Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sustainable Pork Tour 2012 (Part II)

To be honest, when the National Pork Board invited me to tag along on their Sustainable Pork Tour, I didn't really know what to expect a "sustainable pork farm" to be.

You hear "sustainable" bounced around in terms of agriculture but what does it really mean?  I wasn't sure. I kind of pictured pigs running around with rainbows and unicorns.  

Reading various definitions can be even more confusing but this is what I take away from it:  "Agricultural farming that is economically viable and maintains stewardship of natural and human resources."  [Legal definition here]

Our tour started at the Inn of Versailles located in the Village of Versailles, OH (pronounced Ver-sales unlike its French namesake).  The hotel was built after a fire devastated the downtown in 1901 and has a charming bed and breakfast feel.  Despite retaining the older feel of the building, the individually furnished rooms have all of the modern day conveniences.

Lobby (photo from their website)
We were treated to a behind (and under) the scenes tour of the kitchens at Michael Anthony's Euro-American Bistro.

It always amazes me how commercial kitchens can do so much in a relatively small space.

Click click click

The whole Delligatta family works in the operation, she said it makes it fun to work there.

I saw a large drum of split wood in the kitchen, my favorite ingredient!

Chef Delligatta explains a little about the sustainable practices that they use, including their own gardens.

Wood embers burning on the grill, now THAT'S what I'm talking about!  I wanted to grill right then.

When we went down into the basement, I couldn't help but say, "It puts the lotion on its skin..."

What happens when a bunch of food bloggers see an underground micro-green garden?  More clicks.

They are pretty though, right?

We went back upstairs to test out the coal fired pizza oven.

A horse designed by a committee is a camel - a pizza designed by a committee is a....HUGE pizza with everything on it.

Then we met with the Wuebker's for dinner back upstairs.  Chef Delligatta and his staff served us several delightful courses of pork. 

Niles was kind of creepy, I never saw him blink ;)

The dining room is decorated with murals reminiscent of a European street.

In addition to being a trained chef for the past 15 years, Delligatta also was a certified Honda motorcycle mechanic.
 The antipasti course included the pizza we all created, bacon wrapped figs with oregonzola bleu cheese, San Daniele prosciutto with fresh melon, and fried squash blossoms.  The squash blossom and oregonzola bleu cheese were two of many firsts for me during this tour.

The salad course was a roasted beet and goat cheese salad.  The pasta course was probably my favorite of the night, braised sausage and beef ravioli with kale, peppers, and shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese.

The main entree was a wood fired pork chop with fig and cranberry chutney with a grilled summer vegetable spiedini.

Another first, I had not had capers like the two laying against the chop. They were spectacular when cut into little bites with the pork.

If you follow this blog, you know I do NOT care for dessert.  I don't like sweets much.  I even have a post tag of "holy crap I posted a dessert".

The dessert course was a salty caramel and bacon gelato.  I thought I would take one bite to be polite.  This was one of the best desserts I have ever eaten in my life.   I ate every single bite.  Yeah...me. 

After dinner, we sat around and Jeff Wuebker gave us a preview of what we might expect the next day.   He described their farm as an "ob/maternity ward for pigs".  Instead of being a "birth to market" farm that raises pigs from birth to slaughter, Wuebker Farms is under contract as a farrowing farm.  

In 1986, they only had 60 sows and have grown to 1,800 sows today.  Last year they produced enough pigs to supply 1 million pork chops.  But the focus was on how they won the Environmental Stewardship award with their sustainable practices.  He talked about how they use automation, policies, and practices to minimize consumption and keep waste streams onsite.  

More about that in the next post but it was clear the modern pig farmer is part businessman, part biologist, part nutritionist, part veterinarian, and 100% dedicated.

Funniest moment of the dinner: During dinner one end of the table exploded in laughter.  I debated about putting the reason behind it here since it is a little risque.  For a compromise, I will put it as the first comment.  View it at your own risk.

Jeff also mentioned that tomorrow we would have the opportunity to hold a freshly born piece of bacon pig and even participate in the artificial insemination of sows.  WHAT WHAT WHAT? Yeah, you'll have to wait for Part III about the farm tour for that part!  :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ribs Smoked On a Gas Grill

Sustainable Pork Tour 2012 (Part 1)
I spent the past two days in the farmlands of Versailles (Ver-sales, not Ver-sigh), Ohio courtesy of the National Pork Board and have learned volumes about sustainable pork farming at Wuebker Farms.  I even held a piglet that was just minutes old.


I had a lot of preconceived notions changed and have a lot of topics to discuss so I need to break this into 3 posts.

My intial post is a recipe inspired by my visit in 3 ways.

First, I chose to do "baby back ribs*" since Wuebker Farms is basically an Ob/Maternity Ward for pigs.  Second, I decided to smoke ribs on my gas grill because Jeff and Alan cooked our lunch yesterday on this cooker that they bought for $250!
What a bargain!!! 

It's a gasser with an internal 6 rack rotisserie that they found for a steal when looking for a feed truck for the farm.  The third inspiration is that I based this recipe on a local BBQ sauce that Dena Wuebker recommended, D.B. Yummers.

She wanted to give me two bottles but TSA regulations won't allow you to carry liquids more than 3 ounces so they couldn't fly with me.  The sauce has a thick texture and you can see some of the bigger spices like red pepper flake in there.  It has a bold sweetness and a good kick of balanced heat.  I liked it enough that I ordered a 4 pack from them today.

