Monday, 28 January 2013

Wagyu Beef Dripping

Recently on Twitter I mentioned about cooking some Parsnip crisps in dripping and how wonderful they tasted. chipped in and mentioned about one of their products a beef dripping made from Wagyu beef fat, this developed into having some delivered for me to sample and to share my views.

From left to right dripping products from: Amko, Powderham Farm Shop, Highgrove, plus a Pork dripping on top from Andy Allens (found at my local butchers), 2 silver trays of Wagyu dripping and a 500g block of dripping on top from Nortech (found at cash & carry).

Other companies including did the same and I also took a trip around my local shops including my local butcher, farmshop, supermarket and cash & carry to see what they had for me to purchase and test making a comparison against this Wagyu dripping. I'ved used Amko products before and I know them to be of good quality in particular their Beef Suet made from the fat that surrounds the ox-kidneys. Having their dripping in my small collection of fats will set a standard I recognise and can compare against the Wagyu dripping and the others I purveyed.

I carried out some very scientific tests (only joking) to start my comparisons of the dripping, firstly was toast & dripping, frying of croutons, frying of potato slices and some Yorkshire pudding. These simple tests tell me quickly what dripping has the best taste results when used against other ingredients that are normally bland in their own right.  
In all my tests (layman style) I found non of the drippings to be a real dripping in the strictest sense i.e. fats taken from cooked meats (except for the pork dripping which had a clear divide of fat and cooking liquor at the bottom of their container, in Yorkshire they would call this "Mucky Fat") Instead they were all rendered fats and of which lacked the strength of beef taste you get from traditional dripping.  
All said and done the drippings were mediocre to good except for the top 3, not that this is a competition just someones thoughts on these products (mine). Third place for me was the dripping from Amko, then second place and probably my favourite overall was the dripping from Highgrove (childhood memories evoked by its full beef flavour), then came the clear winner
 (drum roll************* please)....... the Wagyu Beef Dripping. 
Welsh Wagyu Beef Fat
So how did I come to choose the Wagyu Beef Fat over the other drippings you may ask especially when I favourited the Highgrove version. Well the Highgrove one did taste very much like a true dripping with its full beefy flavour and reminded me of my childhood. Fond memories of times past when as a family we had no money but we had bread and dripping. I can only guess the Highgrove version is Organic and the cattle are grass fed thus offering this great flavour. Lets talk about the Wagyu, I have to say in all my years I've never tasted beef fat as good as this before, it is velvety or even silky to use, the flavour is subtle and it just exhudes quality when you use it. Forgive me for what I'm about to say, but I think it's too good to use in the conventional way, so having said that, how do you best use it?

I personally think it's best used in bespoke bakery products or perhaps blended with some Wagyu marrowbone and butter to make Wagyu Marrowbone Butter Rolls and then to slice and use as a garnish to the magnificent grilled steaks this animal produces.
Whatever you decide is the better dripping to use, I'm sure we will all agree that any dripping from any animal is a solid track to a good ethos of nose to tail eating.
Average Dripping Prices :
Nortech =                           £  1.40 per kg
Powderham Farm Shop =  £  7.50 per kg
Highgrove =                       £  4.00 per kg
Amko =                              £  3.00 per kg 
Wagyu =                            £ 66.00 per kg

Why not try some dripping next time you make some Spotted Dick or Hot Cross Buns, you know it makes sense and you are helping to keep our food heritage alive.


Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Christmas Birds

Searching for a bird for Christmas started early in December for myself, I could of easily bought a bird from my local producer, but this time I wanted to see first hand the healthiness of our livestock markets.

My first trip out was to Melton Mowbray Market in Leicestershire, this was my first visit to this market.

This market is right in the town a small to medium size market with a rich variation of auctions including food stalls, antique and bric a brac, beef, sheep, pig and a poultry market with both live birds and dressed poultry along with a very active game market.

Next market I visited was Ross on Wye, this is a market I've visited many times when I used to live in Herefordshire, so I was really looking forward to returning to this little market and the town for some Christmas retail therapy.

Here we have a local farmer bringing in his turkeys to be sold by the local auctioneer.

The livestock show ring was full of dressed birds and here we can see the auctioneers listing all the birds whilst examining they are fit for sale and the best of them being awarded a First Prize certificate.

All the dressed birds have to be bagged now for display and for the sale as this is part of the good practice being enforced. However I did wonder will the birds sweat in these plastic covers and spoil, I think not for most people tend to understand that on getting your bird home you should then unwrap your bird and allow it to breath. Ensuring you cook it thoroughly and soon after purchase is a safe guard we must implement.

Before the sale starts, all the visitors can inspect the birds and choose one with which they want to bid on when the auction commences.

This sale had the best of all the birds I've seen so far and the prices reflected that when the bidding commenced. The geese were fetching as much as £75 each, the Cockerels £38 each, Ducks £33 each and Turkeys averaging £44 each. They were very good birds, well dressed and fault free of any other kind that I could see.

Now I'm at Sedgemoor Livestock Auction near Bridgwater in Somerset and they were birds laid out as far as you could see into the distance.

There were some good quality birds here to see, especially the cockerels, however the general overall lots were poorly dressed, including the long legged birds which apeared to have been dead far too long.

These Stag or Tom Turkeys pictured below looked some of the best on sale and yet they were only fetching around £1.50 llb a very poor price for the farmer given these birds were free range and sometimes organically reared.

Can anyone tell me why Stag Turkeys have this little wire brush on their throats? (I know the answer, but do you?)

Well I had a goose this year for Christmas a big one weighing 5.5kg making our Christmas meal special, it also kindly fed us on Boxing Day too and we had a curry the day after that with the rest, also I have a a 2ltr jar of goose fat to use in cooking over the coming weeks.

If you are not in touch with a local producer for your poultry then I urge you to visit and try out your local livestock auction when they next have a sale. It is a magical experience and one you can share with all members of your family.