Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Lamb It Up

I admit it. I have listened for years to people rave about lamb with utter confusion. I consider myself to have a pretty complex sense of taste, but lamb has just never done it for me. Well, all that changed last month when I discovered Azariah Acres Farm. They had a booth next to me at the winter market that occurs on the third Saturday of each month after the Mill City Farmers Market closes at Let's Cook in North East Minneapolis. Azariah Acres is a small, family-run, sustainable farm located in central Minnesota. They raise registered Icelandic and Shetland Sheep, Tibetan Yak, llamas and alpacas, goats, pigs, Satin Angora, Jersey Wooly, and French Lop rabbits, Aracauna, Rosecomb Leghorn, and Turken chickens, and guinea fowl. http://www.azariahacres.com/

The lamb chops looked too good to pass up. They look smaller then often found in the grocery store and that is because small farms raise sheep to the size that they are naturally meant to be. Sustainable farmers create a higher-quality product because they let animals roam on pastures and graze on grass and other plants they would naturally eat. Many small-scale sheep farmers can offer a unique variety of lamb meats with more subtle flavors than those produced by large scale operations. I noticed that several loyal customers came to the market to pick up a specific type or cut of meat that they had preordered with Azariah Acres. Sustainable lamb producers also refrain from giving their flock unnecessary antibiotics. Aside from being full of flavor, lamb is an excellent source of easily absorbed zinc and iron.

I took my lamb chops home and tried the following recipe, which is a take off of a traditional Irish Stew. The results were fabulous. The longer cook time allowed all of the flavors to seep together and the lamb to become tender and layered with taste. The dash of Raspberry Pepper Jam adds a touch of sweetness along with a hint of heat.

I would recommend this recipe for your next family gathering or cold winter evening at home. Since it cooks for so long, you can start it before your guests arrive and have more time to spend catching up on all the juicy gossip. We served ours with a mixed green salad, Irish soda bread, and a nice Chardonnay. Simple and elegant, so we say "Lamb it up!!"

Sweet Heat Lamb Stew

Serves 4

3lbs of Lamb Chops or approximately 8 chops

2lbs pealed potatoes

4 generous stems of parsley and thyme rough chopped

1 pound sliced yellow onions

2tbs Lucille's Kitchen Garden Raspberry Pepper Jelly

Fresh ground black pepper and sea salt


  • Preheat oven to 250 degrees

  • Cut potatoes into large chunks and put 1/3rd in the base of large casserole or Dutch oven sprinkle with herbs and ground pepper

  • Place half of the lamb chops on top of the cut potatoes, cover with half of the sliced onions, and sprinkle with herbs

  • Repeat this with remaining ingredients finishing with the final third of the potatoes and salt top layer generously to taste.

  • Spread the Lucille's Kitchen Garden Raspberry Pepper Jam on top

  • Add two cups of water and cover tightly

  • Simmer stew for two hours, checking liquid level occasionally. There should be a nice, natural gravy building in the pot. Add water as necessary. DO NOT STIR. Shake pan gently from time to time to keep sticking to a minimum.

Monday, December 10, 2007

We are Lucille's Kitchen Garden

Local produce in the winter in Minnesota can be a bit of a trick. Our weather is not exactly favorable for a winter growing season. Just over the border, however in Wisconsin we have the nations leading growers of cranberries. They produce over 300million pounds of cranberries annually. Cranberries are harvested from mid September through November so we all have ample opportunity to take advantage of fresh cranberry sauce during the holiday season. There are a number of places to order organic cranberries online and you can also ask your local grocer. Unfortunately with MA and WI as the main producers, it seems that most packaging states that the cranberries can be from either. This can be a problem since the number of food miles is very different from WI then it is from MA. However, most grocery stores carry an organic brand around this time of year. The following is our favorite recipe for fresh cranberry sauce with a little kick. You can add orange peel, nuts, or rum if you like, but this recipe is so easy that there are no excuses for canned sauce on your holiday table, unless of course you just like slicing the jellied version!
Enjoy a local feast this holiday season and visit our website to see more great recipes!!!
Fresh Cranberry Sauce
1 cup Sugar
1 cup water
1 (12 oz) fresh cranberries
1 jar Lucille’s Kitchen Garden Green Pepper Jelly
In heavy saucepan over medium heat mix sugar and water. Stir to dissolve sugar.
Bring to a boil and add cranberries, return to boil, then reduce heat.
Boil gently, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, add Green Pepper Jelly and cool completely.