Our new favorite ground beef recipe

Summer is barbeque season, and most evenings you can find us on the patio grilling up some sausage or hamburgers. But when you’ve been eating off the grill every night for a week, it’s time to mix it up a little. This is our new favorite ground beef recipe that makes for a tasty, quick meal on the stovetop. Better yet, it’s another use for fresh basil from the garden!

We found this recipe via Orangette, a blog written by Molly Wizenberg. Molly is the author of two food-related memoirs, A Homemade Life and Delancey, which I am currently reading. (I’m reading her books out of order, but A Homemade Life is next on my list–thanks to our friend and customer Maya for giving it to me!)

Stir-fried Beef with Chiles and Basil

3 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 to 5 Thai chiles, or jalapeno pepper to taste, sliced
2 T peanut oil, divided
1 lb ground beef
2 T fish sauce, or more to taste
pinch of sugar
1/4 cup water (optional)
3 handfuls regular basil or Thai basil, or a combination

Hot cooked jasmine rice
4 large eggs
lime wedges

Heat a wok or large skillet over medium heat, add 1 T oil, and add garlic, chilies, and a pinch of salt. Stir-fry for a few seconds until fragrant, then add beef. Continue to cook and stir until beef is cooked through and starting to brown. Add 2 T fish sauce and a pinch of sugar. Add the basil and stir. If you want your basil to wilt more, add a little water to the pan. Remove from heat once basil is wilted.

Meanwhile, warm the remaining 1 T oil in a separate skillet and fry the eggs. (We love our yolks runny–when you add the egg to the dish and break the yolk, it binds everything together like a good bibimbap at a Vietnamese restaurant!)

Scoop rice into 4 bowls and divide the beef and juices over the top. Top with one fried egg per bowl and lime wedges.

Full confession: We usually use this recipe for two servings, and re-heat the leftovers the next day with a fresh egg for the next two servings. We probably eat a little more than half the first time around because it’s so tasty.




The pig pasture is looking good!


New Life at the Farm

Well folks, it has been a while.

2013 was an incredibly busy–and wonderful–year at the farm. We bought cattle, bred hogs, and had our biggest and best Meat CSA yet. And of course the best events of the year were the births of Alfie and Abram.

We have big hopes for 2014, including doing a lot more on this blog. In the meantime, here are a couple pictures of Abram meeting his first baby chick. He’s still working on his “gentle touch.”

(PS: Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook–we post there pretty regularly.)


Abe grabbing chick


Farm Babies

It has been a year of births at the farm–first more than 20 lambs in the spring, then four calves in July (with one still expected to arrive this summer), and now two litters of piglets! We think they are all pretty cute, but see for yourself…

first calf

 First calf born on the farm–two days old.


Sleepy piglets, about 18 hours old.


 The daddy pig was a Duroc, which is a red breed. This is one of Millie’s piglets, which are all pure red or pure black.


 More of Millie’s piglets.


Mama Dot, resting and nursing. Dot’s piglets are pure red or black with some white markings, just like their mom. Note the white dot on her forehead.


CSA Signups–Last Call

We have doubled our CSA capacity this year and have nearly filled the available slots. Thanks so much to all who already signed up.
We have just a few spots left in our summer meat CSA. Sign up now to provide your family with a mix of grass fed beef, pastured whey-fed pork, and pastured chicken. For $265 your family will receive 4 installments of meat from June-September. For $500 you will receive 8 installments from June-February. In addition to meat you will receive recipe ideas, useful and reusable Blue Heron Farm tote bags, and we hope to provide a chance to visit the farm.
Please email us today if you are interested at blueheron@blueheronfarms.org.

The ladies have arrived!

Tom  opening the trailer...

Tom opening the trailer…

First steps onto Blue Heron Farm soil!

First steps onto Blue Heron Farm soil!

Relaxing in the evening light.

Relaxing in the evening light.

The Blue Heron Farm Cattle Drive (Special Offers!)


Blue Heron sheep and steers in 2011.

