Stocking Up

Stock may be a culinary friend you only tend to make nice with while the weather is cold, but we here at Porter Road Butcher know the value that this delicious and healthful cooking staple contains all year round.

Stocking Up at Porter Road ButcherSure, stock is usually employed in heartier dishes that require braising, are chosen as the foundation of a soup, or are selected to saucify your favorite glaze, but stocks don’t have to be limited to cold-weather cooking.

Most simply, stock is nutritious flavored water that adds both richness and minerals to whatever you’re cooking; why wouldn’t you use it? Your health and flavor points are skyrocketing.

The beauty of a properly prepared stock—and let’s be honest, we Porter Road butchers obviously prepare our stocks properly—is that it contains tons of nutrients and minerals served in a form where they can be easily absorbed. It’s one of your most healing diet staples.

After steadily boiling on the stove for a long period of time, the minerals from the bones, cartilage, marrow, and vegetables are released into the broth in the form of electrolytes (essentially salts) that you wouldn’t otherwise take in if served in a different form. Furthermore, adding wine, vinegar, or other acidic ingredients (like the red wine and tomato paste we add to beef and lamb stocks) help to draw out essential nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

Talk about a nutrient-fest!

The other main health benefit—and admittedly, one of the main reasons the stock-piling trend has become so popular recently—is the natural gelatin that comes from stock and aids in digestion.

It is fairly common knowledge that raw foods are digested more easily than cooked food, but the reasoning behind this stems from food’s attraction to or repulsion of liquid. A fresh, raw salad will make its way through your system much more efficiently than a plate of spaghetti and meatballs would, because raw foods are hydrophilic, meaning they attract liquid, which assists in digestion. Cooked foods, like that hot plate of saucy and meaty pasta, are hydrophobic, which means they repel liquids and are more difficult to digest; they sit in your stomach for longer periods of time.

Chicken Stock in the Making at Porter Road ButcherHowever, gelatin that comes from bone broth is a protein supplement with the unusual characteristic of being hydrophilic (water-attracting)—even after being heated for an extensive period of time. This means that the naturally produced gelatin in stocks helps you digest food more quickly. Plus, since gelatin is only a protein sparer, it allows the body to more completely utilize the other “normal” proteins that you ingest, like chicken or pork.

In a nutshell, gelatin-rich broths can be an excellent aid to the health of those who cannot afford or simply do not incorporate much meat in their general diet.

Final interesting fact about stocks: recent studies have proved that the digestive system is often times the root of humans’ general illnesses, but the hydrophilic (again, liquid-attracting) characteristic of gelatinous stock lends it to being an excellent cleanser for your intestines, helping prevent digestive problems and diseases. Just sayin’.

So, want to know if the stock you’re buying is the good, nutritional, healthy stuff? Here are some general rules to follow:

  1. Unless Porter Road Butcher made it, or you made it, or maybe your Grandma Jane made it, most likely it isn’t good.
  2. Stick it in the fridge. If it gelatinizes and turns into what looks like a Jell-O, it’s good.
  3. Read the ingredients label for the stock that you’ve bought from the grocery. If it includes more ingredients than the basics (that’s bones, water, vegetables, wine, tomato paste, herbs, and seasonings), you likely don’t want it.

We make chicken, pork, lamb, and beef stocks at both shops as often as we can and we incorporate plenty of love into the mix too—you won’t find that listed in any of the ingredients of your favorite store-bought bone broths.

While our fresh PRB stocks should be used up within about a week, you could also throw it into the freezer to extend the shelf life and help preserve all of the beneficial nutrients.

But WAIT! There’s MORE! We also now carry pantry-ready, shelf-stable All-Natural PRB Beef Stock in our west side marketplace.

There’s no excuse to shirk the stock!

Even though the temperatures have warmed and it may not seem like very stock-suitable season, the nutritional benefits that we gain from consuming them makes stocks too valuable to limit to just half the year. Try substituting stock for water while steaming vegetables; employ it as a creaming agent in making risotto; use up your plethora of summer squashes with some stock-braised ratatouille; or really go balls to the walls and just drink it as is.

We’ve got it ready for you.

Marksbury Farm Market meats Porter Road Butcher

While many people marvel over the craft of butchering and appreciate the local lens on which we at Porter Road focus, often times folks don’t quite understand how things work; they can’t comprehend why we don’t have X today, or how we could’ve run out of Y and Z when it’s only Thursday afternoon.

Marksbury Processing - Aging BeefSomehow people seem to forget that bacon doesn’t grow on trees and they are often ignorant to the fact that chickens aren’t actually in season until the weather is warm. Due to the abundance of large-scale grocery stores that are riddled with chicken, pork, and beef galore, we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that these kinds of products are readily available seven days a week, 365 days a year.

