By Ann Cipperly
Beef Month is celebrated across Alabama by cattlemen, retailers and restaurateurs. The Collins family in Cusseta and other cattle families celebrate their industry being recognized during October. “For over 70 years and five generations,” says Jim Collins, “we have strived to produce some of the best cattle for our operations, as well as other producers across the region, doing our part to meet demand for high quality beef.”
The Collins Farm and family were awarded the Certified Angus Beef Brand’s National Commitment to Excellence Award in 2015. They are one of the few operations east of the Mississippi River to receive this title.
Founded in 1944 by the first Jim Collins, a WWI U.S. Cavalry farrier and dairyman, and his son, James, the farm has evolved over seven decades to its current form.
The history of the Collins’ home place stretches back much further as one of the oldest houses in Cusseta. The Lyle-Haralson-Collins house was built around 1840 in the Greek Revival style. A Creek Indian named Si-ar originally owned the land. Arnold Seale, after whom the community of Seale is named, bought the land from Si-ar’s heirs in 1836.
Jimmy Collins recalls hearing his grandparents, Mr. And Mrs. James Collins Jr., tell the story of how they purchased the house. When Dr. Tom Haralson passed away in 1944, his sister called Jimmy’s grandparents, who had expressed an interest in the property. She insisted they travel from Montgomery the afternoon he died to sign the papers. The house has stayed in the Collins’ family.
Named after an Indian tribe, Cusseta was one of the earliest, most densely populated towns in East Alabama, when neighboring towns were nothing more than Indian trails winding through thick forests.
Today, four generations of the Collins family are actively involved and live on the farm, spanning from 91-year-old great-grandmother Era Claire Collins to her great-grandson, 10-year-old Jay Collins. Other members of the family are Jimmy and Mary Collins, along with their son, Jim, and his wife, Jennifer, and their children, Taylor, Meredyth and Jay, who are active in the modern operation.
With years of work, the Collins Farm has grown to today’s level that produces several different products that serve the beef industry. “These range from high quality beef sold to individuals and some restaurants,” says Jim, “to bulls and bred heifers that go to work for other cattlemen. Additionally we sell truckloads of value added steers that are fed in feedlots from the Midwest to the Texas Panhandle.”
While deeply rooted in East Alabama, the Collins family has worked to create regional and national impact on the industry. “We sell two-year old bulls through the Black and White Bull Sales in Montgomery in early December and February,” adds Jim, “as well as in Arcadia, FL. in November. The last week of April each year our bred heifer sale hosts producers from states across the Southeast.
“We have used technology like DNA profiling of our heifers,” he adds, “as well as electronic identification and other tools to complement the decades of focus on creating cattle that work in this area.
“This effort has been done with the most ideal eating experience for consumers at the center of our focus. The steers we sell each year regularly produce beef that qualifies for the Certified Angus Beef brand.”
While the cattle are the focus, commitments to the industry and education have been a priority for the family. James Collins served many years as member and chairman of the ALFA State Beef Commodity committee. James and Jimmy have served as president of the Alabama Angus Association, as well as the Chambers County Cattlemen’s Association, where Jim currently is a director.
Jimmy has been asked to speak in Alabama and neighboring states about feeder cattle marketing. Throughout his career Jim has worked regionally and nationally on market and regulatory related issues. He has been asked to address national audiences at several events, including the Beef Improvement Federation about his experiences incorporating DNA testing as a tool in their operation.
The farm has hosted groups from state and regional cattlemen tours, university faculty tours, 4-H/FFA livestock judging team practices and numerous others.
Following are a selection of recipes from the Collins’ family featuring beef.
Ann Cipperly can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
¼ cup kosher salt
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup black pepper
¾ cup paprika
2 Tbsp. garlic salt
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. onion powder
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground red pepper (optional)
12 oz. can of beer or Coke
1 cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup water
½ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. brisket rub (from above)
Rub generous amounts over entire surface of brisket. The brisket can be cooked immediately, but is best if allowed to sit in refrigerator for a day or two.
Cook brisket 45 minutes per pound at 300 degrees. Mop meat every 20-30 minutes. Another variation is to cook for 3-4 hours on a smoker and then freeze for future use, cooking at 350 degrees for three hours when thawed. This recipe makes enough for two good-sized briskets. Leftover rub keeps well in airtight container. Enjoy!
Cranberry Horseradish Sauce
Sauce is excellent served with brisket, tenderloin or any roast beef.
