Every weekday, when returning from Bellingham after dropping my daughter off at work, I see a small sign along Slater Road advertising bison meat. I’ve been curious to learn more, and even detoured a couple of times to find the farm–Twisted S Bison Ranch (near Ferndale)–which looks beautiful. They are only open to the public on weekends, though, so I haven’t yet stopped by to visit.
Last week I went to Terra Organica (Flora and Cornwall in Bellingham) to see what locally produced foods they had available. Imagine my delight to see a full range of bison products from Twisted S in their freezers!
Local bison is available only occasionally. Twisted S raises as much as they can, but bison take a lot of grass acreage and family farms in our area are not large enough to supply all the demand for bison in Whatcom County. Most of the year, Twisted S brings in frozen bison from North Dakota. The quality of everything they sell under their brand is consistently excellent, but if you care about getting locally raised bison (and I hope you do), you’ll need to call ahead and find out when it will be available. I hadn’t tasted bison before, so decided to start with something simple and relatively inexpensive–ground bison for burgers.
In the produce area, I also found some red onions and several kinds of potatoes from Hopewell Farm, located near Everson. I knew I already had some portabella mushrooms from Twin Sisters at home in the fridge, so this week’s menu seemed obvious:
The trick to cooking bison is to cook “low and slow”. Raw bison is a darker red color than beef because it has almost no fat marbling mixed in the meat itself. It’s extremely lean and heart healthy. That also means it cooks quite a bit faster than beef. Cooking bison at a lower temperature let’s you stretch out the cooking time a bit and gives you more control over doneness. It’s best to aim for medium (or less) doneness. Well done bison will probably be too tough.
I served the burgers without bread and smothered with the Sautéed Mushrooms and Onions. The side of Baked Potato Wedges made a classic accompaniment. Bison has a subtle, delectable wild flavor and is very tender when cooked carefully–my new favorite for burgers! I can’t wait to try bison steaks, sausages, or a roast.