Tag Archives: pastured pork

Pig. Farmer. Chef. Guest.

We were all there in the kitchen at the same time.

Salt of the Earth restaurant

Chef Matthew demonstrates how to butcher a pig as farmer Darrell and a class attendee observe.

I recently had the opportunity to learn more about butchering. And what could be a better place than one of Bill’s and my favorite local restaurants?

Salt of the Earth, in Fennville, Michigan, offers cooking classes throughout the year. What I liked about “The Whole Hog: Butchering 101” was how it brings me (Guest) closer to the animal (Pig) through the direction of the butcher (Chef Matthew Pietsch). And Darrell (Farmer) is a critical part of the experience, too.

The Berkshire hogs came from local farmers Darrell and Conni at Coach Stop Farm. So while Chef Matthew explained the various cuts of the animal and how to “break down a hog,” Darrell talked about the breed and how his happy, pastured pigs differ from those confined in factory farms.

Bill and I already buy only happy meat from local farmers but I enjoyed the discussion during the demonstration that night, along with the wine….and did I mention dinner followed? Pork, of course! Thank you, Salt of the Earth, for providing this educational venue to help us all–pig, farmer, chef, guest–develop more understand about how we are all so connected and dependent upon each other.

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The only question I forgot to ask is: What is the photo of Christopher Walken doing on the walk-in door?

P.S. – Check out this post over on EatGR.com, which included Life Is Fare in its Monday Mingle (Blogger Link Up) on July 14, 2014.


What the Heck is a Fresh Ham Steak?

You’d think with my latest experiments making fresh ham roasts that I’d know what to do with a fresh ham steak. It looks something like a pork steak in the package but a little thicker.

But buying a whole animal from a farmer brings a lot of learning experiences. As usual when I need cooking advice, I went to Google and came across a number of recipes, and this is the one that caught my eye: Pork Scallopini with Butter Caper Sauce.

That’s because it’s easy, quick, and tasty, and it gave me an excuse to use up the fresh raw milk butter I made last week–and which Bill can eat!

I cut up this nearly 2-lb. ham steak into pieces first.

Then I placed them between waxed paper and flattened them with a meat tenderizer.

Next, I sprinkled them with salt and pepper and dredged them in brown rice flour.

In a large, oven-proof skillet, I heated a clove of garlic (smashed) in olive oil until golden, then removed it before browning the cutlets on both sides for about three minutes each.

Then I added some butter and scraped up the browned bits in the pan, and added the wine and lemon juice. By the time I was in the midst of preparing this recipe, I realized I didn’t have any capers, but I’ll add them next time!

I covered the pan and let them cook a little longer in the oven–about three minutes.

Pork Scallopini is delicious with seasonal produce, such as carrots from my garden, sliced yellow onions, and fresh green beans from the farmers market.

Why Roast Pork When You Can Grill It?

I don’t know about where you live but in the Midwest it’s been one helluva hot summer. The last thing I want to think about is firing up the oven. But what if you have large cuts of meat in the freezer taking up the space you need for freezing this summer’s produce?

Some cuts don’t fare well cooked with dry heat, but let me tell you about the roast pork we had last night. I found this online recipe called Rubbed and Grilled Pork LoinBill and I are big fans of a rub when it comes to grilling because many barbecue sauces contain corn syrup. Besides, I think sauces are messy. We use similar rubs to the one in this recipe for our grilled pork steaks and ribeyes. What they all have in common is paprika, salt, and pepper. For pork, it’s nice to throw in some cumin, sugar, and spice, such as chili powder. But the main thing about all these recipes is that they’re easy.

Here’s our 4-pound pork loin that we got in our meat order from Lubbers Farm.

The recipe calls for a boneless roast but I couldn’t tell if there was a bone in this when I pulled it out of the freezer, so I just followed the standard rule to cook it longer with a bone in, and used my trusty digital meat thermometer to check the temperature.

The rub consists of sugar, paprika, onion salt, garlic salt, ground black pepper, chili powder, cumin, and coriander.

You just rub olive oil all over the meat, then rub in the spice mixture on all sides.

After preheating the gas grill to around 400 degrees F, we browned the meat on both sides for about 5 minutes each (shorter time than the recipe calls for since pastured pork is leaner and requires less cooking time than factory farmed meat).

Then we turned off the center burner and kept the temperature around 350F, grilling the meat for about 60 minutes.

In retrospect, I would probably lower the temperature to about 300 and cook it slightly longer so you don’t risk drying out the meat.

After taking the meat off the grill we let it rest (covered in foil) for about ten minutes.

