February 21, 2024

More ground hog days

Make your own case

Funny when those coincidences happen.

Late last month was the annual Iowa Pork Congress. Held in Des Moines, everybody imaginable from the pork production industry meets and talks about the business. Afterward, I heard stories from area people who attended and how one stat stuck out. The average amount of pork people eat in a year is far less than beef and far less than the pork industry is comfortable.

That’s a bit disappointing. Bacon seems to be a favorite among most meat and pork eaters, but maybe that is the only preferred pork product? I have had some brilliant beef over the years, and won’t give it up, but am intrigued at the diversity of pork. It can be enjoyed for each meal of the day.

The convention came at an interesting time. In the fall the people who promote pork had a brilliant and extremely rare opportunity to have fun with the product. Using the last names of certain Iowa State football players, the theme was “Purchase Moore Hamman and Bacon.” Whoever paid attention to those names and linked it with Iowa pork deserves as much pork as they want for the rest of their lives. That was brilliant.

As you may notice in our headlines, we try and have fun with them when it’s appropriate. One of my instructors in college encouraged us not to use people’s names in headlines in a pun regardless of the story. He said to keep the paper’s dignity and respect to the people as usually no one can help their name. The Iowa State names were perfect and for something that isn’t inherently derogatory.

Last Friday was Groundhog Day, celebrated for days in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and all about a groundhog and his ability to see his shadow to determine how much more winter. Movie fans may also remember a movie of the same name as the holiday. For the past several years, I have watched that movie on the day (it’s bound to be on cable or streamed somewhere). This year wasn’t the case as I had prior commitments.

But I am trying to improve that annual average pound per person for pork. I kept my word with my wife and made her Brunswick stew at least once per winter. It was in our revised wedding vows. That is a combination of cooked, boneless pork roast, garlic, onion, butter, corn, lima beans, brown sugar, barbecue sauce, tomatoes, chicken broth and Worcestershire sauce. Did I forget something? There is a mild, sweet flavor to it. Serve it with cornbread. Excellent winter meal. I may make it again.

Last week was another family favorite; pork-rites. Brown 1 lb. ground pork in water. Browning the meat in water makes it more evenly cooked. After the meat is done, drain the water and add about 3/4 cup of a regular ale beer (don’t use a light beer), a tablespoon of sugar and a dash or two of ground mustard. Continue on a medium heat. Most of the beer will evaporate. The beer acts more like a seasoning. We never taste the beer. Serve on hamburger buns. I usually top mine with pickles and mustard. I don’t put ketchup on any of my pork.

Another recipe is intended for breakfast. Use a box of pork flavored Stove Top stuffing, breakfast sausage, eggs, cheddar cheese and microgreens to make a casserole. Microgreens seem to be the newest trend to cooking. The plant science people describe microgreens as young seedlings of edible vegetables and herbs. Microgreens can be harvested and eaten a week to 10 days after the cotyledon — a part of the embryo within the seed — leaves have developed.

Microgreens are also a great simple addition to traditional scrambled eggs. Microgreens don’t always have to be in things that are complex.

Broccoli and cantaloupe are two microgreens I have had the most. And I can taste the plant of the microrgeen. I have had great success with micgrogreens from Cedar Shake Farm outside of Winterset. Cedar Shake was at Market on Maple in 2021. Microgreens may be hard to find at a retail level. I’ve read how microgreens producers usually have contracts with food distributors or restaurants guaranteeing them a sale.

Ground pork is also part of my Christmas Eve chili, along with ground beef. That meat can also be browned in beer the same reasons as the pork-rites. At a previous job, a chili cooking contest among staff had mine as one of the top finishers. One of the judges asked what I did to the meat. He noticed - and not just the beer.

Then there is the Iowa Pork Producer’s annual breaded tenderloin sandwich contest across the state. I have had too many good to great ones across the state to include in this column. I had a great one with a friend who lives in Atlantic at the Super Bowl before Creston’s football game last fall.

I don’t like the sandwich the size and shape of Texas. It’s obnoxious. Make them just a little wider than the bun so you can cut it flush and give yourself a taste of the loin itself. (Drag mine through the garden; lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion and mustard is required. Mayo is optional.)

And don’t forget to purchase more ham and bacon.

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.