Here at Blue Heron we are looking forward to a big year ahead on the farm. In addition to raising more hogs and lambs than ever before, we are ready to take our beef production to the next level.

By the middle of April, Blue Heron Farm will be home to five pregnant low-line heifers—the beginning of a herd that we hope will sustain our farm and provide delicious beef to our customers for years to come. It will be two years before we get our first beef from this herd—in the meantime, we also need to purchase at least four grass-fed steers to supply beef for the next two years of our Meat CSA.

Nine animals weighing several hundred pounds each—it’s a big step for us, and a big up-front financial investment! This is where we hope you can help.

If you are interested in participating in our Meat CSA we encourage you to sign up (and send us a check) by April 10. Your investment will go toward purchasing these heifers and steers, which will not only include the meat for your CSA, but will also significantly contribute to the sustainability of our farm.

In appreciation of your early investment, we have the following special offers:

  • Sign up and pay for the $265 Summer Meat CSA (June-September) by April 10 and receive a FREE bonus pork package of 2 pork chops and 2 pounds of sausage (from our whey-fed pigs!)
  • Sign up and pay for BOTH the Summer and Winter Meat CSA (November-February) by April 10 and receive the bonus pork package, PLUS $30 off your order for a total of $500 for all 8 months
  • All early sign ups will also be entered into a raffle to name any female calves born to our new herd this summer!

This year we are also offering, for the first time, a SOUTH BEND PICK-UP LOCATION in addition to our Goshen location. Please spread the word! To order, please contact us or send a check to Blue Heron Farm at 13416 CR 44, Millersburg, IN 46543.

As always, thank you for your support of Blue Heron Farm. We can’t wait to see what the rest of 2013 will bring—and we look forward to sharing it with you along the way.

Whey Better

First off, I should say – we have pork available again! We’re selling halves and wholes that will be butchered March 20. We know some of you have freezers nearing empty, so please email or call if you’re interested.

But it’s not just any pork – after two years of trying to make the logistics work out, this will be our first batch of pigs that we’ve been able to finish on whey rather than on more conventional feed with their pasture. Whey is a traditionally prized pig food which together with pasture and hay for roughage can form a complete ration.


This is satisfying for a few reasons – first, the whey is a byproduct of cheese production, and would otherwise be discarded. So even though we like the non-GMO corn-based pigfeed we’ve been using, this is an ecofriendlier solution. Not to mention, whey makes the best tasting pork available. Real Prosciutto di Parma is some of the most expensive and tastiest pork in the world and whey and pasture is a standard feed for those pigs. Another benefit is that depending on how many pigs we’re feeding at a time, it can be less expensive than other options. We’re getting the whey from Swissland Dairy in Berne, IN., so since we pay them (mostly for the trucking) your pork dollars are supporting a nearby cheesemaker in the business of grassfed, raw and goat cheese as well as more conventional cheeses (it’s a family business and Kirk and Brady have gone out of their way to make this work for us.)


I picked up a smaller batch earlier, but this Tuesday we were ready for our first big shipment – 1800 gallons or about 15,000# of whey from making colby and cheddar. Tom got all of our tank capacity ready and on trailers or haywagons. The weather didn’t cooperate – it was about 16 degrees in driving snow. Bad for us, but good for keeping the whey palatable longer.

The truck has a pump and a 3″ line and fills the tanks really quickly.


As it turns out, if you let go of the hose for just a second, you’re likely to get sprayed in the face, which just happened here:


We’re working on getting bigger and more mobile tanks for the summer when the pigs will be rotating more often, but for now, we can just gravity feed whey into troughs, which seems to work just fine. Here we’re just getting every bit we can by filling troughs straight from the truck – usually we’ll feed from our tanks.

IMG_2874All in all, we’re really excited about this. It’s an all-around win – better pork by using a byproduct. The only problem so far is the constant puns, like the title of this blog post.


