How to Cook Our Pork Chops

From the always hilarious and informative Six Buckets Farm. You can see the original post here complete with nice pictures and funny captions: http://www.sixbucketsfarm.com/chop101/ The original post also includes links to other good stuff but I am copying the text below for my archives. Six Buckets Farm would be a good place to get your pork if you are anywhere near Ohio.

How Not To Bust My Chops

I think I’m in juuuuuust enough of a feisty mood to write this necessary doctrine on The Chop. It’s raining. It’s muddy. The pigs have learned they can nose enough mud on the netting to ground it out. Please don’t add to the list by BUSTING MY CHOPS.

I’ll give everyone credit, it’s pretty easy to ruin a chop. The chop comes from the loin, which runs high along the back of the hog. It is one of the least-used muscles on the whole dern piggy. That makes it  boring and overrated tender.  And thus, a good candidate for the fast, quick cook.

If you’re not properly coached, however, “cook” can turn your innocent chop into a disk of leather before you can say, “How long does it say to fry this again?” Luckily, heritage pork like ours has a bit of extra fat built into the muscles, so there is a buffer for error. I’m working very hard every day to get more fat inside your pork chop.

But if you follow these steps, you will have a perfect chop every time. Trust me. Do you trust me?

Step One: Plan ahead

I know. It’s as hard for you as it is for me. Pork chops are supposed to serve as the solution to, “Oh, crap, I haven’t thought about dinner.” I’m supposed to be able to thaw and fry them up in the time it takes the children to form a hangry swarm around the kitchen table. I mean, you CAN do this, but feel ashamed about it. There are better ways. For best results, brine your chops.

The brine provides another layer of protection against overcooking, in addition to flavoring the inside of your meat. Brining alters the protein structures, and, well, science. Don’t argue with science.

We use a simple brine solution of 1 q water, ¼ c salt and ¼ c brown sugar. This usually is enough to cover four chops in a small casserole dish. I refrigerate the chops in the brine for at least 4 hours, usually more if I can remember to get things going in the morning.

Let my boring brine be the base for something more exciting. You can really go nuts with the brine, adding herbs, spices, anything you like. Bay, juniper, peppercorns, citrus, garlic, onion. Rosemary, pink peppercorns, sage, fresh coriander. Experiment. Live life a little. Tell me what you like best.

Step Two: Play It Cool

The USDA once recommended a cooking temp of 160 degrees for pork chops. Can you imagine?! This is why all the pork chops of my youth were ruined. Well, that and the fact that the industry bred all the fat out of the pork sold at the grocery store. On purpose. I don’t understand it. Times were different, we’re all still paying the price.

The USDA revised the temp to 145, but around here, we take our pork chops a little pink.

We defy the authorities. We live on the wild side. 

Step Four: The cook

This method assumes our standard ¾” chop from one of our shares. Adjust as necessary.

  1. Remove from brine and rinse/dry. Let chops come to room temp, about 30 minutes.

  2. Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a cast iron pan. That’s really what these chops deserve. It’s what you deserve.

  3. Heat the pan to medium high and slap those bad boys down. Turn the heat down to medium. Set the timer for 5 minutes.

  4. Don’t fiddle with them.
  5. At the beep, flip them and cook for 4 minutes more. That’s the maximum you are allowed to have them on the heat. Every second longer that you cook them, an angel sheds a tear for America. Angel dehydration due to overcooked pork chops is a serious thing. If you have a thicker chop, you have my permission to transfer the whole pan to a hot oven for a minute or 4, depending on the size of the chop. Translucent white or even a little pink in the center is OK. Adjust your times as necessary to achieve this. This is the way the pigs have requested it in their will.

  6. When the appropriate time has passed, take the chops out of the pan and put them on a plate to rest. Don’t forget to deglaze the pan with your most delicious liquid, (beer, homemade stock, blackberry vinegar) and pour this goodness over the chops at serving time. As an alternate, you can cook some brussel sprouts or greens or fry up your vegetable of choice in this liquid. 

Step Five: Eat the fat

This is not your mother’s pork chop. (Sorry, mom! The deck was stacked against you!!) I can remember the grisly ring of hard fat wrapped around pork chops , pulling the whole thing up in the middle. It was gross. It was trimmed off. It was fed to the dog. But the fat from our chops is designed to be soft, delicious, caramelized from the sugars in the brines and perfect, like pork candy. You can eat this fat. You can even ask for seconds.

Read other cooking tips and heritage pork information at Six Buckets Farm Blog.

