At the Farm GateFine Swine Dining - Pork delicious, economical mealtime tradition
Sometime around age 40, my guilty pleasure food changed to pulled pork nachos: tortilla chips softened with melted nacho cheese, topped with pulled pork and drizzled with barbecue sauce.
I ordered a boat of them at the only Illini football game we attended last fall. The daytime high reached 34 degrees with sustained winds around 15 mph against our faces in the upper deck. The nacho cheese congealed, napkins blew, and my gloveless hand turned a bit numb. But, I pulled down my fleece face mask and ate them anyway.
Memories are made at mealtime and what better month to celebrate pork on the menu than October, National Pork Month. Pork represented the world’s most widely eaten meat in 2022, and Illinois ranks No. 4 in the United States in its production.
Our family cherishes the tradition of ham for the holidays. We slow life’s pace when we put racks of pork ribs on the smoker on a weekend afternoon. Our son microwaves bacon for breakfast before school. Sunday night means sausage on either store-bought or homemade pizza. And well-seasoned pork burgers reign at county fairs – no ketchup or garnish necessary.
Prepared to the correct temperature, pork proves moist and delicious. The meat is nutritious in its leanest cuts, and pork adds considerable flavor at an economical price. I figure my family of four can eat a 6-ounce serving of lean pork loin every day for a week for less than $30. Dress it up with pork gravy or change it up with stir fry and that’s some fine swine dining for the week.
Pork is a powerful and productive protein. Pork loin, pork sirloin and pork tenderloin pack around 23 grams of protein in 3 ounces. Over the last 30 years, farmers have reduced pork’s saturated fat content by 27%, and since my grandpa raised pigs, farmers require 76% less land and 25% water to produce a pound of the protein.
This week, I made 10 pounds of pulled pork from pork tenderloin, a new favorite on the back porch smoker. Mom watched a food show where chunks of loin are “pulled” in a stand mixer. The result: an easy, flavorful and lean meat for pulled pork sandwiches, pork tacos, protein on salad, or toppings on barbecue pizza.
Tonight, a pork-loaded nacho summons me.
About the author: Joanie Stiers farms with her family, growing corn, soybeans and hay and raising beef cattle, backyard chickens and farm kids in West-Central Illinois.