Grand Junction a prime rib kinda town
On Christmas Day, most Americans feast on ham, roast beef or, yet again, on turkey (yawn). The two birds the president pardoned from a “shellacking” — Apple and Cider — won’t put a dent in the overall turkey consumption this holiday season.
Home cooks looking to splurge outside the realm of supermarket offerings head to a handful of local ranches and meat stores, either for something from the butcher case or special ordered. We’re bolstering the economy, right?
Two places I like are, Quality Meat Co., right here in Grand Junction, and Homestead Ranches, which is in Paonia, but delivers to several sites around the Grand Valley, including Fisher’s Market.
Quality Meat has been around since 1946, when John and Eleanor Emerson left the dairy farm business and opened up shop on North Avenue. Back in the day, when freezers were sometimes a luxury, the back half of the store was a freezer locker for people to store their surplus cherries, apples and meats. Out in back was a stockyard. Still standing is the old-fashion wooden freezer door.
Today, the business is owned by the children of the Emersons, son Phil Emerson and his sister, Joyce. Emerson orders his beef from Fort Morgan and Dodge City, Kan., and ages it for 21 days. These cows weren’t happy in the field five days ago.
He prides himself on being Colorado-centric, but hey, everybody knows Kansas grows some good cows. No insult meant to Texans, but Emerson avoids Texas meat on-the-hoof because they feed on, and taste like, scrub brush and sage.
His lamb comes from Craig and Meeker; elk and buffalo from Hotchkiss; sausage from Craig.
By far the biggest seller for Emerson at Christmas is prime rib, followed by crown rack of pork and filet mignons.
The prime ribs are sterling silver, midway between prime and choice on the index of quality and marbling. They run about $7.49 per pound bone-in and $9.49 per pound boneless. A 12-pound crown rack, which feeds 16 people, runs about a hundred dollars. If you’re feeling generous, a gift-wrapped box of six filet mignons is $42. Note to self: Get a larger stocking.
Another popular item year-round is doggy bones. He cuts them in three sizes for “Gonzos, Tinkerbells and dogs in between.”
So what is Emerson having for Christmas dinner? Sirloin roast with his trademark lingonberry horseradish sauce. It has a lower-fat content — he has a couple of Jack Spratt relatives — but with the flavor of prime rib.
Homestead Ranches in a family co-op of all-natural ranches in the North Fork Valley and Crawford areas. They raise an array of grass- and grain-fed animals. Susan Smith, who has been ranching with her husband Norman for 40 years, said the most popular Christmas orders are whole pork tenderloin, bone-in ham and guess what? Prime rib. All three favorites are under $10 a pound.
If you custom order something, Homestead will help you decide how much you need for the number of people you’re serving, what type of cut you prefer and whether you want bone-in or boneless.
As with Quality Meat, Homestead sells elk, buffalo, chicken and lamb, all raised locally by member ranches of the co-op.
“It’s our calling card,” Smith said, “everything is local.”
HUMMUS WARS: When I was in college, the cause de jour was boycotting Nestle because they reportedly scared African women into stopping breast-feeding in favor of buying Nestle baby formula.
Today, it’s more of a geo-political head-scratcher. According to The New York Times, students at Princeton and DePaul universities are protesting the cafeteria sale of U.S.-based Sabra, because it has ties to Israel. A spokeswoman for Sabra said the company had never contributed “hummus or anything else” to the Israeli military.”
QUOTE: “I eat bacon for breakfast, bacon for lunch and I drink my dinner.”
— From “Grumpy Old Men”