Experimenting with Hog Breeds and Recipes Part 1
Through the process of finding the best hog breed for the farm we've been cooking a lot of pork! There's something to be said for each of the main groups we have on the farm; the Mangalitsas (nicknamed the Mangles because everything they touch they destroy), the Guinea Hogs (nicknamed the black pigs....because they're black), the Berkshires (they don't have a nickname) and all the various crosses (thanks to a very virulent and badly behaved Guinea Hog male). You can see photos of the breeds on the farm, descriptions and general information here: https://www.bullcityfarm.com/meet-the-animals
If I were to generalize I would have to say the longer the breed takes to reach processing weight the richer and more flavorful the meat. The Mangalitsas in particular have really impressed us even though they increase our workload by 200% with their antics. This Fall we'll cross the Mangalitsa with our Berkshires to see if we can find the sweet spot between time to develop, taste and behavior. We're also going to raise some woodlot pork to see how our breeds respond to being in the woods. As you can probably tell, farming is a lot of trial and error. All you can hope for is that the errors still taste good and don't cost you too much money!
As farmers, we understand firsthand the importance of supporting local farms. Which is why I buy or trade for most of our food in the summer months. Well, to be honest it's mostly because of the convenience. I'm not against running to the store and getting something out of season but it never tastes as good. I always enjoy a meal more when I know who produced each ingredient.
This meal starts with the Perfect Pork Chop recipe then adds farm fresh tomatoes and onions from 2 of my favorite local farms in the Piedmont of North Carolina: Durham farm, Mama Springs and Hillsborough farm, Nourishing Acres. To round everything off we made our own feta (you don't have to do this I just love making cheese), the pork chops from one of our Berkshire crosses and herbs from the kitchen garden (everyone needs a kitchen garden).
You are going to love this!
Pork Chops with Farm Fresh Tomatoes and Feta Cheese
-2 TBS olive oil, divided
-1 large onion (my onions were small so I used 3)
-2-6 cloves of garlic-chopped (completely depends on your feelings about garlic)
-4 pork loin chops (local, pasture-raised meat is so much more flavorful than commercially raised)
-salt and pepper to taste
-1 pt of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (it's fun to choose different colors)
-3 TBS chopped, fresh basil
-2 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar or balsamic reduction (makes it a little sweeter)
-Feta cheese to taste
1. Place an oven proof skillet in the oven (I prefer cast iron). Heat to 500 deg F.
2. While the oven is heating up, dry the pork chops on a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Prepare onions, basil and garlic.
3. Remove skillet when the oven reaches temperature then place on the stove top on a high burner.
4. Put 1/2 TBS of oil in the skillet and add the chops. Turn every 2 minutes until the chops reach an internal temperature of 125 deg F. Place on a plate and tent with foil, let rest for around 10 min (They'll continue to cook and seal in the juices)
5. While the chops are resting, reduce the heat in the skillet and add the remaining oil. Cook the onions until translucent (about 3 minutes).
6. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic and basil. Cook until the tomatoes are tender (around another 3 min).
7. Mix in the balsamic vinegar or the balsamic reduction then season with salt and pepper. Top chops with the onion and tomatoes, sprinkle with feta cheese
I served this with spinach from the store (spinach is now out of season in our area). There are certainly ways to make this dish more seasonal, let me know what you come up with!