Bradford Watermelons in Bradford County

I have a lot of hope wrapped up in these delicately stamped little watermelon seeds.

A year ago I heard about the Bradford Watermelons from South Carolina. The story goes that they were once one of the best watermelons in the south. Intensely sweet and a rind that cut with a butter knife. The advent of rail and road transportation for produce made them almost obsolete due to their likely occurrence to smash during transit. However, the Bradford family continued to grow them and they exist today. Interest in local food and southern food culture have given the Bradford Watermelon a second chance. It is my understanding that they are being used in fine restaurants in South Carolina and a Charleston distillery is making spirits from them.

Upon hearing about them, having a desire for a great watermelon, I immediately inquired how to buy seeds. Graciously, the Bradford family sells their seeds for gardeners but at a price too high to plant very many watermelons. So, I have ordered one small package of 12 seeds. I am going to attempt to establish plants and then I will grow some in my garden and Jesse will grow some in his and hopefully between the two of us we can turn out enough beautiful melons to have enough seed to really grow some next year. I don't have a greenhouse, so I am starting them in 2 liter plastic bottles as suggested by Lyle Baker of facebook Home Vegetable Gardening and Pig's Plants fame. I'm imagining carefully driving a truck load of Bradford Watermelons out of Bradford County to our local urban areas to sell to our friends for their delight on a hot summer day. I'm also imaging locally made watermelon wine shared among friends. Slices of watermelon on salads. Snacking on watermelon at a barbeque of one of our hogs or at a farm tour. The possibilities are all delicious!

Aunt Donna's Tomato Grits

From Donna Wilson:

Casey asked me to share this recipe with the group. I made some for him and he loved it. It is called "Tomato grits " it is an old staple made with basic ingredients but the flavor is amazing...it is suppose to be very chunky vegetables but a very soupy texture,,kind of like a runny chilli..The key ingredient is the datil pepper, it makes it spicy and flavorful....I don't measure but I tried to figure it out for you... so good luck...lol.........

Tomato Grits

about 10 slices of good bacon ( I use Casey's ) cut in 1 inch pieces
2 large onions chopped in about 1 inch pieces
1 large bell pepper chopped in about 3/4 inch pieces
about 8 stalks of celery sliced in about 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices
4 cloves fresh garlic....chopped medium to fine
1 or 2 datil peppers...chopped very fine ( according to size and how hot ..........you want it )
I use 2 quart jars of home canned tomatoes with all the juice but you can ........easily use store bought diced..you could also use fresh peeled .........tomatoes
black pepper
about 3 /4 cup of Mr Jesse's grits that Casey sells

brown your bacon in a heavy bottomed pan. ,I use cast iron, Brown over medium heat until it is crispy, drain off grease leaving about 1/2 cup in the pan,,,add onions, celery and bell peppers to the bacon & grease and let cook over medium heat until the onions are almost clear,,,this will take about 10-15 minutes...,scrape the bottom of the pan while cooking because this is your flavor....then add the garlic and the datil pepper, let cook about a minute,,,add the tomatoes and the juice from them, add about a cup of water add the black pepper to taste,,,let cook over high heat about a minute,,taste,,,IF it needs salt & more pepper add it now,,,(,just remember that when you add the grits they will absorb some of the salt and datil heat.... THE BACON IS SALTY so be careful with the salt.) now sprinkle the grits over the top and stir them in,,,reduce the heat to low and stir again,,lay a lid halfway on the pot and let cook on low about 20 minutes.stirring every so often..these are not store bought grits...they take a while...after about 10 minutes of cooking put the lid all the way on it.....taste them after 20 minutes and the grits should be done...they have a slight chew to them because they are real....

I also added about a cup of Casey's sausage with the bacon because I had it,,,,,you could also add raw shrimp at the end and let them cook another 3 or 4 minutes...but please try the basic bacon version first...
They go good with bar b q...or fried fish....or as a meal by itself served with cornbread (Jesse has cornmeal also!)

Grassfed Beef Update

Jesse believes he will be able to start butchering some cows around the end of March to supply the waiting list we have for Whole, Half and Quarter cows. This is just an estimate as it is very dependent on the weather and grass growth. This is the real deal! He's not feeding them on a schedule, it depends on the seasons and the productivity of the grass to fatten the cows. Currently, we have a waiting list with slightly over half of the cows available already booked. There is no deposit required to be on the waiting list. Just a good faith desire to purchase a whole, half or quarter cow when it is ready. As they become ready, I will start contacting those on the list starting at the top and moving down. If you aren't ready when I contact you, that's okay, I will contact you again next time. Now would be a good time to get on the list! You can email me or read more details and actually sign up here.