Signs of Spring

Well, not many signs have arrived, but the first lambs of 2013 graced us with their presence this week.  And so I think of the rebirth of plants, green shoots and flowers, the return of song birds, and warmer days.



We do have a sense of the dormancy of winter on the farm, but much like the bubblings under a frozen pond, work and planning for the year ahead continue.  We have ordered our first batch of chickens, arranged for our next piglets to arrive, and looked seriously at some cattle that may become the base for our own herd.  Soon the ground will thaw and we will plant fence posts and seeds.  The cycle continues and we move in it with hope, excitement, trepidation, and awe.  Here’s to a joyous and fertile 2013!

Derstine Camera 044



Favorite Thanksgiving & Fall Recipes

Thanksgiving is less than a week away! Adam and I thought we would share some of our favorite fall recipes, including a very simple roast turkey recipe. What are your favorite fall recipes? Any Thanksgiving dishes that you can’t live without?

Edible Michiana recently featured Adam’s turkey recipe in their November Newsletter and Events Calendar. If you haven’t signed up yet for Edible’s newsletter, you can visit their facebook page and send them a message with your email address. Once a month you’ll receive an email with excellent recipes and news about food and drink in the Michiana area.

So–scroll down for Adam’s turkey recipe, but you might enjoy these as well:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Apple Salad
Just tried this a couple of weeks ago and loved it!

Apple, Sausage, and Parsnip Stuffing with Fresh Sage
We’ve made this many, many times for Thanksgiving and it’s always a hit.

Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Bourbon and Roasted Pecans
Okay–we don’t have a recipe for this one, but it’s as easy as it sounds. Just make your potatoes as you normally would, then stir in a splash of bourbon and sprinkle with pecans. Yum.

Roast Chicken with Pomegranate Glaze
We haven’t had the chance to try this one yet, but our CSA customer Carolyn D’Andrea says it was great with Blue Heron Farm chicken!

And finally, from Adam:
The Lazy Person’s Brine: A Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
There are three things I like about this recipe, which is becoming standard for us around Thanksgiving. One, all quantities and times are a bit flexible. Two, there’s enough process to make it look like you’re doing something special and clever without being too fussy. And three, it tastes amazing.

A recipe like this is important for us since we only raise turkeys for Thanksgiving, and not a huge number, so we usually only eat turkey once a year (other than the occasional bird too small to sell or with a broken wing or leg that wouldn’t look right on someone’s table).

A fair amount of work has gone into keeping the fragile poults alive when they’re young, then keeping the growing turkeys inside the netting and the weasels and skunks out through September and October, so we’re invested in some payoff at the plate. But by the same token, our enthusiasm for elaborate meat projects has been tempered by a long growing season and holiday logistics.

The only ingredients here are kosher salt, pepper, butter and a really good turkey. Usually around Thanksgiving there are enough flavors on the table that the meat doesn’t need much embellishment; if it’s juicy and the skin is crispy, everyone will be happy.

Sometime, preferably early, the day before Thanksgiving, coat the inside and outside of the thawed turkey with a thick layer of kosher salt. The more salt you can get to adhere to the meat and skin, the better. The salt contact works much as a brine, but without the inconvenient tub of salty water.

Leave the bird uncovered in the fridge overnight—the dry air helps remove moisture from the skin so it can crisp up in the oven. It will turn translucent and almost waxy. An hour or so before you roast it, rinse off the excess salt, then pat it dry. Cover the outside, especially the breasts, with soft butter and pepper. Then roast it at 425°F. for half an hour, turn down the oven to 325°F and continue until the thigh joint registers 165° (not 180°, like the USDA used to say.) A 12-pound turkey will take about two hours and 45 minutes total.

At this point most recipes say to give the meat a chance to rest for 15 minutes, but if your family holidays are like ours, there’s always enough chaos to prevent anyone rushing things too much. One year my grandfather, who spent his first few years after high school in the 1940s working in a butcher shop and is particular about meat, declared one of these turkeys “as good as he’d ever had,” which was high praise, indeed, especially for a lazy person.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!