles

8. Whole Chicken (3 to 4 pounds) $12

Roast Chicken

9. Eggs $4

Frittata

10. Roast Chicken Bones $0

Chicken Soup


The Butcher’s Guide To Well-Raised Meat on The Passionate Foodie

  • June 7, 2011 9:12 am

Thanks to The Passionate Foodie for a thoughtful review! Here’s a small excerpt:

It was a real pleasure to have read this book and I highly recommend it. It is well written, fascinating, passionate and educational. Though it has a clear and compelling philosophy, it is not preachy, and thus may be even more convincing because of that. It will also help you appreciate the art of butchery, giving you a better sense of where your food actually comes from. This is a reference guide that belongs with your cookbooks, and one which will help you best choose and prepare the meats you eat.

The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat in The Daily Freeman

  • May 31, 2011 8:00 pm

Many thanks to the staff at The Daily Freeman for the awesome article about The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat.  They even included a video of an interview with Jessica Applestone.  Here is an excerpt:

In “The Butcher’s Guide,” not only do the authors argue sharply in favor of grass-fed animals, but they define terms like “free-range” and “organic.”

They also get right to the point about the best cooking techniques (like making the perfect steak); how to make spice rubs and use bones in your cooking.

And they give the inside scoop on buying well-raised meat on a budget and include some recipes like “Bite-Your-Tongue Tacos,” and “Japanese Fried Chicken.”

The Butcher’s Guide To Well-Raised Meat in Publishers Weekly!

  • May 2, 2011 2:56 pm

Thanks to PW for a lovely write up of The Butcher’s Guide To Well-Raised Meat. Pub date — June 7th — is around the corner. Can’t wait.

A little excerpt:

“…[the] book provides clear, useful instruction on dealing with cuts of beef, lamb, pork, and poultry, interesting meditations on sustainable dining, and a dozen or so recipes thrown in for good measure. The literature of butchery is hard to resist, and the Applestones with Zissu (The Conscious Kitchen) manage to wield both a skillful pen and clever cleaver.”

To read more, click here.