No blarney! Everybody wants to be a little bit Irish on St. Patrick's Day. Whether it's a main dish or accompanying beverage, think local this March 17 and surprise even your picky family members in the process.
Even though he's not from Irish heritage, beef farmer Dale Oeschger confirms that St. Patrick's Day offers a great reason to indulge in hearty Irish-inspired beef dishes like shepherd's pie and of course, the famous corned beef. He said, "We love to celebrate St. Patrick's Day whether we're Irish or not -- because, actually, we're all a little Irish on St. Patty's Day! We wear green or at least pin on a shamrock for good luck and we look forward to favorite food traditions."
Oeschger is the owner of Lindale farms located near Bay Port in Michigan's thumb. His family feeds 600 head of cattle and farms 1,000 acres of sugar beets, navy beans, wheat, alfalfa and corn. Oeschger says his goal is to, "supply safe wholesome nutritious beef for consumers to enjoy before, during and after St. Patrick's Day."
But where to start? The beef case at the grocery store or local meat counter can be intimidating. What kind of beef should we be looking for? The Michigan Beef Industry Commission recommends beef brisket - a boneless cut available fresh or processed into corned beef using brine. Either way, using a moist-heat cooking such as braising or stewing is the preferred method for cooking most Irish-inspired dishes.
Type of brisket is the next decision: whole brisket, point half/point cut brisket, flat half/flat cut or middle cut? Oeschger recommends the flat half, often referred to as first cut, because, "It is less fatty and is often the most popular." He reminds foodies that all the cuts have a layer of fat that can be trimmed, but the fat adds to the flavor and tenderness of the final cooked dish.
Even more good news for Irish foodies (and Irish food lovers): corned beef is an excellent source of protein, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, selenium, and zinc; and it is a good source of fiber, niacin and iron.
Whichever beef type you prefer - grain-fed, grass-finished, certified organic, natural and branded beef products that can be found in grocery stores, farmers markets or at a local beef farm -- each kind of beef shares a few common denominators: tasty, nutritious and wholesome satisfaction.
But what to pair with that corned beef and shepherd's pie? Michigan beer of course!
Bell's Brewery, Inc. began in 1985 with a quest for better beer and a 15 gallon soup kettle. They've grown into a regional craft brewery that employs more than 100 people over an 18 state area, in addition to Puerto Rico and Washington, DC.
Laura Bell, Bell's Brewery Marketing Director, says, "Our dedication to brewing flavorful, unfiltered, quality craft beers that started in 1985 is still with us today. We currently brew over 20 beers for distribution as well as many other small batch beers that are served at our pub in Kalamazoo, the Eccentric Café." In the spirit of the season, she added, "Bell's offers many session beers that can be easily enjoyed throughout the day (responsibly of course). They fit nicely with the jovial atmosphere of St. Patrick's Day."
Distributing over 180,500 barrels of beer each year, Bell's offers a year-round portfolio including Amber Ale, Pale Ale, Two Hearted Ale (our IPA), Porter, Kalamazoo Stout, Third Coast Beer (a golden pale ale), Lager of the Lakes and Oarsman Ale. Their seasonal offerings include numerous stouts, three double IPAs, a Brown Ale and (their most popular seasonal) Bell's Oberon Ale.
When asked what she thought foodies like most about their company, Bell replied, "I think consumers enjoy the flavorful, well crafted, balanced beer we make." That balance can be attributed to well-rounded ingredients like water, malt, hops, yeast and occasionally wheat (for beers like Oberon and Winter White).
In terms of location, Bell said, "We source our hops and malt from a variety of places. But, a few years ago, Bell's purchased an 80 acre barley farm in Shepard, Michigan. While we don't grow enough barley there to make all of our beer, our Christmas Ale is made from 100% Michigan grown barley."
If you're over 21 and would like to learn more about Bell's Brewery visit their website or find a place to buy Bell's near you. Also, check out progress on their $17 million expansion project in Comstock that will add 400-barrel fermentation tanks, new grain handling facilities and an employee care area.
Don't let March 17 slip by unnoticed this year! Bust out your green garb, pin on a four-leaf clover, cook up a tasty Irish beef dinner and buy some Michigan beer. Think local and buy Michigan this St. Patrick's Day!