16 oz. can whole berry cranberry sauce
½ cup white sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. orange juice
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. prepared horseradish
Stir ingredients together in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and chill one hour or up to 3 days.
Golden Nugget Meatballs
Collins family favorite from the National Livestock and Meat Board
1 ½ lb. ground beef
1 ½ cups soft bread crumbs
1/3 cup finely chopped green pepper
¼ tsp. dry mustard
½ tsp. garlic salt
½ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup ketchup
4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
Combine beef, bread crumbs, green pepper, mustard, garlic salt, salt, pepper, egg and ketchup. Mix well and shape into 12 balls, allowing 3-4 Tbsp. per meatball.
Cut cheese into 12 cubes, and place a cube in the center of each meatball and then shape meat around it. Brown meatballs in a skillet; drain.
Add tomato sauce to pan, then cover tightly and simmer 20 minutes. Remove cover and continue simmering 5-10 minutes, or until sauce is slightly thickened. Excellent served over yellow rice.
Chuck Wagon Stew
2 lb. beef chuck roast, cut into 1 ½-inch cubes
3-4 stalks celery, cut into chunks
1 green pepper, coarsely cut
6 medium Irish potatoes, peeled and quartered
6 carrots, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 large onion, cut into wedges
2 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. chili powder
¼ tsp. ground thyme
1 bay leaf
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
Preheat Dutch oven or other large pan with tight-fitting lid. Mix dry seasonings and then sprinkle mixture over beef cubes, stirring to coat well. Add 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil to preheated pan. Brown beef cubes on all sides. Add vegetables, bay leaf and tomato sauce all at once. Stir well to coat. Cover; bring stew to a low boil. Gradually reduce heat until a slow simmer is maintained. No additional liquid is necessary.
Cook 1 hour or longer, until vegetables are done and meat is tender. Remove bay leaf before serving.
Salisbury Steak in Mushroom Gravy
Era Claire Collins
1 lb. ground beef
3 Tbsp. crushed buttery cracker crumbs
2 Tbsp. finely chopped onion
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. poultry seasoning
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1 pkg. fresh mushrooms
1 ½ cups milk
1 ½ cups beef broth
In medium bowl, mix together ground beef, egg, cracker crumbs, onion, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Shape into 6 patties about 1-inch thick. Fry patties in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes per side, until browned. Drain off grease.
Remove patties to a platter and keep warm. Melt butter in the same skillet, then add mushrooms. Cook about two minutes, and then sprinkle flour over mushrooms; mix until well blended.
Stir in milk and beef bouillon. Cook and stir over medium heat until smooth and starting to thicken. Return patties to gravy and cook over low heat, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cattle Drive Casserole
1 ½ lb. ground beef
10 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes diced tomatoes with green chilies
4 oz. can diced green chilies
1.25 oz. packet taco seasoning
2 ½ cups biscuit mix
1 ¾ cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
1 red bell pepper, diced
½ yellow onion, diced
1 cup water
½ cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray 9×13 inch pan with non-stick spray.
Place ground beef, onion and red pepper in large pan or skillet over medium-high heat and cook until meat is brown and veggies are softened. Drain grease and set aside. Stir in taco seasoning and salt and pepper as needed into meat mixture.
In medium bowl, whisk together sour cream, mayonnaise, 1 cup cheddar cheese, green chilies and garlic powder.
In a separate bowl, combine biscuit mix with 1 cup water and mix to form a soft dough. Press dough in bottom of greased baking dish, then place in oven and bake 5-7 minutes until lightly golden brown.
d baking dish from oven and spread beef mixture evenly over biscuit layer, then top with layer of diced tomatoes. Top everything by spreading the sour cream mixture over the tomatoes and sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese. Return dish to oven and cook for 30 minutes, or until warmed through.
Balsamic Roast Beef
1 boneless chuck or round roast (3-4 lbs)
1 cup beef broth
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. honey
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Place roast beef in your slow cooker. In a 2-cup measuring cup, mix together all remaining ingredients. Pour over your beef and set the timer (4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low).
Once the roast has cooked, remove it from the slow cooker with tongs onto a serving dish. Break meat apart lightly with two forks and then ladle about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of gravy over roast. Store remaining gravy in an airtight container in the refrigerator for another use.