Sticking with the easy theme, I sautéed some onions, carrots, and green beans from the Holland Farmers Market in olive oil to serve with the meat, along with what we call a “melange:” white rice cooked with chopped onion and celery.

As the meat cooked we enjoyed some wine on the patio—a fabulous way to spend a Sunday evening.

Cuban Lechon Asado from Pastured Pork

When you store local meat in bulk in your freezer, I believe it’s important to follow a stock rotation protocol. Generally, this happens for Bill and me when our supply thins out and we check the dates on the meat we have left. Our 11-cubic-foot freezer in the basement is where we store our bulk meat and produce I freeze from summer. Then I move any older cuts to the upstairs freezer so it’s more visible, and therefore likely to be used.

Last weekend I had one cut left–a fresh ham roast–from 2010. The term “fresh ham” always throws me off, but, as I mentioned in a blog post a couple years ago, it’s really just roast pork. The ham simply comes from the hind end or leg of the pig and when it’s cured, that’s the pink meat you’re used to seeing on sandwiches.

I’ve been fairly content with a couple of recipes for fresh ham, one from Cooks.com and the other, which is a modification of a po’boy recipe. But I was looking for something different this time. Enter Cuban Lechon Asado, or Roasted Fresh Ham, from Food.com.

Lechon is actually a suckling pig. Another way to make this recipe is with a fresh ham. Ours was 3 pounds so I adapted this recipe accordingly. It’s easy because all you do is make a marinade and let it soak into the meat overnight.

Then, put the roast in a lightly greased roasting pan, saving the marinade for later.

I added some green onions that I had in the freezer (also from last year–the end of the produce) to the marinade.

Roast in the oven according to the recipe. (I did a half hour on each side because the roast was a third the size of what the recipe called for, and because pastured meat is much leaner so it needs less cooking time.) Add the marinade and sliced onions.

Some recipes claim that you can pull the pork apart when it’s done. I think it depends upon the cut of meat. A pork shoulder will do this more easily than a fresh ham roast.

In Cuba, many meals are eaten with black beans and rice, so that’s what Bill and I had with ours. Plua a little side I call “guacamole salad:” chopped tomato, red onion, and avocado on a bed of lettuce. It’s a delicious combination!

We Went Half Hog

One of my friends commented on how helpful it was to see what a mixed quarter of beef looks like when I took pictures of it for a blog post after picking up our year’s supply.

I thought I’d do the same thing with pork. This week, Bill and I picked up the pork from the half  hog we ordered from Lubbers Farm. It was processed at Byron Center Meats.

Here are the costs:

Half a hog from Lubbers Farm: $437.18
Hanging weight: 130.50 lbs.
Price per pound: $3.35
Butcher’s processing fee: $110.47
Total: $547.65

This pork will last a year, although we do tend to run out of bacon and pork steaks quickly so we supplement our supply with pastured pork from vendors at the West Michigan Co-op.

Run out of bacon when you get this much in a box?

People think bacon is bad for you, but we get nitrite-free bacon. And, we limit our consumption so that we savor it. Still, it’s one of our favorite cuts so we can’t make it last a year!

Just like with red meat, I believe it’s not bad for you if you’re eating meat from pastured animals. But we don’t need to eat it every day as long as we’re getting protein through other sources such as legumes. That’s another way to justify the cost of pastured and grassfed meat. We go through a lot of peanut butter at our house!

Nothing to Sneeze At: Main Dishes for People with Allergies

There’s a little project I’ve been working on during the past six months with a few good and talented friends. And because many of my blog readers suffer from food allergies–or live with people who suffer from them–I thought I’d share the fruits of our labor: I just published my first cookbook and it’s called Nothing to Sneeze At: Main Dishes for People with Allergies.

In the last several years that I’ve lived with Bill, who is allergic to wheat, cow dairy, and corn, I learned how many unnecessary ingredients are in processed food. I also learned how to make substitutions for the foods he can’t eat: bread, milk, butter, tortillas, most cereals, waffles, cookies, crackers, yoghurt, ice cream, cheeses from cows, breadcrumbs, semolina pasta–and even regular ketchup–just to name a few.

Adapting and creating recipes–many of which are posted on this blog–simply became a fun challenge as I cooked in the kitchen. So I thought: Why not share the recipes with people who suffer from food allergies? Then others can see how easy it is to make delicious meals without sacrificing flavor or nutrition.

If you’re interesting in buying your own copy of Nothing to Sneeze At, please visit Lulu.com. I hope it offers hope and inspiration for those who suffer from allergies at the table!