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Grilling the Locavore Way

Taking the Eat Local Challenge this month is perhaps the tastiest diet you’ll ever go on. If you’re a meat-eater, you’re in for a treat when you confine yourself to our fresh local meats. Not only will your taste buds thank you for taking the challenge, but you’ll feel good knowing all of the animal products you consumed during the month came from animals that were raised in a humane and healthy way, doing the things that they were born to do, like graze in a pasture in the great outdoors.

August is also a great month to grill. When it’s just too hot to fire up the stove, the grill is the perfect way to escape the heat indoors while still preparing an easy, nutritious, home-cooked meal. Grilling meat from pastured animals is a bit different than conventional meat. Here are some tips to making your locavore grilling experience a success!

Hogs that have been allowed to live a healthy life outside on pasture produce incredibly moist and flavorful pork unlike anything that comes out of a large confinement operation. Especially good for the grill are our local Willow Creek Farms pork chops, country ribs, bratwurst, and St. Louis-Style Ribs.

When grilling pastured pork it’s very important not to overcook it. In order to be safe, the meat should reach a temperature of 145ºF for at least 15 seconds (155ºF for ground pork products like bratwurst). If you let it get much hotter than that, the pork may become dry. Unlike beef, pork does not like to be seared on a super hot grill; it does best cooked slowly over hot (but not too hot) coals.

Preparing pork for the grill can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. Willow Creek pork has a ton of flavor all by itself and it’s delicious grilled with just a little salt. If you want to get fancier but you still want to keep it local, apples are a great flavor to incorporate. Marinate the pork in apple cider, a little maple syrup, and a few Tablespoons of sunflower oil and you you’re guaranteed to enjoy the results. If local cider isn’t yet available, we carry a locally prepared apple butter you could doctor to taste too. Even better, I’ve also included my recipe for apple butter BBQ sauce below. It’s great!

Another great local flavor that can enhance pork is beer. Unlike some brats, Willow Creek’s bratwursts are not pre-cooked. If you try cooking them all the way up to 155 degrees on the grill, chances are that you’ll burn the outside (I know this from personal experience!). The best way around this is to parboil them in beer first (whatever brew you like will work), and then finish them on the grill. Beer also makes an excellent marinade for other cuts of pork when mixed with onions, garlic, and few fresh herbs.

It’s no secret that although grass-fed beef may be better for you and better for the cow, it requires a little more skill to cook than beef that’s been fed corn. Since there’s less fat in the meat, it tends to dry out easier and cook faster, and it’s much more important that the meat not be overcooked.
A good rule to remember is that grass-fed beef should either be cooked very slowly with plenty of liquid (think stews and pot roasts), or very quickly (steaks or burgers seared on a grill). To be considered done, steaks should reach an internal temperature of 145ºF for rare, or 160ºF for medium. Ground beef should get up to at least 155ºF. I don’t recommend cooking grass-fed beef to well done (170ºF) as it tends to be dry at this temperature. If you like your beef well done, I suggest coating it in some local sunflower oil or marinating it in beer or cider before you grill it.
Grass-fed beef is a treat to be savored. My favorite way to grill it is super simple so that I can enjoy the subtle flavors of the meat itself. Simply rub a little salt into the meat, and grill over very high heat until you reach the doneness you prefer. To keep all the precious moisture in, be sure to turn steaks with tongs instead of a fork. Also, it’s a good idea to take the meat off the grill about 10 degrees under your target temperature. It will continue cooking for a few minutes after it comes off the heat. Watch the temperature of the beef carefully, it can quickly go from too rare to too done.
My favorite fail-safe method for ensuring that your grass-fed steak turns out juicy and delicious is to wrap it in Willow Creek Farms bacon before you grill. Use a toothpick to fasten the ends of the bacon and grill away. The bacon itself is heavenly, and it also adds delicious fat and flavor to the beef.

This isn’t a “hardcore” locavore recipe, but it utilizes a few the best flavors of Wisconsin. You can make it even more local by excluding the “exotic” spices. This sauce is amazing on the Willow Creek Farm’s St. Louis Style Ribs!
Apple Butter BBQ sauce

  • 4 lb. local apples (any early variety)

  • 1 c. local maple syrup

  • 2 tsp. cinnamon

  • 1 tsp cloves

  • 1 tsp allspice

  • 1-2 c. apple cider vinegar

  • 1/4 c. Worstersire sauce

Directions: Peel and core apples and chop into large chunks Place them in a crock-pot with about a half-cup of water and simmer overnight, or until the apple butter is quite thick. Add the maple syrup, spices, vinegar, and Worcestershire to taste.