Know Your Cuts: Pork Chops 101

Sirloin chops, rib chops, porterhouse chops. You’ve seen them all in your Kettle Club share. That’s because we like to ensure you’re getting a variety of our premium heritage pork cuts. But we understand all the different names can be daunting. So, let’s talk chop.

What is a pork chop anyway?

All pork chops are cut from the loin, the section of the pig that runs from the shoulder to the hip. Here’s where things can get a bit confusing. Each pork chop goes by a different name depending on the area of the loin it’s cut from. Let’s start with a few popular chops from the front end of the loin and work our way towards the tail.

Rib Chop

Sometimes referred to as the center-cut chop or rib end cut, this chop is cut from the center of the loin near the rib area. It will contain a large eye of lean meat with no tenderloin. The rib chop is primarily cut bone-in, with the bone running along the side.

Boneless Chops

Our featured Kettle Club chop for July is the boneless chop. Sometimes referred to as the New York Chop, these cuts are located near the top of the loin. These chops are lean and taste amazing after a good brine bath. Check out this month’s recipe for brined boneless chops.

Porterhouse Chop

Porterhouse chops are cut from the lower back behind the rib chops. They are identifiable by the centered bone that divides the meat from the tenderloin muscle. These chops can present a challenge when cooking as the tenderloin tends to cook faster than the loin section. But the intense flavor and beautiful presentation is worth mastering. Be careful not to overcook. A brine also works well for these delicious chops.

Sirloin Chops

These chops are cut from the hip area towards the back of the loin. Despite the fact that this chop packs a ton of flavor, it’s often overlooked because of its appearance. The cut contains various muscle groups, giving a bit of a mismatched look. The sirloin chop takes quite well to braising and will take on a ton of flavor from your favorite marinade.

Sausage of the Month: Door County Cherry Bratwurst

As Wisconsin as cheese curds and beer, Door County cherry picking is a time-honored tradition. And Kettle Range is excited to incorporate these delectable gems of the peninsula in this month’s Kettle Club shares. Our butchers have prepared a seasonal bratwurst with tart cherries straight from Wisconsin’s cherry mecca.

Door County Cherries

The history of cherries in Door County runs deep. The first European settlers to the peninsula could rely on vegetable crops for sustenance farming but due to the rocky terrain of the landscape, found it challenging to yield anything more than what they needed to get by. The search began for a cash crop that would flourish in the rocky soils of Door County.

In the late 1860’s, a Swiss immigrant named Joseph Zettel arrived on the scene discovering that fruits like apple trees prospered in the area because the shallow soils left only a few feet from the roots to the bedrock. This provided adequate drainage for such fruits that are prone to root rot, a devastating plant disease.

The success of the apple trees attracted two University of Wisconsin horticulturists who began experimenting with other fruits such as plums, strawberries, raspberries and the most famous, cherries, which proved especially efficient at growing in Door County.

Door County cherry production continued to prosper and hit its peak in the 1950s with 700 cherry producers growing nearly 50 million pounds of cherries annually. Today, the Montmorency cherries that grow in Wisconsin account for 90% of all the tart cherries grown statewide.

Like Door County cherry picking season, these brats have a small window of availability. Don’t miss out on these seasonal Wisconsin delicacies!

Featured Cut: Baby Back Ribs

Summer has finally arrived, and our butchers have prepared a special cut for our Kettle Club shares that include pork—baby back ribs.

What are baby back ribs?

Pork ribs can go by many names depending on the region from which they are cut. Baby backs, named for their short length and tenderness when compared to spare ribs, are cut from the back of the pig. They are connected to the backbone and nestled beneath the loin muscle (think pork chops). Because of their size in comparison to spare ribs (cut from the belly section of the pig) they cook a bit faster, making them a fantastic rib for grilling.

Tips for grilling baby backs

We know that grill can be intimidating at times. Not to worry, we’ve got a fail-proof recipe and a few tips that will make you a rib grilling master.

The key to juicy and tender baby backs is to maintain a consistent temperature while grilling over indirect heat. This is usually around 300-325°F  for gas and charcoal grills.

Use a rub to add flavor and texture to the ribs. Here’s an easy dry rub recipe that we love:

Baby Back Ribs Dry Rub

1/4 cup paprika
1.5 tablespoon (packed down) brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne (more if you want a kick!)
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix your dry rub ingredients in a bowl. Sprinkle rub on ribs generously and rub into every nook and cranny you can find. Cover ribs tightly in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least one hour.

Fire up the Grill

As mentioned, it’s best to grill baby backs using indirect heat with a grill temperature of around 300-325 °F Once your grill is ready to go, unwrap your ribs and place them face up on the coolest part of your grill. Close the lid and kick back for a while! Your job for the next 2 hours is to ensure your grill isn’t exceeding a temperature of 325°F  adjusting as needed.

