October is National Pork Month and the Nebraska Pork Producers Association is joining in the celebration. I recently visited their website (www.nepork.org) to see what is up in the world of pork and I learned a lot.

I didn’t know that October was designated National Pork Month because that is the month when hogs were traditionally slaughtered on the family farm, that pork is the most widely eaten meat claiming 38 percent of the world’s meat consumption and the yearly consumption of pork has increased for the last 30 years.

I downloaded the September/October issue of Nebraska Pork Talk because I wanted to learn about the connection between the pork industry and the biodiesel industry. Soybean oil is used in the production of biodiesel leaving soybean meal as a by-product of that process. The more biodiesel is made, the more meal is produced which means a larger supply of meal to feed hogs at a more reasonable price.

The soybean, biodiesel and hog producer all are united in their desire to produce great products for consumers while they increase their profitability by making the best use of every part of what they all produce. For Nebraska pork producers, the biodiesel industry resulted in a savings of $5.5 million in feed cost. The growing cooperation of these industries is truly remarkable and is wonderful for both producers and consumers.

I was also surprised to learn how much animal fat is used in the production of biodiesel. One-fourth of all the animal fats produced in the United States are currently being used to make biodiesel fuel. That news is even better for pork producers because 40 percent of “choice white grease” from pigs is used in the production of the fuel. That adds to the value of the animal and the profitability for the farmer.

The collaboration between producers of soybeans, hogs and biodiesel is a wonderful example of how important the agricultural industry is to the economy of our state and country. It is so important for all of us to learn more about these industries, to support programs that educate the consumer and highlight the innovations that improve our lives.

Today’s pork products are much leaner than the pork I remember being served as a child and cooking with as a young adult. Due to changes in breeding and feeding practices, the average serving of pork has 16% less fat and 27% less saturated fats than the products that were sold in 1991. If you choose a 3-ounce serving of pork tenderloin, you will be ingesting a very lean meat whose fat content is less than the average chicken breast. It provides ample amounts of iron, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and vitamins B12 and B6. It really can be a nutritional powerhouse and part of a healthful diet if prepared correctly.

So what are some tasty ways to get this lean meat onto your tables? One of my favorites is an Italian Pork Roast that will warm up your kitchen and create an aroma that will call people to your table. I’ve made this for years and always look forward to serving it.

Since pork chops are such a fast alternative for dinner, I’ve included two recipes for this cut with two very different flavor profiles. The Lemon-Garlic Chops need to be marinated. You can do this the night before and come home after a busy day and finish them for dinner in a jiffy. The Autumn Apple Chops make a wonderful dish that cooks up fast and tastes great with roasted sweet potatoes and green salad. Both of these recipes are from the Nebraska Pork Producers website.

Try one of them or all three and celebrate our Nebraska friends and neighbors who work so hard to bring this delicious meat to your table.

Italian Pork Roast

1 boneless pork loin roast (3 to 3 and one-half pounds)

2 large cloves garlic, sliced into 8 slices

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning

1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper

Fresh herbs for garnish

Place roast, fat side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Cut 8 small slits in roast at 2-inch intervals; insert garlic deep into slits. Brush oil evenly over roast. Combine Italian seasoning and pepper; rub over entire surface of roast. Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 160 degrees.

Remove from the oven and cover with foil. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. Garnish with your favorite herbs. (Fresh thyme or parsley are both great herbal garnishes for this dish.)

Just Wonderful Lemon-Garlic Chops 8 boneless ribeye pork chops, 1-inch thick

2/3 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

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1 jar (4 1/2 ounces) chopped garlic

2 tablespoons dried tarragon, crushed

Paprika

For marinade, in a small bowl combine lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and tarragon. Place pork chops in a 1-gallon self-sealing plastic bag; pour marinade over chops; seal bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Drain chops, discarding marinade. Place chops on rack in broiler pan so the chops are 4 to 5 inches from the heat. Sprinkle the chops with a little paprika. Broil for 5 to 6 minutes, turn chops and sprinkle with paprika. Broil for 5 to 6 minutes or more or until internal temperature on a thermometer reads 145 degrees, followed by a 3-minute wrapped-in-foil rest time. Recipe Note: I substitute chopped fresh garlic cloves for the jarred garlic called for in this recipe. I never have chopped jarred garlic on hand but there are always garlic bulbs in my pantry. Remember that jarred garlic can be less garlicky than the fresh so adjust the amount you use to your taste. I use 6 cloves as a substitute in the marinade.

Autumn Apple Chops 4 boneless ribeye (rib) pork chops, three-fourths inch thick

1 tablespoon flour

2 teaspoons butter

1/2 onion, sliced

1 cup apple juice

Season flour with a little salt and pepper; lightly flour pork chops and brown on one side in butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Turn chops; stir in onion and apple juice; bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes until internal temperature on a thermometer reads 145 degrees, followed by a 3-minute wrapped-in-foil rest time.

Quote of the Week: Ike runs the country and I turn the pork chops. — Mamie Eisenhower

Ellen Lund

of Fremont is a freelance food columnist.

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