Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Living in the Land of Pork

Let's face it. Iowa is known for very few things. And we often get mistaken for things we don't have. (Idaho potatoes, anyone?) Corn, soy beans, hog confinements. Well, and potentially deadly eggs of late, but that's another story entirely.

The noble pig. It's a glorious thing. I have always been a fan. Honestly. As a child, it was my dream to own a pet pig. And not a pot-bellied pig, either. I wanted a full on hog.

My father had a farmer friend who still owned livestock, by the name of Jim Looman. Jim was the name of the man, not the livestock, and I'm fairly certain I've butchered the spelling of his last name. We knew him as Big Jim. Many a Fourth of July was spent at Big Jim's farm. And I was to be found in the barn, talking to Blue Eyes, Jim's rather substantial sow, who on occasion had piglets feasting at her teats. Those piglets were my dream--to take one home and hand rear it. I'd name it something wonderful, I'm sure. Blue Eyes, for the record, got her name by virtue of having blue eyes.

I would go home after and dream wonderful dreams of pet pigs. It was glorious!

Even more glorious was the time my mother actually considered bringing me home a piglet. A fleeting thought, to be sure. But it was the stuff of midnight tales after waking from nightmares. My mother had been on her way home one night and the farm about 5 miles up the road had a piglet loose. She passed it, and thought about stopping for it. Instead, she came home, and told me a story about the piglet's adventures in the wide world. I don't remember the story, but I remember that time with my mother, and the moment when just maybe, I almost had a pig of my own.

I still think it would be wonderful to own a pig some day. As an adult, I do realize the somewhat unrealistic hope of having one as a house pet. Perhaps, someday, an acreage, with a dog house, built big enough for a half-ton sow. This is one of the highlights of Iowa.

And so it is, that I have decided to forgive Iowa for it's lapse in providing me access to decent cheese. It has, after all, provided access to some of the finest pork in the world. Probably the finest pork in all of the United States.

And the best way to prepare it follows:

Grilled Pork Chops

3 Quarts water
1/2 cup salt
4 sprigs fresh rosemary (easily my favorite herb)
2 tbls minced garlic
1 splash of lemon juice
2 pinches sugar
6 thick-cut, bone-in pork chops (about 1 lb a piece)

Remove the chops from the bones. Reserve the bones and any additional meat for a later use.

Pour the water into a 1.5 gallon container. Add all seasonings. Stir. Add the pork chops. Refrigerate for 14 hours.

One hour before you are set to grill, remove the pork chops from the brine, pat dry with a paper towel, and allow to come to room temperature.

Prepare your coals for a hot fire.

Cook the pork chops 6-8 minutes per side, turning once.

When the pork chops reach an internal temperature of 152-156 degrees (F), remove from the grill and tent with foil. Let rest 10 minutes.

Eat them with friends, or family. Whichever you prefer.

The ultimate moral to this blog post is:

Brine your pork chops, people. Brine. Your. Chops. You'll thank me later.

Oh, and some might wonder, do I feel bad about eating an animal I dearly love and would dearly love to have for a pet? Not when it tastes this good.

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