Howdy! Welcome to the first ever virtual Cook’s Country Fair. With a cornucopia of agriculture-themed posts and down-home cooking competitions, for 12 weeks we’ll pay homage to our rural roots and those who taught us to enjoy good, simple food. We’ve got our summer jam-packed with fun stories, blue-ribbon winning recipes, and exciting giveaways. Each week we’ll be asking you, our fans, to share your personal stories in our comments, and we’ll pick a new story each week to be our winner. We hope you’ll join us for the festivities every Thursday afternoon from June to September!
Ask any kid who participated in 4-H, and they’ll tell you that their local Livestock Show is as intense as any high-brow dog show, except the animals are much bigger and much less obedient. Livestock animals—typically cattle, sheep, and pigs—are judged on their overall health and the resulting quality of their meat. In the end, livestock shows are all about the potential of an animal’s appearance and quality.
Participation in a summertime livestock show begins months, sometimes even a year, before the county fair festivities. Depending on the type of animal, young livestock are selected and cared for over an extended period of time in order to raise them into fine, upstanding representations of their particular breed. Sometimes this can be a single heifer, a couple of hogs, or an entire flock of sheep (typically distributed throughout an entire 4-H group or Future Farmers of America class). Regardless of the animal, they are cared for as equally (and then some) as any domestic pet—although Fido the Cow isn’t usually allowed to sleep at the foot of the bed or cuddle with you on the couch. Livestock-owning responsibilities include vaccinations, daily walks and exercise, shelter from whatever weather, special feeds and healthy diets, and daily coat care. When the time finally comes, the 4-H kids pack up your animal and all its necessities (water trough, bags of feed, harnesses and leads) and head to your local livestock show.
Growing up, my county-extension agent father judged numerous livestock shows and also helped mentor young 4-Hers with their show animals. My personal attempts at livestock shows, once with a lamb and a few other times with several heifers, were limited to the Pee-Wee divisions. At that point, the animals were drastically larger than my elementary-school-aged self and competitors were graded on the prettiness of the ribbon tied around the cow’s neck or the cuteness of a lamb’s bleat. I quickly learned that the food competitions were more my cup of iced tea and I left the livestock show for greener pastures. (My Pee-Wee trophies still shine proudly in my family’s china cabinet.)
While we can’t host an actual livestock show here in the Test Kitchen’s little brownstone building in New England, we can share the secrets to picking animal protein and specific meat cuts, similar to the methods used by country fair judges at the end of the livestock show. And I think it’s about time you met your meat.
Read our Field Guide to Pork Cuts
Read our Field Guide to Beef Steaks
HOW THE COOK’S COUNTRY FAIR WORKS
Every Thursday this summer, we’ll post a new story on the Feed. After getting to know your meat, live high on the hog and try one of this week’s country fair inspired recipes like Old-Fashioned Roast Pork, Slow-Cooker Barbecued Beef Tips, or Biscuits and Sausage Gravy.
MAKE IT NOW
Our recipes for are free through July 31, 2013.
SHOW AND TELL
HOW TO WIN THIS WEEK’S GIVEAWAY
We’re giving away a 1-year online membership to cookscountry.com! Want to win? Leave a comment below describing your favorite meat-based dish. Entries due Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 11:59pm EST. Giveaway for continental US residents only.
LAST WEEK’S WINNER
Congratulations to who photopiggy who warmed us with a comment about their grandmother’s rustic rye-corn bread baked in a clay-oven in Portugal, and won a copy of The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook! Thank you to all who shared their stories on baked goods; read them all here.