I have the privilege this year being one of a group selected by the Illinois Farm Families to serve as a City Mom Blogger. Throughout the year, I have the opportunity to visit several farms and hear from the experts and see first hand where our food comes from.
Although I live in a bustling burb, I adore farm life. My husband and I often joke that he missed his calling of being a farmer. He loves the outdoors, gardening, yard work, fresh produce, tractors and getting up with the chickens. We've been to a number of farms over the years with our sons, from living history farms to U-pick fruit farms to a modern dairy farm. We make an annual trek to a festive pumpkin farm. We've stayed at a farm bed & breakfast where the kids gathered chickens for breakfast and looked on as the Amish neighbors at the neighboring farm did their chores. We've spent time on my cousin's soybean and feed corn farm in central Illinois where the kids had tons of room to roam.
So, when I paid a visit recently to Gould Farms in Maple Park, Illinois as part of a day dedicated to pork education with the City Moms, I loved being out in the rural area even if it was a chilly spring day and we spent most of it inside.
The day included a tour of the farm, an introduction to the Gould family's history, mission and operations, a presentation by a representative of Hormel and a demonstration from Country Store & Catering in Sycamore.
The Country Store & Catering prepared lunch for our group with butterfly-cut pork chops, baked beans, steakhouse potato salad and pasta salad. Everything was made from scratch using all-natural ingredients and no preservatives and was quite good. The pork chops were huge, but I went ahead and put one between two fresh rolls, slathered it with some zesty barbecue sauce and ate as much as I could.
For our demo by Tom Ulrich from the Country Store, we learned a little about how to prepare pork and learned a few tips of the trade. Here are a few bits of the pork 411:
- Tom makes all his products on a charcoal grill - his favorite method of cooking pork.
- He recommends seasoning a day or two before to allow it to work its way into the meat.
- Rubbing pork with 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil and a teaspoon of lemon juice opens up the pores to allow the spices to penetrate.
- Cozzini knives are a favorite of butchers.
- Cut a slit in a pork roast and stuff the center with herbs or cheeses.
- For a big pork loin, cook just to a 145 internal temperature as the temperature continues to rise after removed from heat.
- Mix beef and pork and boil with pepper and onions then simmer for 3 hours for a great shredded meat sandwich.
- Make a lattice pattern with bacon as a topper for a pork roast.
- Once cut, it's best to use pork within 3 to 4 days. You can extend that by a few days by using seasonings and salt.
I also learned that if you purchase a big pork loin, you can separate it to use it several different ways. One pork loin can be converted into a pork roast, country ribs, pork chops and cubed stew meat. The demonstration was a great way to finish out our day.