Occasionally, Jesse MAY have a cow of which he doesn't like the temperament or for other reasons he doesn't think the cow will butcher out as well as he likes. In this case, we will do more hamburger shares with such cows.

There is a lot of demand for grassfed beef and there is not a lot of great grassfed beef available. I am talking and meeting with a few other ranchers willing to fully finish beef on grass and follow Jesse's management practices. Developing a beef herd can take years but we are willing to wait for quality. I would love to co-op with any ranchers willing to follow our standards. Even if they can only finish a one or a few a year.

How to Cook Grits

I start with 3 cups of water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Then add one cup of grits, stirring, add a dash of salt, and continue to stir for about 10 seconds. Reduce to "warm" or lowest setting on stovetop and cover. I cook for about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice. Before serving, I stir in 2-4 tbsp of butter and salt to taste. This is also a great time to add shredded or diced cheese.

From the package:
 

Florida Cracker Wants to Speak to your School Group!

This past week I got to see some of my favorite homeschool families. The Fellowship of Homeschool Companions Fourth Graders are studying Florida History and their class leader invited me to come speak about the history of agriculture in Florida. I jumped on this opportunity to talk about old timey farming!

Many folks don't know it but Florida is real cowboy country! The first cattle brought in to the Americas was brought by Ponce De Leon at St Augustine. Florida's unsettled history led to herds of wild cattle across the state originating with these first arrivals. The early American pioneers in to Florida were some of America's first cowboys. They called them cow hunters and later cracker cowboys. Historians and local folklore have different ideas about the origin of the name "Crackers" but everyone knows that a long and loud whip was a necessary tool for herding cattle through the Florida prairies and hammocks (Shakespeare and other Englishmen were already using the slang "crackers" to describe wild braggarts who lived on the frontier).

I told the kids about these crackers. One, my own great granddaddy John Lane, in the photo frame. My grandfather told me that his daddy was really a "Hog Man" but he also made a business of bringing plentiful cow hides out of Florida across the border to sell in Georgia. I told the kids the story of how John Lane, through completely innocent means, wound up with a stolen Model T car that he used to haul these hides in for years until the original New York owners found their car in South Georgia. We also talked about the other tools of the Cracker Cowboy: a horse, dogs and a rope. I was pleased later to hear from a father of one of the students that when he asked his son what he learned about in school today, he replied, "cowboy stuff." Haha!

We talked about other crops important to the state of Florida and some of the history behind them. I showed them the corn husk mop that belonged to my Aunt Katherine's mother and explained how many uses corn had on the old homesteads and how important it was for survival and still is today. Then we got down to work, shucking and shelling corn. The corn was graciously supplied by Jesse Green of Greenway Farm. Jesse is a true native Florida Cracker himself. His family has grown this type of white flint corn for generations, grinding it in to grits and cornmeal. Each student got a sample of grits to take home and cook as well as the corn seed they shelled on the antique sheller along with instructions on how to grow this special heirloom corn in Florida.

If you would like me to come speak to your school or other group. I would love to do it. I'm polishing my presentation and hope to keep it entertaining and educational. Contact me at casey@regionalseasonal.com

Greenway Corn Meal Tortillas

Greenway Farm Corn Meal fan Julie Mickler Bhatia shared this recipe and her technique for making taco shells from Greenway Farm Corn Meal. I've reshared it here:

Ok here's another big win in my house tonight! Nothing kills a Taco Tuesday like having to pass over the crappy shells and tortillas! We usually just do salads and Xochitel chips. But, I ran across a great link and made homemade corn shells with my wonderful corn meal from the farm. They turned out amazing and my hubby and son couldn't stop stealing them! The link is below. I wanted them crispy so I moved my toaster oven next to my cook-top. As I pulled them off the pan I draped them over two grates. Probably one of an oven grate would work. These are close together. I put it on about 300 convection and after 5-8 minutes they were so nice and formed and crispy! And it didn't take long at all to make 8 or so. Yummo!!! Yay for non-crap taco shells! Just had to share. http://www.mennonitegirlscancook.ca/2014/03/soft-cornmeal-taco-shells.html

Solar Electric Fencing for Pigs

We had a farm tour this past Saturday at Greenway Farm. The idea was for folks to meet Jesse Green and to see our new pasture set up for how we are raising the pigs. It was a huge hit. There must have been 100 people there. I didn't even get a chance to say hello to everyone who came. Another plan for the tour had been for those interested in raising pigs themselves to get an inside look at the fencing system that I have set up. Well, between walking, talking, meeting and greeting I never even had a chance to gather a group together that really wanted to see the fencing system up close. So, I thought I would give an overview of the system on our new blog.

