Kim Severson, NY Times, January 27, 2015
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Back in the 1970s, when Nathalie Dupree andShirley Corriher were cooking together in Atlanta, they wanted to avoid the kind of relationship in which competition slides into rancor.
So the two women, who went on to build national reputations, developed the pork chop theory. The idea is that one pork chop in a pan cooks up dry. But two produce enough fat to feed each other, and the results are much better.
The pork chop theory is as good an explanation as any for what’s happening in North Carolina, where women dominate the best professional kitchens.
The North Carolina food sisterhood stretches out beyond restaurants, too, into pig farming, flour milling and pickling. Women run the state’s pre-eminent pasture-raised meat and organic produce distribution businesses and preside over its farmers’ markets. They influence food policy and lead the state’s academic food studies. And each fall, the state hosts the nation’s only retreat for women in the meat business.
Bon Appetit Magazine has referred to the Triangle region as the foodiest small town in America. That distinction is due in large part to the area’s farmers, many of whom are committed to raising the freshest, healthiest, and most sustainable food possible. In this story David Huppert travels to Alamance County to learn how one farm aligns it’s customers demands with its respect for nature.”
Eliza MacLean on NPR’s The State of Things with Frank Stasio
Eliza had the opportunity to meet up with fellow farmer Suzanne Nelson of Cozi Farm, chef Jeff Barney of the Saxapahaw General Store and The Eddy, filmmakerGraham Meriwether and Frank Stacio of National Public Radio to discuss how meat is raised in America. The discussion centers around the new documentary American Meat, that looks at the challenges of modern meat production in America and ideas on how we can better feed out nation.
Frank Stacio asked about the consumer movement toward smaller conscientious farms, the market for sustainable and naturally raised meats, and how things have changed or moved along since he last interviewed Eliza in September of 2007. Here is what Eliza had to say about it: “Demand has increased, as we expected that it would. And I’m glad that it has and more and more farmers have come to the area. More and more people are producing more than just for their own families on their smaller pieces of land. Jeff (Barney) is a great aggregator of those people too… of those who don’t do the farmers markets like I do. More Farmers markets have come up in the last few years. I don’t think the market is saturated but you have to keep you eye on the ball to stay in this business. It’s still not easy. None if us would do it if we didn’t feel some immense pride in it. You cant work this hard and and make this little money unless you love every moment of it…. I remember talking with you four years ago about the critical mass thing. We’re getting there but I don’t think we’re yet there. There are still lots and lot of consumers who need to be brought into it and room for more producers. We need to collaborate.”
The Times News, Burlington NC published November 25th, 2013
The non-traditional, traditional turkey
by Natalie Allison Janicello, photo by Sam Roberts
SNOW CAMP — Cane Creek Farm has sold out of turkeys for the year.
For most people who buy their birds at the grocery store for $1.50 per pound, purchasing from such a farm may never have crossed their minds. But for a growing number of people who are more conscious about the origin of their food, it is proof that there’s value in buying meat that’s fresh, local and naturally raised.
Eliza MacLean, owner of Cane Creek, described her Alamance County farm as “very free-range.”
This year, she raised around 70 turkeys that had 400 acres to roam.
Most of the turkeys are Heritage breed, which she describes as a wild breed that cooks quickly and has a lot of flavor with little fat.
“People have gotten used to these enormous turkeys at the center of the table that are kind of crazy cheap,” MacLean said. “They’ve lost some of their flavor and lost their meaning.”
She said her 12-pound birds feed 8 to 10 people with other dishes on the table, including other proteins, and said the breasts are smaller but feet are larger than those of most turkeys available for sale today.
“I just offer an alternative,” MacLean said. “That’s really what is. It’s like a more expensive bottle of wine: You drink less and enjoy it more.”
This year was MacLean’s ninth raising turkeys.
She said in addition to being free-range birds, her turkeys, along with other animals on the farm, are naturally raised. MacLean said the turkeys have been eating things like persimmons and greens, much like what a wild turkey would eat.
“It brings to the table this very gamey flavor,” she said.
MacLean begins taking orders for turkeys around Labor Day, and said she sold out in early November. Most of her customers are in Orange, Durham, Chatham and Guilford counties, she said, adding that Alamance County has an “older farming crowd” and folks are still warming up to alternative ways of agriculture.
But her methods aren’t anything too new, MacLean said.
“I’m interested in knowing how to raise these old breeds right on my farm where Alamance County habitants can come and see the way our grandparents did it,” she said. “We could really benefit from doing things the way we did it 100 years ago.”
The farm employs two full-time workers and one part-timer to keep up with the turkeys, pigs, chickens, goats, ducks, lambs and other animals there.
MacLean said she also will sell Christmas hams.
Though the farm is in a period of downsizing — which included the turkeys this year, declining from 200 last year — MacLean said she still plans to continue her work there and to provide others with the same type of food she raises for her own family.
“It’s not that anybody else does it wrong,” she said. “But there’s a demand for this out there, and I’m happy to provide a few more than for just my family. … I feel like I’m in this for the long haul because it makes sense.”
To find out more about Cane Creek Farm, including information on how to purchase its products, go to www.canecreekfarm.us.
Cane Creek Turkeys Enjoy 2 minutes of fame on UNC TV’s NC Now!
Cane Creek Farm’s heritage breed Bourbon Red turkeys enjoyed a moment in the spotlight when NC Now stopped by the farm to film a segment on NC grown Thanksgiving turkeys. Eliza MacLean discusses some of the many reasons that people buy our turkeys, including their amazing taste and the wholesome and humane way they are raised.