After an hour, begin monitoring the internal temperature of the ribs using a meat thermometer. 180-190°F  is the sweet spot for baby backs. This is a little higher than what we recommend for cooking other cuts of pork. Why you ask? Ribs are “done” when they are 145°F internal temp, but they may still be tough. If you take them up to 190 to 203°F, the collagens and fats melt and make the meat more tender and juicy. When your ribs come up to temperature, brush with your favorite BBQ sauce on both sides.  Kettle Range has some fantastic BBQ sauces for sale in the shop, and we’ve taste tested them all. Just ask your friendly store clerk for some flavor profiles.

Be sure to rest your ribs for at least five minutes before serving. This will allow the meat to absorb the juices for tenderness and more intense flavor. Enjoy!

Farm Spotlight: Clover Hill Harvest LLC

On a crisp March morning, Jen Brevard fires up the UTV she has nicknamed “the feed cart” and heads towards the pastures of the family’s 120-acre farm outside of Helenville, Wisconsin. Her pigs are anticipating her arrival and run to greet her.

“I love watching them dance through the pastures when they hear me coming,” Jen says. “They look as if they’re about to take flight!”

Remember those impossible tasks you promised to do when pigs sprouted wings? Well don’t worry folks, you’re still off the hook. Jen is referring to the sizable floppy ears her heritage pigs, Large Blacks, are known for. This unique feature helps protect their eyes while rooting and foraging on pasture.

“This breed was really built for utilizing forages,” Jen explains. “We keep a mix of red clover, alfalfa and pasture grasses, which they really like. They also enjoy munching on dandelions and thistle. So, they actually help keep the pastures healthy by doing a little weeding for us.”

Jen keeps her Large Black pigs on pasture year-round. The pastures are equipped with straw porta huts, so the pigs have a cozy spot to go in inclement weather. She says she has noticed a considerable improvement in the pastures since she started raising pigs in 2014.

“Every year the pastures seem to get a little better,” she says. “We move pigs frequently to ensure that manure is dispersed evenly in each area. The pigs have really helped turn this piece of land around.”

Jen became interested in raising heritage pork after reading a book about backyard homesteading. She’s now a full-time farmer and says she really enjoys spending time with her pigs.

“Aside from just being able to do what I love, there’s a real preservation aspect to raising these pigs. The demand for these unique breeds ensures that producers can continue to raise animals in a sustainable manner and keep these breeds from being eradicated. It’s a healthy environment for the pigs and a healthy product for consumers.”

Meat Our Team: Chris Scallon

Ever wonder who’s working behind the scenes at Kettle Range Meats? Well wonder no more! Our entire staff works hard to ensure you’re getting the highest quality, best tasting meats in Wisconsin. And we want you to meet them all. First up, Chris Scallon. Chris has become somewhat of a local celebrity in the chili world. With a Golden Ladle from Potawatomi’s Chili Bowl, and a first place win from WMSE’s Rockabilly Chili contest, he’s made Kettle Range synonymous with great chili in 2018.

What do you do at Kettle Range?

I guess my title would be sous chef. I do a lot of food preparation for our heat-and-eat meals. Cutting, slicing, dicing, chopping, packing. I also assist in menu creation, so we can keep adding new items to our overall menu. Oh, and I man the cauldron. The cauldron is what I call our large industrial kettle. It’s where we make things like chicken and beef broth. It’s essentially where the magic begins.

What inspires your award-winning chili concoctions?

I get a lot of inspiration from the incredible products we have access to. Right from the start, we’re sourcing quality meat from local farms. We have a talented butcher staff here that can create amazing products from those meats, like sausages. Those flavors inspire innovative ideas for meals, chilis and side dishes. The Ropa Chili (Rockabilly Chili contest winner) stemmed from one of our heat-and-eat meals, Ropa Vieja. The distinct flavors were incorporated into what turned out to be a delicious and unique chili.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The freedom to create new things. We love getting feedback about our meal program. It’s a great feeling to put out a new meal and get a positive response from our customers.

Thanks for all you do, Chris!

Sausage of the Month: Kettle Range Hot Dogs

We’ve officially hit the half way mark of winter! And we want to celebrate by bringing back our famous Kettle Range hot dogs. Just because it’s still a bit chilly for grilling doesn’t mean we have to miss out on these house-made specialties. Stay warm indoors and try this delicious twist on the classic corn dog.

Ingredients:

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 egg, beaten

1 cup milk

1/4cup canola oil

1 can green chilis

1 package Kettle Range Hot Dogs

½ cup Cheddar Cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin pan or line with paper muffin liners.
  2. Dice Kettle Range hot dogs into bite-size pieces. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add egg, oil and milk; stir gently to combine.
  1. Add diced hot dogs, green chilis and cheddar cheese.
  2. Bake 15 minutes or until cooked through.

Sweetheart Strip Steak

Preparing a Valentine’s Day meal for that special someone? How about a steak dinner? Better yet, a heart-shaped steak dinner. Create a beautiful presentation by butterflying your Kettle Club premium New York Strip Steak into a heart. Follow these easy instructions to impress your carnivorous companion. We’ve even prepared a savory tarragon and red wine steak butter to top off your masterpiece. Enjoy!

  1. Place the steak fat side down on a cutting board
  2. Cut the steak in half length-wise without cutting all the way through to within ½ inch of the edge of the fat
  3. Open the steak by pressing each flat side down
  4. Season the steak with salt and pepper and cook to the temperature of your liking
  5. Top with Chef Eric’s savory red wine and tarragon steak butter
  6. Enjoy!