Electric fencing is a very flexible and comparably inexpensive way to contain pigs on pasture and in wooded areas. The basics of pigs and electric fence are:
1. Train them to electric fence in a contained area. Most pigs natural inclination is to charge through the first time they are shocked.
2. Make their first encounter with the fence memorable. The general rule is that the fence should be reading at least 4000 volts on the fence tester. With pigs, I like the fence to be at full power. (Don't pay any attention to the mile rating of fence energizers. Joules is the rating that counts).
3. Hi tensile wire and poly wire are both effective and I find determining which to use depends on the particular application.
4. With pigs from weaning size to 100lbs or so I prefer to use two wires. One at snout height and one at ear height. Once they are larger, one wire seems to work fine.
5. Don't skimp on grounding rods. When the system is not working correctly the ground system is often to blame. With my three joule charger in a 10 acre field I am using 3 eight foot long galvanized ground rods spaced about 8' apart. The soil in this field holds a lot of water. In well drained soil and sand I would use more rods. I leave my ground rods out of the ground about 18" to make it easier to pull them up if needed and cap the top with an old tennis ball to prevent injury in case someone falls on them. They are connected in series using hi tensile wire and automotive hose clamps. Insulated wire would be preferable to prevent corrosion but I move my system fairly often and tensile wire is cheap to replace.

I use different products, components and techniques for different age pigs but the primary system for growing sized pigs and breeding size hogs consists of our 3 joule Speedrite Fence Energizer, wooden corner posts, steel T-post line posts, 14 gauge high tensile wire, t-post insulators and plastic and ceramic corner post insulators. This is what we've used for some time. My fence energizer can either be plugged in to a wall outlet or connected to a 12v battery. The pig herd at Greenway Farm is not located anywhere near AC power so I chose to create a solar system for it. I placed a 12v deep cycle battery from the auto parts store with the fence energizer in a plastic storage tote. The fence energizer comes with alligator clips to attach to the the battery posts but I refitted it with eye connectors that I could bolt on the battery posts. This set up runs the fence energizer.

According to the fencer's manufacturer, the deep cycle battery will power this charger for about two weeks before the battery reaches half power. Going below half power on a deep cycle battery is supposed to be very bad for the life of the battery. I didn't want to add charging the battery to my list of chores and considering I would need a 2nd battery to power the fence while charging the other, I chose to create a solar system to maintain the battery's power. The cost of the solar system was comparable to the price of a 2nd battery. Here's what I used: a 50 watt panel. Solar panels come with special electrical connectors on the output wire ends. I was not familiar with them or where to find such connectors locally so I cut them off and used standard automotive connectors. You cannot directly connect a solar panel to the battery, as the panel will overcharge the battery. You need an inline charge controller. I initially used this one, but it failed and I switched to this one which is a sealed unit and much more simple. I also added this very inexpensive digital volt meter which stays connected to the battery and will let you know the battery's status at a glance. My solar panel just lays on top of the plastic tote, but I left enough wire slack so that I could set it on the side to angle towards the sun if necessary.


What is a Half a Hog?

Recently, friends came to pick up their half hog. They had time to visit, so we reconstructed the pig so that everyone else can see what you get with a half Hog Share. These are not the cuts that you have to get, many of these cuts can be made in to other things. This is the standard size hog that I am raising to 250# live weight. This half hog was a total of 74.5# of actual packaged cuts. The total price was $511.63 which works out to $6.86/lb (This is a better price for hog shares than I have been giving estimates for!)

Here are the cuts from left to right across the top:
4 Boston Butt roasts from the shoulder. These could have also been made in to shoulder steaks and country style ribs.

3 bone in loin roasts. These can also be cut as pork chops at the thickness you choose.

The ham was cured and smoked and then cut in half. This could have been cut in to fresh roasts or ham steaks, fresh or as country style smoked ham steaks.

Then below the ham are two packages of smoked ham hocks. Most folks use these for soups.

In the center is a split rack of spare ribs in two packages.

The belly made 9 packages of cured, smoked and sliced bacon.

Then there were 4 1-1.5lb packages of ground Italian sausage. This could have been left as plain ground pork, seasoned in many other styles or made in to links in various flavors, smoked or fresh.