The reality of the matter is that our hard-working, local farmers have neither the means nor the capacity to produce the mass amounts of product that our ever growing and popularizing (thanks for that, by the way 😉 ) butcher shop clientele desires—if the farmers want to keep doing things the way they’re doing ‘em. For the record, all of us want them to keep doing things they way they’re doing them (that’s humane handling, free range, no hormones or antibiotics, and excellent quality of life for all our animals: the right way).

The window of opportunity for us to give our customers exactly what they want, exactly when they want it, is a very small one and it can slam shut with just the wrong gust of wind.

Fortunately, our window of meat-portunity just got a whole lot bigger.

This past Tuesday a few of us meat-lovers woke up at the crack of dawn to road-trip three hours north, destined for Marksbury Farm Market, and by the end of the day we’d formed a partnership that greatly widened the PRB meat window.

What a Pig Pen! Porter Road ButcherMarksbury Farm Market is a small-scale, locally owned processing facility, butcher shop, and farm market located in Lancaster, Kentucky. Marksbury partners with local farmers, all of whom who share a commitment to sustainable, humane, and all-natural production of animals as a means of providing high quality, healthy and fresh meat to the local and regional community. Their motto is: Buy Local. Eat Well.

We couldn’t agree more.

While the idea for Marksbury began a’ brewing a long while back, the processing facility, butcher shop, and farm market were constructed just four short years ago. Since then, the owners of Marksbury have been creating and strengthening relationships with their assortment of Kentucky farmers, forming what is likely the largest sustainable, humane, and all-natural processing facility in our region.

Ya see why we like ‘em?

During our tour of the facility, in which we were able to see the processing rooms for the pork, beef, lamb, and chickens, we PRB folks found that the processor goes through about 30-35 cows, 40 lamb, and 30-40 hogs in one day (those are separate days, per animal) and roughly 15 chickens a minute on chicken day. Not only are these numbers impressive for a more small-scale processor, but the facility workers also make every effort to keep the animals calm and comfortable in every step of their journey. For example, pigs are brought to their pens and cows to the neighboring pastures a day or two before they are to be processed, which gives them time to acclimate to the environment and become less fearful of their new surroundings.

Chris Carter of Porter Road Butcher, Checking out Clark Family FarmSimilarly, the farmers with whom Marksbury does business care about every step of each animal’s life from the beginning to the end. That’s why they pay so much attention towards the grass they grow, the feed they feed them, the habitats in which they live, and finally, choosing a processor that makes what would normally be a horrible day…something a little more palatable.

We only had enough time to visit one out of Marksbury’s eleven farms, but Clark Family Farm both looked and felt like something out of Old MacDonald’s storybook: and on that farm he had some baby chicks, fully grown chickens, egg-laying hens, white bleating goats, and free-grazing cows. Ee-i-ee-i-oh.

Todd Clark showed us the beautiful new hen house that sat in an open field of bright-green grass; he led us through the tall pastures of carefully selected Alfalfa, Bluegrass, Orchard, and Rye to get a closer look at his growing grass-fed cattle; and he showed us to the field where the goats roamed freely yet ran in the opposite direction the closer we crept.

Most of all we were thrilled to see that Clark Family Farm, very like the local Tennessee farms from which we already receive product, aligned with our core values: grass-fed, humanely raised animals, with an excellent quality of life from beginning to end, which will lead to happier and healthier customers.

Clark Family Farm ChicksNow, we know what you may be thinking: Marksbury Farm Market doesn’t fit into our two-hours-away general rule of thumb for sourcing our farmers. But au contraire! Marksbury perfectly aligns with our intent to source excellent regional products from people who hold themselves to the highest of standards and put utmost care into their work.

Not only does Marksbury get meat from the best farmers in Kentucky, but they also process their animals using the most humane means they can. You can’t get much better than that.

Except it does.

Working with a larger operation like Marksbury affords us the opportunity to receive more of what we want, at the times we want it most. Fourth of July? Bring on the ribs. Christmas season? Tenderloins, please. And as we pack up from our farm adventure and point Chris’s truck heading south? Might as well load up our coolers with six cases of free-range, all-natural, Todd Clark chickens to bring down to the shops.

Cluck yeah!

So there you have it. It’s official.

We’ve gotta add a new “Regional” category to our sources chalkboards so we can proudly proclaim Marksbury Farm Market as the newest addition to our repertoire of farming partners. We just hope y’all are as incredibly excited as we are.

Bring on the meat.