News From The Farm: Cool Pigs and The Best Pork Chops
Hi there local food eaters,
Hope you are enjoying summer! Kids are home, pools are open, trips are being planned and packed. Around here, our kids are always home, and summer is a hot time for gardening and animal care, but also making time to get to the pool.
If you are on the fence about signing up for a share this summer because you will be on vacation, remember that you are guaranteed to get the amount of meat that you pay for. If you miss a delivery, you can always get it later in the month or the next month. If you are out of town and not eating all of your share, then maybe that's a good reason to have a cookout and invite all your friends for a party! Just an idea...
There is definitely still time to sign up for the Meat CSA before deliveries start the first week of July. Check out our share options, and please reply to this email with any questions you may have about becoming a member.
The view out my bedroom window this morning
This is our fluffy cat enjoying her tree bed and those blobs in the grass are snoozing pigs.
Here is the pile of pigs, sleeping as they tend to do, all together.
We have to make sure that our pigs have lots of shade this time of year - did you know that pigs can get a sunburn??? They have very little body hair, and sensitive skin, just like us. The pink ones burn easier than the black ones. A friend of ours had pigs in the open sun, and they got so sunburned that they were quite ill with sun poisoning. He actually rubbed them down with lard to heal their blisters, poor things! We learned from this, and make sure they always have shade. Also, our pigs tend to be expert fence-escapers, so if they do not like their conditions, they are likely to break out and seek the shadier shade on the other side of the fence.
They also love a wallow, or mud pit, and will try to make one wherever they are when it is warm out. They flip waterers, upturn the earth, and dig down to find wet soil. This is so important, because a thin covering of mud actually is very protective of their skin. Pigs rolling in mud = putting on their sunscreen. And while pigs can sweat a little, it doesn't do much to cool them off. They are bulky and have lots of insulation, and need to find a comfortable way to cool off. If it is too hot, they tend to just lay there and won't get up to eat and drink which can be stressful and unhealthy. Often in heat spells, we will set up a sprinkler or hose them down, which creates a wallow area as well. I'll be sure to take pictures of this the next time we do it!
Keeping chickens cool is a whole 'nother story, and can be more challenging, in fact. I'll write about that next time.
Our favorite pork chops
I grew up eating pork chops with 'Shake'N Bake'. My dad had a fondness for the Shake'N Bake pork chop, smothered in a proprietary blend of bread crumbs, hydrogenated oils, sugars, and MSG.
These days, we are a little more health conscious with our food choices (although I'm sure we could come up with a delicious whole foods version of shake N bake topping!). In addition, I have an extremely simple and efficient cooking style, aka lazy, but on purpose. I have things to do, but I want to eat my healthy food and have it taste good too, without slaving over it. So my cooking choices are based on 1. health, 2. ease, and 3. taste, usually in that order. Fortunately, when you start with fabulous fresh ingredients, and reasonably sound simple cooking practices, I've found that great taste usually follows.
So these pork chops were born out of necessity. You know, when it is 5 o'clock, and you don't know what is for dinner. And you are having dinner guests. Or maybe, hopefully, you don't do that. Anyway, the pork chop is put into a marinade while frozen, and quickly defrosts in the marinade, while soaking up flavors. Then it just needs to be grilled and enjoyed.
Quick maple pork chops
Ingredients: 4 pork chops (2 packages) 1/4 cup maple syrup 1/4 cup organic soy sauce (or coconut aminos) 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar 1 teaspoon garlic powder, or 4 or more cloves of fresh chopped garlic 2 Tablespoons mustard
Put the pork chops into a shallow container; 4 usually fit in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. If they are frozen, put under cool water until you can peel off the protectors (these plastic strips effectively keep the bones from poking through the plastic and ruining the vacuum seal, inviting freezer burn. You know what I'm talking about if you've been buying from us since pre-2014 ;)
Once you know that your chops will fit your container, the easiest thing to do is to pour the marinade ingredients in, mixing right in the pan. Add your pork chops, and let them sit, covered, for as long as time will allow, ideally turning the chops over at least once. We've done this for as little as one hour, and it still makes a great flavor. Overnight would be superb.
These can be grilled or pan fried as usual, make sure to leave them on one side long enough to brown. Cook to your preferred doneness. There is a running disagreement in our household over the ideal doneness of pork; I insist on well done, because that's how pork should be, right? Brooks insists on medium because it is completely safe and according to him, just tastes better. Some chops can be left on the heat longer to suit all preferences. If you have the time and inclination, cooking down the marinade to reduce it a little bit turns it into a really nice flavorful sauce for the finished chops. We eat pork chops with sautéed onions, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes. Yum.
Another take on this same idea, and possibly quicker if you already have thawed pork chops, would be to make a quick pan glaze like this one:
Let us know what your favorite pork chop recipe is!
Enjoy the summer, friends.
Thanks for supporting local foods,
Brooks Miller and Anna Santini