The legs in my reconstructed pig are made up of smoked sausage links. they got 5 packages of these and they run closer to 1.5lb/pkg.

It is also possible to get the head, feet and tail back as well as organs and extra fat for lard rendering. Pigs are very versatile. Any of the cuts in the picture could have been used to make more sausage. I just had a pig processed for eating myself and selling by the package and I chose to have the entire pig made in to smoked sausage links except for the bacon.

So, a Whole Hog Share would be twice this much and a Quarter Hog Share half as much. The price rate for all are the same. Half and Whole shares give you more choices of cuts.

For a Half Hog Share you need about 4 cubic feet of freezer space.

The Hog Share Story

This picture is of my great-grandmother Poole. There is a video of my great grandfather Lane near the bottom of the page. Their times were harder in many ways, but I believe their pork was better. In their time, most country folks kept a few pigs on their homesteads. Granddaddy Lane was a “hog man” and kept quite a few all his life. Granny Poole was known for handraising runts.

These “Homestead Hogs” grazed pastures, rooted in forests and in the south were turned on to the corn and peanut fields of the farm. These hogs never saw concrete like modern pigs which are crowded and caged in concrete and metal slat floored barns for their entire lives. Because of the crowded conditions, modern hog farms often provide sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotics to prevent illness and aid in growth. The homestead hogs of the past weren't bred to be “the other white meat” but had a marbled red meat and produced lard for healthful cooking fat and soap making. Their diets of green and natural forage gave their meat healthier Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Feed cropsback then weren't genetically modified to resist herbicides, which are now sprayed directly on the crops for weed control, the carcinogenic chemicals from which are found in the fats of the livestock that feed on them and even in human breast milk.

I had decided to stop eating pork unless I could raise my own. Though not quite as intelligent as the movies make them out to be, pigs are special animals and deserve better lives than the industrial farm model provides them. I also wanted to eat better myself and feed my young family the best. We started out raising two pigs for our own family. We were “wowed!” by the sweet flavor of the pork and it was a great comfort eating sausage and not wondering what weird stuff went in it. Our friends wanted to share in this pork for their families also and I set out to provide “Hog Shares” and raised 12 homestead hogs for my friends. Demand has increased and we now have our own breeding herd, so that the pigs are born right on our homestead and we can have more control over the great tasting stock we raise. But, rather than continue to expand our own herd past the capabilities of our land, we have partnered with other small homestead farms, our friends, who share our values of humanely raised, great tasting heritage breed pigs, raised on natural forage instead of concrete or dirt lots and feeding feeds free from genetic modification, antibiotics and toxins from agricultural chemicals. This has been a success and when you buy a “Hog Share” from Regional Seasonal, your hog will be coming from our homestead or one of our friends that is partnered with Regional Seasonal that shares our same farm mission.

Our Story

Shortly after having children, we watched the documentary Food, Inc. The film opened our eyes to the disturbing problems in the commercial food industry that were afflicting our health and environment. It led us to discover that there was a better way to feed our family and a better way to live. We first began by shopping for organic foods and then raising chickens in our yard. We partnered with Casey Lane, who had become a budding farmer after we shared Food, Inc with him. Together, we used our land to provide eggs and meat for both of our families.

Casey eventually found his own farm, keeping a milk cow and raising pigs. He convinced us to try our own pigs after sampling his bacon. We purchased two young pigs from Dave and Ginger Shields at Pastured Life Farm. We raised them by rotating them around the pasture of our property and fed them non-GMO feed. When the time came to process them, we ended up with a freezer full of the most delicious pork we had ever tasted! Nothing store bought could compare to the flavor. Plus, we had loved and cared for these pigs as if they were pets, giving them the best life possible. We have since acquired more pigs and hope to be able to provide our family with quality pork for years to come by setting up our own breeding program and growing out the pigs on our pasture.

Learning to be livestock farmers, we have discovered that one of the biggest challenges facing small farmers, is juggling the roles of being a parent, caring for the farm, selling farm products, delivering finished animals to the processor, delivering products to the customer, farm book keeping and meeting legal requirements for sales. We realized this was inefficient to do on our own and discovered that the inability to accomplish all these things kept some folks from farming who would and prevented others already farming from not serving as many families as they could. We decided that what was needed was a cooperative effort to provide farm marketing logistics to small farms and provide a central point for consumers to find the farm products they wanted. Thus was born Regional Seasonal! We want you to be able to eat the same food we eat fresh from our farm and the farms of our friends. We raise our products for our families and we want the best for them. Now, you can get it too. We hope you enjoy!