At the Farm GatePorktober: Time to Salute Pork
My husband had never acted so delighted about supper.
He sat on the porch in anticipation of my first attempt at barbecued baby back ribs on our new smoker. He inhaled the smoky aroma from his porch seat, sipped a choice beverage, and voiced approval during the final un-foiling of the fare.
The pile of rib bones after the meal told the finger-licking tale: I had found his new favorite meal.
Our family has always enjoyed pork but established a deeper-seated love for “The Other White Meat” since the gift of a pellet smoker. Now, a variety of smoked cuisine ranks among our traditional pork entrees. Oven-baked pork tenderloin repurposes well as pork stir fry. The kids clean their plates of pork chops, grilled to a safe and moist internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pork represents the world’s most widely eaten meat, and Illinois ranks No. 4 in the United States for its production. While the industry collectively gives a nod to hog farmers for National Pork Month in October, our household salutes them year-round with fresh bacon in the fridge and extra packages in the freezer. Most Sundays, I brown our favorite pork sausage for homemade pizzas or the occasional sausage gravy over biscuits for a special breakfast.
While we dine on pork products on Sunday morning, hog farmers tend to chores, a daily cycle uninterrupted by weekends and holidays. More than 2,000 Illinois farms raise pigs, a number that included our family farm years ago. Today, our state’s hog farmers raise more with less, often in climate-controlled, bio-secure barns, a preferred environment for an animal that does not sweat, contrary to the popular expression.
Our state’s hog farmers deserve extra praise and support this year, having faced unimaginable stresses and decisions due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Nationwide actions to control the pandemic disrupted the food supply chain and forced emergency pig depopulation, devastating to the mental and financial health of family hog farms nationwide.
Easter dinner wouldn’t be the same without making Grandma’s ham recipe. Ham sandwiches help us through the harvest season. Our daughter misses those fairground pork burgers as much as exhibiting at the county and state fairs, both canceled due to COVID.
With a cleared social calendar, we smoked ribs again on a pre-harvest Sunday afternoon. The activity fills six hours, offering a pandemic-friendly way to praise pork from the front porch.
About the author: Joanie Stiers’ family grows corn, soybeans, and hay and raises beef cattle and backyard chickens in West-Central Illinois.