I love to think about the history of food, specifically animals on the land, and how societies, cultures and the general populace may have raised, butchered, and cooked beef, pork and poultry. My highlight today turns to Beef Shanks. We offer a full, meaty, cross-cut shank with lots of meat and a medallion sized marrow bone to compliment the cut. I can only imagine how much value this cut had for those who were lucky enough to score some from the butcher. The marrow is rich in collagen, which improves bone and skin health, as well as glucosamine, a compound that helps against osteoarthritis, relieves joint pain, and reduces inflammation in the joints. Inflammation is the root of all disease…and here we have a natural food, raised on forage, that not only keeps the earth healthy but gives that health back to us.
I’ll give you something to think about…a thought or perhaps a theory I’ve held and shared at the occasional cocktail party. How did the peasants in centuries past stay healthy, have enough energy, stamina, and a vibrant microbiome under the conditions they lived in? They struggled with enough heat in winter, likely had dirt floors and no plumbing. Hygiene was minimal, food wasn’t always bountiful and I’m sure the workload was constant and intense. The rich or elite class, I’m talking aristocrats and lords, would obviously take the finest cuts from the land and animals they owned. Tenderloins, ribeye roasts, strip loins and filets would find themselves on long tables for big fancy gatherings. What would the serfs and peasants be left with you ask? Bones, offal (liver, heart, tongue, kidney fat, thymus glands, oxtail) and tougher cuts of meat that would need a low and slow cooking method…perhaps Beef Shanks? So I sit here and imagine these serfs simmering these lesser parts of animals inside cast iron pots sitting over an open-fire all day…ready to be enjoyed after the sun went down in their humble abode. I smile when I think about this scenario because nature played a trick on the lords and provided the serfs with the best parts. Rich with nutrients that were much needed for their hard lives, “food as medicine” as only nature can provide. We should all take note…nothing within this story has changed regarding the animals on grass and the health that food can provide. We obviously don’t have lords and serfs anymore and we surely all have warm homes and fancy cooktops, but if you’ve been paying attention, what we don’t have in this land is health. Something for you to think about…
Enjoy your slow simmered Beef Shanks! (video instructions link)
- 2, 99 Counties Beef Shanks
- 1 large onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- 3 potatoes
- 2 cups of mushrooms
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 1 large can crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup red wine
- ½ cup honey
- 2 tablespoons of 99 Counties Beef Tallow or olive oil
- Fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, bayleaf
- A generous pinch of Salt and Pepper
- Salt and pepper the shanks
- Heat tallow or olive oil hot in a cast iron skillet or frying pan
- Sear both sides of the shanks until golden brown. Remove and set aside.
- Add the onions and mushrooms to the pan and season with more salt. Remember that you are building flavors and each ingredient needs some salt to extract the best flavor.
- Saut é onions and mushrooms until you start getting a good dark color. The mushrooms will need to sweat out their water so it may take a bit longer than you think.
- Chop the garlic and add it at the end for a few more minutes. Deglaze the pan with red wine and scrape the pan clean of all the brown bits, called fond, that’s the flavor you are building!
- Add the shanks, the potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, tomatoes, honey and herbs to the InstaPot or Crockpot. If you have a pressure cooker you can have this done in an hour. If you are using a traditional slow cooker or oven, plan on a minimum of 3 hours, probably 4 to be safe. Perhaps you set it at lunch or morning and let it do its thing all day.
- When you pull the lid after the braising you’ll see some fat at the top from both the shanks and the fat from searing. I personally think this is healthy fat and makes the dish rich and hearty. I like to stir it into the stew and serve. If you want to remove some then just skim off with a shallow spoon. This is a timeless dish and should please almost everyone…plus your house is going to smell divine!