Ask the Butcher: What is Your Favorite Holiday Meal?

Many of you know Joe Parajecki, our master butcher and head of production. Joe works tirelessly to prepare amazing goodies for our customers to enjoy with their families. But this holiday season, we want to know what Joe is having for dinner.

I come from a Polish family deep rooted in tradition—especially when it comes to holiday meals. Fresh Polish sausage, sometimes with sauerkraut, sometimes with fresh grated Horseradish, has always been a staple at our holiday table. I remember fondly the smell of garlic and marjoram filling the house as my grandmother made sausages on the days that would lead up to Christmas. The smell would linger on and we’d wait in full anticipation during Wigila Dinner Christmas Eve (a tradition including foods that come from the four corners of the earth: forest, sea, field, and orchard).  But, we would have to wait until after Midnight Mass to enjoy it.  Each year I continue this tradition with my family using the time-honored recipe passed down from my grandmother. And this season, I’d like to share it with you. I’ve prepared fresh polish sausage using my grandma’s recipe for our Kettle Club members this month. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have over the years.

Dziękuję Ci (thank you) , Joe!

Featured Cuts: Flank and Skirt Steak

Flank and skirt steak are back for the holidays! We received some amazing feedback this summer after featuring these cuts in Kettle Club shares that included regular steaks. Since you’ve all become flank and skirt experts, we’re taking your skills a step further this month.

Holiday feasts are all about presentation. Imagine how impressed your guests will be when cutting into a tender roll of skirt or flank to reveal an exquisitely tasty stuffed center. What they will know is that it’s delicious. What they won’t know is how easy it was. Be the shining star of your holiday gathering with this easy steak pinwheel recipe.

Ingredients

1  lb. flank or skirt steak, pounded
1 clove garlic, cut in half plus 1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 (1 pound) bag spinach, sautéed
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 small red bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed, cut into small dice (1/4 cup)
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups packed freshly grated Italian cheese  (Asiago, Parmesan, Pecorino, or Mozzarella)
Kitchen twine as needed
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

  1. Place the steak between two pieces of plastic wrap. Using a meat tenderizer, pound outthe steakto 1/4″ thickness. Remove the plastic wrap and place the steak on a cutting board
    2. Make a marinade by whisking together oil and vinegar. In a zip-lock bag or container large enough to accommodate steak, let meat marinate in vinaigrette at least two hours and up to six, refrigerated, turning once.
    3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    4. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the spinach by the handful and toss with tongs until it wilts (3 to 5 minutes). Mix spinach with minced garlic, egg, rosemary, bell pepper, bread crumbs, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.
    5. On a flat surface, lay out steak and spread out so the grain is running in front of you, left to right. Evenly press spinach mixture into entire flank steak. Sprinkle and press cheese mixture into spinach mixture, then tightly roll up, jelly-roll style, into a log.
    6. Cut a long piece of twine. First, wrap around the length of beef then wrap around the roll, securing it every couple of inches. Knot the twine and cut off dangling ends.
    7. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat oil over high heat. Sear flank steak on all sides, about 5 minutes total cooking time. Place flank steak on foil or parchment-lined cooking sheet and roast on center rack of oven 25-30 minutes, or until cooking thermometer registers 135 degrees, for rare and medium rare pieces.
    8. Remove to a cutting board with a well, and tent with foil. Let rest 15 minutes. Remove foil and, with a sharp knife, cut into 3/4-inch pieces. Remove twine and serve.

Lard: The Comeback Kid

What used to be a household staple has gradually disappeared from kitchens in recent generations. But don’t worry, pork lard is making a comeback and new research shows that it may be healthier for you than its recent substitutes.

Why pork lard?

Lard is High in Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a key role in calcium absorption and keeping our bones healthy and strong. Lucky for us, we can get this essential mineral from a delicious source, lard. Lard is the second highest food source of Vitamin D, after cod liver oil. The catch? The pork lard must come from pigs raised outdoors. This allows pigs to access sunlight to synthesize considerable amounts of Vitamin D to store in their fatty tissues.

Lard is neutral flavored

Coconut oil has become a popular choice for cooking because like lard, it’s extremely heat stable. But how about the taste? Many find that although coconut oil has a mild flavor, the taste doesn’t mesh well with every meal. Lard on the other hand has a very neutral flavor and can sustain elevated temperatures needed for frying without smoking up your kitchen. It also tends to bring out amazing flavors in baked goods like pie crusts (more about that later).

Cooking with lard is sustainable

At Kettle Range we believe in sustainable utilization of the whole animal. That’s why we’re your go-to source for pasture raised pork lard. As a whole animal butcher, we use every delicious part of the animal. Especially the fat!

Lard is great for baking

The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without traditional apple pie. That’s why we’ve prepared a special treat for our Kettle Club members this month. We’ve packed each of your shares with 8 oz. of pork lard and a delicious apple pie crust recipe. We hope you enjoy this traditional classic as much as we do!