Balsamic Glazed Beef Stuffed Mushrooms
8 medium to large Portobello mushrooms, cleaned
2 cup gravy from Balsamic Roast recipe
1 Tbsp. butter
½ lb. beef from Balsamic Roast recipe
Place cleaned mushrooms top side down on a large sheet pan. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Skim or separate the fat from the gravy, and then pour gravy into medium sauce pan over medium heat. Simmer until gravy has reduced by half; add butter and stir until well combined.
Add roast beef and continue simmering until warmed throughout. Using tongs or large spoon, fill each mushroom top with the beef and drizzle with remaining balsamic glaze. Place in oven for 15-20 minutes until the mushroom has softened. Serve warm. (These may also be cooked on the grill!)
Mini Glazed Meatloaves with Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes
4 tsp. vegetable oil
¼ cup tomato paste
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
2 tsp. honey
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. smooth Dijon mustard
¼ tsp. salt
Combine glaze ingredients in small saucepan and simmer, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes until glaze is satiny smooth. Set aside.
2 slices sandwich bread
½ medium onion, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 medium celery stalk, roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
Olive oil, for cooking
1 tsp. salt
Black pepper to taste
2 lb. ground beef
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. smoked paprika
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup chopped parsley
½ cup milk
Heat oven to 350 degrees and lightly coat two 9×13 inch baking dishes with cooking spray.
Tear bread into chunks and then use a food processor to make breadcrumbs. Place breadcrumbs in a large bowl; you should have about 1 cup. Add onion, garlic, celery, and carrot to food processor, and pulse until they are finely chopped.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once skillet is hot, coat bottom with olive oil. Let it heat for a minute, and then add finely chopped vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown – about 10 minutes. Add vegetables to the large bowl with breadcrumbs, and then add remaining ingredients. Stir all this together with a fork or your hands until evenly blended.
*Pause for a moment here to start the mashed potatoes: Place potatoes in a medium pot and cover with a couple inches cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 20 minutes once simmering begins. Potatoes are ready when a knife can be inserted with little resistance. Drain potatoes when done, then wipe the pot dry.
*While potatoes are boiling, resume meatloaves: form the meat mixture into twelve 3-inch meatballs, each weighing about 4 oz. Arrange 6 in each baking dish, and drizzle each meatball with a teaspoon of tomato glaze. Bake until cooked through, about 20-25 minutes.
2 lb. Yukon gold potatoes (about 6)
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. salt
Black pepper to taste
As soon as potatoes are cooked and cool enough to handle, peel them using a paring knife. Then mash them until smooth.
In the empty potato pot, melt butter over medium heat and continue cooking once it has melted, stirring almost constantly, until brown bits form around the edge and bottom, and it smells nutty. Pour hot butter and any browned bits over the potatoes. Add buttermilk to the pot and warm it gently so as not to cool down the potatoes when you add it. Then pour over potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir to combine.
To serve, place a dollop of potatoes in a shallow bowl, top with a mini meatloaf and garnish with parsley.
Honey Bourbon Steak Tips
1/3 cup honey
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup bourbon
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lb. steak (ribeye, sirloin or filet) cut into chunks
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. butter, divided
16-oz. pkg. fresh mushrooms cut in quarters
In medium bowl, whisk together honey, brown sugar, bourbon, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes and garlic. Pour into large zip top bag; add steak and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
Heat vegetable oil and 2 Tbsp. butter in a cast iron pan over medium heat. Add steak to pan; you will probably want to cook it in two batches as to not crowd the pan. Cook meat until seared on all sides. Remove meat from pan. Add remaining butter and cook mushrooms until browned, then serve along with steak tips.
Million Dollar Spaghetti
16 oz. pasta, spaghetti or ziti works well
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ lb. ground beef, browned and drained
3 tsp. dried Italian seasoning, divided
2 (24 oz.) jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce, divided
8 oz. cottage cheese
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup sour cream
3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
½ cup butter, cut into slices and divided
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well and return pasta to original pot. Add 1 jar of spaghetti sauce to the pasta and set aside.
In large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook until they begin to soften – about 5 minutes.
Add ground beef and second jar of spaghetti sauce; stir to combine and set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine cottage cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, 1 cup mozzarella and 1 tsp. Italian seasoning. Set aside.
Place half the slices of butter in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Spread half the pasta mixture in dish, then spread cheese mixture evenly over pasta layer. Cover cheese layer with the remaining pasta mixture.
Top with remaining butter slices, and then pour meat sauce over the second pasta layer.
Top with remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake until casserole is heated through, about 35-45 minutes.