Hog in the Limelight
by Jean Anderson
Gourmet Magazine, October 2007
You can find this article on Gourmet Magazine’s Website
Does saving a rare breed mean eating it for dinner? In pork-crazy North Carolina, the Ossabaw pig—with a wild-tinged ancient flavor and fat that’s actually good for you—makes a last stand, and restaurant chefs in the know are scattering pearls before (these) swine.
Is lard the new olive oil? If that lard (pork fat) comes from an Ossabaw, the answer is maybe. Never heard of an Ossabaw? To be honest, neither had I. Then one cold night not so long ago, I ordered the pork belly with purple hull pea vinaigrette at Ben and Karen Barker’s award-winning Magnolia Grill in Durham, North Carolina. Brilliant! But even the gifted Ben Barker wasn’t magician enough to turn today’s dry, tasteless “new white meat” into anything so luxurious, so complexly flavored, so tender it barely needed chewing. What was this extraordinary pork? In a word: Ossabaw.
Strangely, that word would pop up again before week’s end. A friend working at Cane Creek Farm, twelve miles west of Chapel Hill, e-mailed to gush over a new litter of Ossabaws.
“You’ve got to come out,” she urged. “You must see the baby pigs and meet Eliza.” Eliza MacLean, a slim, 40-ish honey blonde, a single mom of young twins, is one of the few American farmers raising the endangered Ossabaws. And she is doing so—organically—on 11 acres of North Carolina’s rumpled red-clay midriff. Hardly the career path you’d expect of a Philadelphia girl who’d graduated from Mount Holyoke.
I drove out to her storybook farm one blue-sky morning. There were pygmy goats eager to nuzzle, fluffy chickens of exotic breed, miniature donkeys. But it was the Ossabaws I’d come to see. And there they were: pointy snouted, with coltish legs kicking up little puffs of red dust.
Before hitting the road, I had done my homework. Ossabaws descend from the Iberico hogs introduced to the Deep South by Spanish colonists four centuries ago. Stranded on Ossabaw, a barrier island off the coast of Savannah, they turned feral over time and were reduced to foraging for acorns and whatever else turned up in field and forest. It was a harsh habitat, but the Ossabaws adapted, developing not only the ability to store fat that could sustain them through lean times but also a tolerance for the island’s intensely brackish water.
These traits piqued the interest of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, whose mission is to save once traditional but now endangered livestock breeds that belong to our agricultural heritage. Already alarmed by the valuable breeds being phased out by agribusiness in favor of more profitable hogs, the ALBC began studying the endangered Ossabaws, in particular their meat and fat profiles. High in oleic acid (the one dominant in olives), Ossabaw fat is so unsaturated it is nearly liquid at room temperature. Is it heart-healthy? Maybe. Researchers at two state universities-Iowa State and North Carolina-have been studying not only the composition of Ossabaw fat but also how the hog’s diet affects it. So far, the fat of field-and-forest foraging hogs has been found to be lower in saturated fat than that of those fed rations of grain, which may explain why the Spanish long ago nicknamed their acorn-fed Ibericos “four-legged olive trees.”
Could Ossabaws, as finely fleshed as the Ibericos and blessed with a similar wildness of flavor, be farm-raised? And if so, how could these qualities be preserved? That’s what the ALBC aims to find out.
Enter Eliza MacLean and Cane Creek Farm. After earning a master’s in environmental toxicology at Duke, she volunteered at ALBC, where she met Charles Talbott, a professor of animal sciences at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro who was intent on preserving the rare Ossabaws. Soon, MacLean was managing the entire A&T swine herd.
“Pigs are funny and smart,” she says. “I find them endlessly fascinating. It takes a creative approach to work with them, and I like the challenge.”
When MacLean bought Cane Creek Farm in 2002, she turned it into a sort of Noah’s Ark by agreeing to raise seven Ossabaws as part of studies Talbott was conducting in cooperation with the University of Missouri, Penn State, and Iowa State. Before long, Alice Waters heard about Cane Creek and came to see for herself. She was so impressed, so admiring of MacLean and her mission, that she asked her to speak at the Slow Food Conference in Turin, Italy.
Barely a year and a half after she’d begun raising Ossabaws, Peter Kaminsky praised MacLean as a pioneer in his New York Times piece “On the Trail of Fine Ham.” Suddenly, celebrated Manhattan chef Daniel Boulud phoned MacLean for a standing order of pork, as did the chefs at New York City’s Il Buco and Savoy. Today, availability permitting, Cane Creek’s artisanal organic pork appears on the menus of such Manhattan restaurants as Gramercy Tavern, Blue Hill, and Blue Smoke and is more or less a staple at a dozen Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill restaurants.
Still, MacLean doesn’t short-shrift her faithful customers at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market and other local outlets. Unfortunately, she doesn’t yet produce enough to fill phone orders. The main problem, MacLean explains, is that Ossabaws are smallish hogs that produce small litters. That’s why she’s begun crossing them with Farmer’s Hybrids. Are “Crossabaws,” as she calls them, the answer? Time will tell.
Meanwhile, MacLean suggests Caw Caw Creek Farm, in South Carolina, as an alternative source for Ossabaw pork.
North Carolina native and longtime Gourmet contributor Jean Anderson has written more than 20 cookbooks on subjects ranging from nutrition to the foods of Portugal. Her latest, A Love Affair with Southern Cooking, is to be published this month. Visit jeanandersoncooks.com for more information.