Farm Feature: My Brother's Farm
Taylor, Ben and Austen Larson have all traveled, gone to college and returned to the land they were raised on in Creswell, Oregon to farm together. They each bring a different specialty to the farm but are united in their commitment to increasing the health of the land and of their community through producing nourishing foods. Bison, pork and hazelnuts are their primary products and they were carefully chosen. We carry their ground bison, bison stew meat and organic whole and roasted hazelnuts in the shop.
Beyond producing incredible food, they are actively researching sustainable practices on their land with the University of Oregon and the Western SARE Farmer/Rancher Grant Program. The farm includes 320 acres of land, 80 of which is in riparian restoration. The prior owners of the land produced grass seed so their plan to diversify and rejuvenate the property is multifaceted.
“We grow with an eye toward building soil health, biodiversity, water quality, and strengthening our community,” their mission statement explains.
Most cattle ranchers who are practicing rotational grazing and keeping land health in mind are mimicking the natural habits of bison. The Larson brothers decided that they would just graze bison on their land and save a step. Though the bison have proven to be a bit wilder and more stubborn than cows, they have improved the health of the pasture and the meat is far more nutritious than beef. It is less fatty, higher in protein, selenium and zinc.
This recipe for bison meatballs is incredible. I add a little bacon to the meatballs to give them a smokey flavor and a little more fat to increase juiciness.
Bison and Bacon Meatballs
1 lb ground bison
2 strips thick cut bacon, diced into ¼” pieces
1 shallot, peeled and finely diced
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 Tbsp oregano, freshly chopped or dried
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
½ tsp chili flakes
¼ cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
½ cup bread crumbs
1 duck egg (or 1 chicken egg + one chicken egg yolk)
1 Tbsp fennel seeds
1 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 400
Combine the bison, bacon, herbs, garlic, spices, and bread crumbs in a medium sized bowl using your hands to make sure everything is well combined. Add the egg and cheese and continue to mix until the meat is binding together well. Cook a piece of the mix in a hot frying pan before forming the meat balls, to make sure the seasonings are to your liking, adjust chili flakes, salt, pepper and herb quantities to your liking. Once the mixture is tasting incredible, form the meatballs, I usually make mine golf ball sized, but you can make them however big or small you like, just try to make them all the same size.
Lay them an inch apart on a parchment lined sheet tray and bake for 10 minutes. Check on them by pressing down lightly on one with your hand, it should feel bouncy and be crisping up, this can take longer than ten minutes if you make enormous meatballs. If you have a meat thermometer, you are going for an internal temperature of 135F.
I like to make meatball subs with these, they are also great with pasta and tomato sauce, or a light cream sauce with leeks, garlic and leafy greens. Sometimes, I just eat cold meatballs as a snack.
The hazelnuts grown at My Brother’s Farm are organic which is no small feat. Hazelnuts are prone to disease and pest pressure. Specifically, there is a native moth, known as the Filbert Worm, that lays its eggs close to immature hazelnuts. Most farmers use pesticides to manage this pest. In conjunction with the Hallett Lab at the University of Oregon, the Larson Brothers are researching the effect of finishing pigs on the fallen hazelnuts in the orchard to stop this cycle. Their organic hazelnuts are the best hazelnuts I have ever had. They are tiny, crunchy and packed with sweet, deep flavor. Most of the time, I just eat them straight out of the bag, but this shortbread recipe showcases their excellence and is so easy to make.
Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies
1 tsp cinnamon
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup hazelnuts, chopped
Flakey sea salt
Cream together cinnamon, butter, sugar and salt until it is well combined and light in color, this should take about two minutes with a stand mixer or electric hand mixer. Add the flour and nuts and mix until just combined. Fold the dough a few times by hand and roll it into a 12” long log with a 1” diameter. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for at least an hour. You can make the dough days in advance.
Once the dough is firm, preheat the oven to 350 F. Let the dough stand at room temperature for about ten minutes before cutting it into ½” wide medallions. Lay the cookies 1” apart on a parchment lined sheet tray. Bake for 5 minutes, rotate and bake for an additional five minutes. Remove them from the oven with the sides are lightly golden and allow them to cool for 5 minutes on the sheet tray before transferring them to a plate or to your mouth.