Miolea Organic Farm

  (Adamstown, Maryland)
Organic Farming from a City Boy's Perspective
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Taste Tests

I'm good at research, currently we are participating in a study with the University of West Virginia, Graduate School on a nematode study.  But I love giving blind taste tests the best.  Get a foody in the kitchen and sit them down and give them two things to eat and ask which tastes better.

Our County has what’s called Family Fun on the Farm.  It is a two day event where the local farmers sign up and folks take tours of their farm.  It’s a way to promote farming and for the farmer to explain environmental and sustainable practices and show what he or she grows or has for sale.  Families go from farm to farm visiting and learning about milking, free range chickens, organic beef or whatever the farm does.

It is held in October when we are pretty much done with growing and have put the winter covers on all of the gardens.  We have an organic farmer down the road from us who raises chickens. beef, turkeys and feed.  We purchase our organic chicken feed from them.  One summer day we were talking about the upcoming October event and what he had been going through getting permits to sell cooked food and beverages and so fourth.

I've always been an advocate of using cherry wood instead of charcoal.  I've tried apple, maple and oak but not walnut.  DO NOT USE WALNUT; there are toxins in walnut that can remove paint from cars.  The best flavors come from cherry specifically American cherry or choke cherry wood.  I cook with the flames not the coals or smoke.  So I'm telling Nick this.  I said that his organic ground beef and cherry wood would just be terrific and went a step further and said I could prove it.

He took me up on the offer and when October rolled around I took my grill over set it up started the cherry wood and let the fire get ready.  Prior to this I had arrange to have another grill setup but this one was fired with charcoal.  We offered everyone a taste test.  They could by two burgers get 50% off the second burger to participate.  The bottom of each plate was marked with a 1 or 2.  Each person would then give us their number preference.  Everyone could participate, young and old.  This was no empirical study by any means, there was no control group, the conditions were free form and no scientific protocols were followed.

We did this for two days; each day lasted about six hours.  We sold out of beef mid-day the second day.  We kept the numbering system up and let people weigh in on what they liked and thought.

I had people come back with analysis that floored me, I'm a foody, I know other foodies but some of Nick's customers just amazed me with their palettes.  I delighted in the seriousness that some people took with this test.  Some saw this challenge the way I would have, which would have been to thoroughly analyze every aspect of the food, the taste, texture, flavor of the meet the outer smoke ring and its color.

I think people really had fun with it and were truly interested in the outcomes.  What surprised me most were the results.  Age definitely made a difference in taste preference.  Almost one hundred percent of the children preferred charcoal.  Their parents on the other hand went in the complete opposite direction.  That didn't surprise me.  I've advocated for cherry wood cooking ever since we went camping and cooked over a cherry wood fire.  We had hamburgers and chicken the first night and people raved.  They all wanted to know how we prepared both meats.

Truth was that nothing special was done but cooking on an open fire.  I admit I liked it too and could taste the flavor that they were talking about.  My thought was everything taste good when camping, you’re cooking on an open fire, you're communing with nature and the environment is different.  I wanted to see if the same was true once we got home.  I started cooking with cherry instead of charcoal.  I grilled fish, shrimp, pork, corn on the cob, squash, tomatoes just about everything I could.  

So I got to take the show on the road and for two days we had people voting on the better taste.   The meat was the same the only difference was cherry wood versus charcoal.  What I learned was a sophisticated palette gravitates to new flavors while unsophisticated tended towards the familiar.  No matter the outcome, taste tests are always fun.


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