Full Flavors: Hop Shoots and Goat Chops

“”Boy, I could go for some goat right now” said no American ever. But I have no idea why that is. If you are an urban or rural  homesteader you have probably considered goats because they are hardy, compact, dual-purpose, remarkably productive for their size, and extremely friendly. But you have probably thought, or been told, that the meat is strong-flavored and unappealing.

If you are dealing  with an old goat, this is certainly true, but I can’t imagine butchering an old goat. Goats under a year old are delicious, with a full robust flavor that people who shop at the supermarket can hardly imagine, but nothing that can fairly be described as gaminess. The ones that I occasionally produce for our household are 100% alfalfa-fed. If you are lucky enough to have access to such meat, cook it with respect. For the chops, that means marinating with garlic and herbs and grilling medium-rare because the meat gets tough if allowed to dry out. If you can’t get young grass-fed goat, apply the same principles to lamb chops, another meat that has not yet had the flavor bred out of it. Sear on the grill to medium-rare, let rest in a 200 degree oven for 10 minutes, and serve with a veggie that works with robust flavors, such as the pan-grilled hops shoots shown here.

I sometimes think that the direction of mainstream American agriculture is to eliminate anything that has a distinctive flavor. It’s only relatively recently that we’ve rediscovered dry-aged beef and gotten away from chicken breast, which (unless you raised it yourself) is the most tasteless and cottony part of a tasteless and cottony bird. I have tasted prime-grade beef that had no discernible beef flavor, just a fatty faint sweetness.   Spinach is sold in the baby-leaf stage when it has no intrinsic flavor. Corn is as sugary-sweet as cotton candy, with no “corn” flavor to speak of.  It makes me grateful beyond words for my tiny patch of land where I can grow hops shoots and chicory and grape leaves and wild weeds and herbs of all kinds to feed my desire for food that tastes of itself.

By the way, I cook hops shoots a lot in the spring and after trying several methods, I’ve decided that the only one worth pursuing is to cut the shoots in lengths about 1.5 inches long and stir-fry  in a hot pan with some very good olive oil, a hefty pinch of salt, and nothing else. Continue to cook, stirring intermittently, until there are browned spots and the little nascent leaves are fried crisp. This gives them the richness to accent their slight wild bitterness and makes them truly delicious. Like good goat chops, they are a feral and flavorful treat

I mentioned marinating goat and lamb, and my favorite marinade is the one that my mother used when I was growing up, with a tweak or two from me. It’s great for goat, lamb, and beef.  Tinker with it as you see fit, but at least once  try it as written here, with the finish described:

Red meat marinade:

1/2 cup good olive oil

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon Red Boat fish sauce or 2 mashed fillets of anchovy

2-3 crushed cloves of garlic (I prefer 3) or a couple of stalks of green garlic, sliced fine and then crushed in a mortar and pestle

a small handful of celery leaves, chopped

Mix all ingredients and let sit half an hour, then pour over chops in a dish and let marinate at least four hours and preferably overnight in the refrigerator.

Finish: remove from marinade and salt lavishly on both sides with alder-smoked salt. Sear on a hot grill to produce the ultra flavorful Maillard reactions. Lower heat and grill until done, but no more than medium-rare. Rest in a low oven. Eat and weep. The alder salt makes the meat jump into deliciousness. It’s a case of robust meeting robust and the flame of love being kindled.

If you get interested in producing a bit of your own meat or supporting a farmer who does, study the book “Goat” for more cooking inspiration. Goats and sheep produce milk and meat from land that wouldn’t support crop agriculture, and their meat still has its own distinctive and wonderful flavor. This book was published years ago but, regrettably, there is still nothing else like it.


5 responses to this post.

  1. Well, actually I quite often could go for some goat. Then again people tell me I’m not the average American. I just brought in three little ones last night in the dark with their mother following me. She left the rest of the flock and had her kids out by a fence row about a day earlier.

    We usually cook ours from frozen, searing in a hot pan with salt, pepper, and oil of choice, then finishing in the oven. Your marinade looks quite good though, and I may have to give it a try.

    Never heard of Alder smoked salt! I’ve tried hickory smoked, and got my dad an array of salts for Christmas that included oak smoked, and love them both. Will have to search some out. Any idea where?


  2. Posted by wooddogs3 on April 1, 2017 at 7:58 am

    You most certainly are not the average American, especially when it comes to the table! That’s why I keep nagging you to write THE permaculture cookbook.
    My alder smoked salt is from the San Francisco Salt Company. They have a whole array of smoked and other salts, most available in smaller trial sizes. You might not need them if you have oak smoked salt, though. That sounds delicious.
    I do think that a bit o f smoke flavor brings out the best in goat. As soon as I get around to it, I’m going to slow-smoke some goat ribs, and I bet they’ll be delicious.
    Speaking of permaculture, have you dabbled much in cooking hostas? I will be trying within the next day or two.


  3. I have not in earnest, but intend to this year for the cookbook. I fully intend for it to be everything you’ve dreamed it to be. Thanks for your encouragement.

    Thanks for mentioning the salt source too. I may have to check them out just to see if there’s anything I’m missing.

    On the point of cooking though: I posted on preparing dahlia tubers back in December, and was really excited to hear your thoughts on it. I guess you were busy with other projects -and I completly understand if you were just too busy to be checking on such things. If, by any chance, you might care to glaze over it, I still crave your rich opinion of the venture. You can find it here: https://mortaltree.blog/2016/12/10/to-cook-a-dahlia-edible-dahlias-part-2/


  4. Posted by wooddogs3 on April 2, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    Delighted that you drew this to my attention. Somehow I managed to miss it completely. I think it’s important to be experimenting with “edimentals” that might easily find their way into a lot of suburban gardens. For some reason I have never grown dahlias, and I’m growing them this year for the first time, so it will be late fall before I have any idea what you are talking about. I have heard that in some cases they could even perennialize in my area, so for some parts of the country they may be an ornamental edible perennial.
    By the way, disappointing as the canna lilies were from a culinary standpoint, they are coming up again strongly this year. I was not impressed enough with their eating qualities to do anything special to help them over the winter, so this is a bit impressive. They should at least be useful for cutting for mulch. I still wonder why my goat wouldn’t eat them.


  5. […] the toughest part is gone. Clean the rest and rub it on both sides with basic steak marinade. Make sure that the marinade gets up in the gills, since this helps keep them moist while cooking. […]


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