Not a bad smoke ring for a gas grill.

Wuebker Ribs
source:  www.nibblemethis.com


For the rub
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1.5 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp smoked kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes*
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
For the mop
  • 1/2 cup D.B. Yummer's Mildly Spicy Barbecue Sauce
  • 1/4 cup cola
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  1. Preheat gas grill to 250-275f and place your smoke packet directly above the burner.  For my Smoke Hollow grill, I turned only the left burner on and at the lowest setting.  That kept it around 260-270f. 
  2. Remove the membrane from the back of the rib (like I show in this post or the video is this really old post.).  Mix the rub ingredients together*.  Moisten the rib on both sides with a little cola (about 1-2 Tbsp) and then season it heavily with the dry rub.
  3. When the smoke pack starts smoking, place the rib on the grill bone side down and away from the burner and close the lid.
  4. Mix the mop ingredients together and lightly mop or spoon some over the rib about every 30-45 minutes.   This will layer flavors and keep a moist cooking environment.  
  5. Cook for 3 hours, then wrap in a double sheet of aluminum foil and return it to the grill.  Cook for 45 minutes.
  6. Remove from the foil and put back on the grill.  Cook until the rib bends easily when you hold one end with tongs, about another 45 minutes (4 1/2 hrs to 5 hours total time).  When they are almost done, brush on some of the straight barbecue sauce (not the mop).  
  7. Let rest for 10 minutes, slice and serve.
  • Ribs - These were packaged as "baby back ribs" but are actually loin back ribs.  The only difference is size, true baby backs are 1 1/2 or 2 pounds.  Back ribs can be heavier like these (2.9 lbs).  
  • Smoke Packet - For ideas on how to make a smoke packet, check out Patio Daddio's excellent tutorial.  I used a foil mini loaf pan with two Mojo-Qubes and got some of the best smoke I have ever had on a gas grill, it blew chips away as far as the quantity and consistency of smoke production.  
  • Red pepper flakes -  this is spicy as written.  Drop the quantity to 1/4 tsp for medium heat.
  • I ran my rub through a spice grinder for just a few seconds to get an even texture but you can use it just mixed together by hand.
  • If you want "fall off the bone" ribs (which are overcooked), leave them in the foil for an hour.
Close enough!

Wuebker Wub

I covered the Qubes with foil and poked about 8 holes in top.

I have three wood fired smokers but I chose to use the gas grill side of my Smoke Hollow grill just for fun. 

The rib is away from the burner while the smoke packet is directly on the burner (see under the grate to the right).

I don't have to mop when I use my Big Green Eggs but the gasser seems to be a drier environment.
I also mopped the bacon wrapped corn, figured it couldn't hurt.

Mmmmmmm ribs.

Served with bacon wrapped corn and Smokehouse Tradition Grillin' Beans.

Alexis couldn't get over the smoke flavor and said she wouldn't have known they were done on a gas grill if she hadn't seen it with her own two eyes.

I'll have two more posts up this week with a ton of pictures and information from my visit with the National Pork Board, Ohio Pork Producers Council, and Wuebker Farms. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Almost Heaven Dock Party

Bev and Larry (Big Dude's Eclectic Ramblings) hosted one of their summer dock parties at "Almost Heaven South" yesterday afternoon.  Their dock is not a long plain wooden pier.  It is a large covered party barge complete with an outdoor kitchen and can seat up to 25-30 people comfortably.

They were kind enough to invite us and Kathryn and A.J. (Smoky Mountain Cafe).  When we discussed the "menu" ahead of time, we all agreed to keep this as a simple cookout.  That is a challenge when getting three food bloggers together, because the temptation is to try to show your flare.  Then you get stressed out wanting everything to be perfect.  We kept true to our word and put the emphasis on fun and socialization and it couldn't have worked out better.

Cathy gets last minute jet ski instructions from Larry.

She's a fast learner!

Beverly, Larry, and Kathryn taste testing the crawfish cheese dip.

Alexis loading up on the cheese dip.  It reminded me of Spicy Crab Imperial, quite tasty.

In town it was hot and humid but down on the lake it was comfortable all day.

A.J. and Larry enjoying the late afternoon.

We all spent more time socializing than cooking, I loved that.

Beans, brat tub, brats and Beef Hot Links on the grill.  

Yes, I even used a gas grill as part of our keep it simple rule.

Pat telling one of the funny stories that were told all night.  

A.J. coming back in from a ride.

Alexis with a mischievous grin.

A.J. showing his sense of high fashion.

Kathryn and Larry hanging out.

Kathy showing off her new bikini ;)

Oh yeah, there was food.  
 For my "keep it simple" efforts I didn't prepare anything.  I just grilled Johnsonville Brats & Beef Hot Links and Bush's Smokehouse Tradition Grillin' Beans, it couldn't have been easier.  We also had a great potato salad, the crawfish dip, other chips and dips, and later "white pie".  

Brats, beans, and grilled potato salad.

Flag reflection in the lake near twilight.

The fun and talking went on and on....

....until the sun went down and then some.

Alexis extremely "relaxed". 

Thanks again to Bev and Larry for a wonderful evening!

[Standard Disclaimer]  This post sponsored by pure laziness and a desire to "keep it simple".  While Bush Beans and Johnsonville are sponsors of my blog, I received no compensation for this post and paid full retail price for everything mentioned in this post.