Sausage of the Month: Blueberry Brat

While we may duke it our on the field or court, we can all agree that Michigan has its talents. They can grow some fantastic blueberries. It’s berry season for our western neighbors, and our butchers have incorporated these sweet delicacies into this month’s featured sausage, the Michigan Blueberry Brat!

We’ve worked with Milwaukee-based Tree-Ripe Citrus to source Michigan’s finest and freshest berries for these seasonal specialties. Check out these fun facts about Michigan blueberries.

  • Michigan grows around 100 million pounds of blueberries annually, making it one of the top producing state in the U.S.
  • Michigan produces 30 different varieties of blueberries.
  • 21,000 acres of Michigan are dedicated to growing blueberries. Most are produced in Western Michigan in near the Lower Peninsula where the sandy soil by the lake provides excellent conditions for growing berries. Each acre produces around 5,000 berries.
  • Blueberries are a super food. They contain more antioxidants than any other fruit and packed with vitamins A and C.

Enjoy, Kettle Club!

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.

Recipe: Pork Chop Brine

Nothing loosens up those stiff muscles quite like a soak in the tub. Pork chops would agree! Before you toss those chops on the grill this summer, let them unwind in a relaxing brine bath. Simply put, a brine is a liquid solution that includes salts. The salt helps break up protein or muscle fibers resulting in a juicer, more flavorful chop. Check out this great brine recipe!

Ingredients:

1/4 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup molasses

2 whole cloves

1/2cup boiling water

3 ½ cups cold water

2 boneless pork chops

1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil

 

Directions:

  1. Combine salt, molasses, cloves, and boiling water in a large container. Stir until molasses and salt are dissolved; let cool to room temperature.
  2. Pour cold water into molasses mixture; stir to combine.
  3. Completely submerge pork chops in molasses mixture. Cover container and refrigerate for 6 hours.
  4. Remove pork chops from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Lightly oil each chop.
  5. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat and lightly oil the grate.
  6. Place pork chops on the hottest part of the grill; cook each side until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a medium-high area of the grill and cook pork until it is slightly pink in the center, 6 to 8 minutes per side. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the chop should read 145 degrees F.

Enjoy!

 

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.”

Recipe: Bold Black Bean Pork Chili

Baby, it’s cold outside! Not to worry, we’ve got the perfect recipe to conquer those winter woes. Nothing combats chilly like chili, and we’re arming you with a pork shoulder roast and our special blend of seasonings that balance heat with sweet. Stay warm everyone!

Bold Black Bean Pork Chili

Ingredients:

2 pounds Pork shoulder cut in to 1” cubes

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 large Onion (small diced)

2 Red Bell Peppers (small diced)

4 Garlic Cloves (minced)

1 tablespoon Tomato Paste

1 – 14 ounce can Petite Diced Tomatoes (or crushed Tomatoes)

1 package Kettle Range chili seasoning

1 1/2 cups Tomato Juice

2 cups Chicken Stock

2 15 oz. can black beans

Cilantro Leaves (to garnish)

Sour Cream (to garnish)

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add pork and season with salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes or until brown on all sides, stirring occasionally. Remove from saucepan; set aside.
  2. Add onion, garlic and peppers to same saucepan. Cook 4 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in browned pork, undrained tomatoes, black beans, tomato juice and broth.
  4. Add Kettle Range chili seasoning blend and tomato paste.
  5. Bring a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or until pork is tender, stirring occasionally.
  6. Garnish individual servings with sour cream and cilantro.

Recipe: Pie Crust with Lard

YIELD: Makes 2 pie crusts with lattice topping

INGREDIENTS

5 cups unbleached all purpose flour

3 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoon salt

1 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 cup chilled pork lard, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

10 tablespoons (or more) ice water

PREPARATION

Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter and lard; using on/off turns, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Add 5 tablespoons ice water and mix with fork until dough begins to clump together, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dry. Gather dough together. Divide dough in half; flatten each half into disk. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. If necessary, soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.

Sausage of the Month: Seasoned Sausage for Holiday Stuffing

We’re helping our Kettle Club members check a few items off their  grocery lists this Thanksgiving! This month’s sausage is perfect for that holiday stuffing recipe just like mom use to make! Here’s a holiday favorite from us.

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
  • 2 pounds good-quality white sandwich bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (20 cups)
  • 4 inner celery ribs, finely diced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 large carrots, finely diced (1 cup)
  • 1 sweet onion, finely diced (2 1/2 cups)
  • 1-pound bulk pork sausage
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sage
  • 2 tablespoons chopped thyme
  • 3 cups Turkey Stock
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and butter a large baking dish. Spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast for 25 minutes, stirring, until lightly browned and crisp.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, melt the 1 stick of butter. Pour half of the butter into a small bowl and reserve. Add the celery, carrots and onion to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and just beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Scrape the vegetables into a large bowl. Add the sausage to the skillet in lumps and cook over moderately high heat, breaking it up with a spoon, until lightly browned and cooked through, about 6 minutes. Return the vegetables to the skillet, add the sage and thyme and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the stock and cook, scraping up any bits stuck to the pan, until nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  3. Scrape the sausage mixture into the large bowl and add the toasted bread cubes. Add the remaining 2 cups of stock and stir until the bread is evenly moistened. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Spread the stuffing in the baking dish and brush with the reserved melted butter.
  4. Bake the stuffing in the center of the oven for about 1 hour, until it is heated through and the top is browned and crisp. Let the stuffing stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe: Slow-Roasted Honey Glazed Pork

INGREDIENTS
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, divided
¼ cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. chopped garlic
¼ cup chopped scallions
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder
1 bunch asparagus, halved
6 Yukon potatoes, diced
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup honey

PREPARATION

In a large bowl, combine one cup of the soy sauce with the sugar, garlic, and scallions, stirring until mixed.

Place the pork in the marinade and toss to coat evenly. Marinate for one hour.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, honey, and remaining soy sauce, stirring until smooth.

Place the pork and chopped vegetables in the slow cooker and spoon the honey glaze over the top of the, making sure to fill the cracks and crevices on top.

Cook on low heat for 3-4 hours. Once the pork is cooked through and tender, remove the vegetables and pork from the tray, making sure to save all the juices.

Slice the pork into ½-inch slices, and plate with the roasted vegetables. Spoon the reserved pan juices on top of the pork, and enjoy!