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Monday, October 17, 2011

Flood at the knife factory

On August 28, around noon, after receiving upwards of 12 inches of rain in Western Massachutes in the previous 12 hours, the Deerfield River breached the dam above our factory in Shelburne Falls, Mass. Being as Shelburne Falls is on the Massachusetts western boarder and hundreds of miles from the coast, the magnitude of the flooding caught everyone by surprise.
With all the power and phone coverage knocked out and everyone scrambling to asses the damage, at our headquarters in Jackson Hole, we had no way of knowing how extensive the damage was.  All we could do is search youtube and Internet for reporting. Here is an example of video that was available. This video shows a pink building floating downstream towards the factory which is off to the left. (Hit your back button to return to the blog after watching the video)
This one shows later in the day when the water had come down a bit. Water flowing right into the L&G Headquarters.
After two years of struggling to bring manufacturing back to the USA, it looked like New West KnifeWorks had just washed down the river.
When we finally got a hold of the factory on Tuesday morning things looked grim. On a positive side no one was injured and the majority of the water had carved a trench on the upstream side of the factory back into the river channel. The 170 year old buildings had taken on water but remained intact. On the downside, all power had been stripped away and a 40'wide x 30' deep trench had been carved through the parking lot along the upstream side of two buildings.

The folks at the factory had no idea how long it would take to get things back online. For our manufacturing partners, Lamson and Goodnow, this looked like this could be a death blow to a company that has struggled over the last decade in adapting to the economic pressures of a global economy.  This being the peak of manufacturing time for New West KnifeWorks in preparation for the Holiday season, which represents 40% of our annual business, this could have spelled our demise as well.

With nothing to do but press on, the boys rolled up there sleeves and got to work putting the factory back in order.
The fact that entire area was devastated by the flooding compounded the problem of getting up in running.  Fortunately, the hydroelectric plant just downstream of the factory was mostly undamaged.  The largest challenge was replacing all of the electrical wiring and transformers that had been washed downstream.
After three weeks, of hard work the power began to come back on.  After four weeks the factory is up and running again.  Thanks to disaster assistance loans from the State of Massachusetts and a lot of hard work by the folks at Lamson Goodnow; they are still slugging it out in the battle to survive in the global economy.  At New West, it will be a struggle to meet all of our Holiday orders but, hallelujah, Christmas will come again.  You might want to get your holiday orders in early as we are sure to run out of knives.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bison feast

After the bison was all wrapped up and put in the freezer, I invited the hunting party over for a dinner featuring bison much like an episode of Iron Chef. For more about the bison get the previous blog.
The featured cocktail was Bourbon on the rocks with a Bison Jerky stir stick.

I made two kinds of jerky from the bison.

1. Soy sauce, pepper and fresh garlic

2. Garden fresh herbs: sage, rosemary and thyme, salt, pepper and maple syrup.

The first course: New Style Bison Carpaccio

I got the idea for this dish from Nobu's new style sashimi. Nobu invented this dish for "gringo's" who are squeamish about eating raw fish. He takes smoking hot olive oil and drizzles it over a plate of sashimi to lightly sear it. Same with the carpaccio. I thinly sliced bison tenderloin with the Phoenix 9. Then lightly pounded it paper thin between two sheets of wax paper. After arranging on the plate, I scattered thyme, fresh garlic, salt and pepper over it. I then drizzled smoking hot olive oil over the plate to sear the tenderloin and release the yumminess of the garlic and thyme. Then arrange garden fresh arugula dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Course 2: Mesquite grilled bison Italian sausage and sauteed garden fresh mustard greens with garlic and balsamic vinegar.

Course 3:Mesquite grilled Bison burger mixed with morel mushrooms, with homemade pickle,garden fresh onion, tomato and mayo. Served with garden fresh tomato and mint salad.


Course 4: Aged bison tenderloin smothered in butter and rosemary, grilled on mesquite charcoal. Served with garden fresh roasted potatoes and mixed green salad.

Because it has no fat, it is great to smoother the tenderloin in butter before you grill it so you can get a nice char on the outside before the inside is over cooked. Like all game meat, bison goes from succulent rare quickly to well done and tough.

I don't think it would have defeated an Iron Chef but it was pretty darn good!



Monday, October 11, 2010

The Carving knife is great for butchering!

My friends and I recently harvested a bison from the National Forest outside of Grand Teton National Park. Check the older post for details. After hanging it in my buddy Ned's garage for 10 days, we butchered it over several days. We cut the prime cuts into steaks and roasts. As wild game is tough in general and an old bull specifically can be very tough, we prepped the majority of the meat for jerky, burger and sausage.

I brought the full compliment of New West knives for the task. Most sharp knives work fine for cutting meat but trimming silver skin off or wild game is a very challenging operation. Silver skin is connective tissue on all game meat that must be trimmed off because it is inedible, it is much like chewing a tough rubber band. I thought the ever useful Petty knife would be the best knife for the task. It worked admirably but I also brought along the carving knife from our phoenix carving set. It was the run away star of the butchering job.

I usually think of our traditional shaped carving knife as a great and flashy tool for carving roasts and turkeys. Though it works great for that job, honestly many knives work great for that job. The chef, super bread, santoku and even the diminutive petty will take care of carving roasts with ease. In butchering the bison, the carving knife really showed what a fantastic design this traditional shape really is. The fine point is perfect for separating the silver skin from the meat. The razor sharp edge cleanly cut the silver skin from the meat. The long blade is essential to allow for a long slicing motion to cut through tough sections. The long blade is also great for slicing the huge muscle groups in a bison leg.

As we were separating the different pieces of meat, we made sample steaks of several different cuts and threw them on the grill to determine which would be good for grilling which were to tough and needed to be made into cuts for slow braising or ground into burger or sausage.

Being elbow deep in buffalo flesh didn't make for convenient photography of the whole process but some of the highlights were grinding the meat into burger and sausage. I will take credit for procuring the essential fats to take it over the top from a locavore perspective. Wild game meat is to lean and doesn't have enough fat to make tasty burger or sausage, so fat from domestic cows and pigs must be added to give it moisture and flavor. For the burger, I got a garbage bag of beef fat from the Mead Ranch, a local cattle ranch that has been in operation since it was first homesteaded in the late 1800's. The Meads raise their cows on the ranch grass 10 miles from my house. The meat is also hung for 21 days to develop a flavor I have not experienced anywhere else. The pork fat was from the pigs was raised by local 4H kids for the Teton County Fair.

Paul another of the foursome and the MVP of the bison harvest was leader of the sausage making process. He has been hunting and butchering his own meat since he was a kid. He mixed up a delicious batch of Italian sausage. I gathered special ingredients to create an admirable breakfast sausage. I always like to keep recipes as simple as possible. We used fresh sage, salt and pepper. The final ingredient was maple syrup procured from the Lamson Goodnow factory store in Western Massachutes where New West knives are now made. The maple trees are tapped within a few miles of the factory. Though clearly not local to Jackson Hole, WY, the half gallon jug I brought home in my suitcase, has the love in it you feel from procuring ingredients from the source.

Stuffing the sausage into natural casings to create beautiful sausages was the final step in turning a bison on the hoof into beautiful piece of culinary yumminess.

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