Although I've yet to try even a significant fraction of the recipes in Deborah Krasner's lavishly illustrated and beautifully written book Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat, I'm well on my way. Wow, this book is so much more than a cookbook. Good Meat is a thoughtfully written guidebook that delves into the modern state of meat, why grassfed and locally sourced meat is a better bargain environmentally, nutritionally and culinarily, and then leads the reader through all kinds of adventures with one of nature’s most valuable sources of protein and high-quality calories. Krasner’s keen understanding of just what goes on in our nation’s factory farms and processing facilities and her way with words make understanding why we want to grow our own or source it from an artisan agriculturist a no-brainer. And in the process she takes all the mystery out of cooking with grassfed meats and free-range poultry – nope, you won’t find any tough-as-leather, dried out disasters on these pages.
As a celebration of the best, cleanest and most humane meats available (in your own backyard), Good Meat offers an accurate animal anatomy lesson (species by species) with such complexities as primal cuts, retail cuts and even how to break down a carcass nicely explained. If you find yourself with a lamb shoulder sub-primal on your hands, you will discover that you can create a bone-in or boneless shoulder roast or shoulder blade chops and arm chops from the cut. Even if you will never butcher and break down your own lamb, Krasner gives you the language and the understanding to have a meaningful conversation with your butcher. Once you have an understanding of the anatomy and what it means for the table, Good Meat offers some general cooking considerations for each of the parts and then bursts into an explosion of delectable delights in the recipes that follow. Not sure what to do with that lamb shoulder? Why not try it braised in cider with yogurt and quinces?
Good Meat is most definitely not another grilling or barbeque book, although it does contain many such meaty recipes. Instead, Krasner offers us a choice among simple to sophisticated ways to enjoy that ultimate gift of nourishment. How about a split pea soup with bacon batons or a sweet and salty bacon cornbread? Perhaps rabbit with prunes marinated in red wine catches your eye – and your palate. Wondering what to do with all those pheasants that wind up in the freezer come fall? How does pheasant in lemon cream sauce with nutmeg sound – yes, just writing that makes me long for those dry fall days and it isn’t even spring yet.
Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat belongs on the shelf of every carnivore out there. If you eat meat and if you raise animals for meat or if you have ever considered eating meat or eggs, you need a copy of Deborah Kranser’s work of art. The thoughtful essays, equipment and seasonings chapters alone are worth the price of admission, but the anatomy lessons, cutting instructions and more than 200 recipes make the book a rare bargain indeed.
Look for Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat at your favorite online or brick and mortar bookstore.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.