Yak - Your Next Favorite Meat
I rolled the dice a bit when I jumped into raising yak. I was looking another critter to go along with my elk and they seemed like a good choice for many reasons, but I'd never actually tried yak meat before I made the decision.
Fortunately, yak meat is even better than I had ever anticipated! It is amazing! I think it may be my favorite meat now. What makes it so special? I'm so glad you asked!
As you can see, it really isn't that different looking from very lean beef. In a lot of ways, it really tastes a lot like it, too... but it tastes a bit more robust. A bit more savory. And a lot more juicy, tender, and delicious, if you ask me. Because yak came about in the very high elevations of the Himalayas, it physically changed the meat to allow for the reduced oxygen atmosphere. Those changes mean that this meat, despite being very lean and healthy, is very juicy and tender when cooked.
Seriously, the first time I grilled a couple of steaks, I almost overcooked them because the meat does not firm up and dry out like beef when cooked. I have to use a thermometer when I cook yak steaks because I can't tell how done they are without it! What does that mean? It means you don't have to work so hard not to ruin a yak steak like you do with elk or venison (or even beef, for that matter). Yak steaks are tender and juicy despite how lean they are and it makes for an amazing eating experience!
I like to keep it simple and pan fry them in a little butter with a sprig of fresh rosemary for an aromatic flair. So, so good.
Here we have a tenderloin on the left and a New York strip steak on the right. I love the color and flavor the butter gives to these steaks! I made these steaks especially for photographing to show you how amazing they are, but I ended up eating both steaks as soon as I thought I took enough photos. I just couldn't stop - they were so good!
So juicy and delicious! These were cooked to medium rare (130F by a probe thermometer), but look how juicy and delicious they look. And, trust me, delicious they were!
Not only does yak taste great, but it is a healthy and more environmentally friendly choice than beef. Yak has roughly half the calories and less than half the fat of beef and yak utilize about one third the feed to produce meat as beef does. Sounds like a win, win, win to me!
It's kind of taken me by surprise just how much fun I've been having making these simple syrups lately. What started as a plan to get ginger syrup reviewed (the state requires certain shelf stable foods to undergo scientific review to be sure they are safe) so that I can use it in some of my jams, has exploded into a rainbow of deliciousness!
When my lavender was blooming last month, I decided on a whim to try and make some lavender syrup. It turned out so well, that I started looking around to see what else I had to try. I planted five different types of basil this year with the intent of crystallizing the leaves. This is something I fiddled with a little last year, but I only had sweet and cinnamon basil. I wanted to broaden the flavor options this year. I haven't gotten around to making any of those crystallized leaves, but every time I'm in the garden, one of those types of basil I planted stands out from all the others in the aroma category - lime basil. I expected the lemon basil to be the best, but the lime basil blows them all away.
I decided to try making a batch of lime basil syrup. Now, note - there is no citrus in there; it is simply flavored with one herb, lime basil. Wow! It was amazing! Since then, I have been going crazy. In the picture above, from left to right is ginger syrup, lavender syrup, lime basil syrup, chocolate mint syrup, and French tarragon syrup. The colors are so pretty and they taste really quite good. I can imagine using them for all kinds of accent flavors in the kitchen and bar.
Now, the trick is to see if the state will let me make them to sell! In the meantime, if you want to try making your own, it's really simple. Make sure you use an edible herb or flower that has not been sprayed with any herbicides or pesticides. Make a strong tea out of the herb using hot but not boiling water. Strain out the herb and reheat adding twice the amount of sugar as liquid you have (i.e. if you have one cup of syrup, add 2 cups of sugar). This ratio will get you in the shelf stable zone. If you don't want it so sweet, add less sugar and simply refrigerate it instead.
And if you don't feel like making your own, well, hopefully I can make them for you very soon!