The past decade in America has witnessed a food culture smitten with anything to do with the pig, with locavore enthusiasts staging snout to tail dinners and bacon being infused into everything from ice cream to bourbon. Ann Arbor could rightly be named capital of this pork-centric nation; local business owners priding themselves on offering us a plethora of porkishly delicious treats, which blaze a mouth-watering trail across the city.
Begin with a beautiful (rich pink) pork loin roast.
Robert Cantelon, managing partner at Arbor Farms, takes enormous pride in the pork sold at their store. “We only sell a premium line of all-natural pork, the main differentiator being the humane way these hogs were raised and harvested. Pigs are social animals, they like to forage and root around — they’re healthy when they’re allowed to do just that. A happy pig is a healthy pig.”
Robert explained the science behind this statement, and why the pork he sells is a tasty and healthy option. “The high PH value and neutral alkaline level of the meat insure the pork we sell will be delicious. High acidic levels in a hog result in white-fleshed pork which is less tender and lacks flavor.”
Fanning his hand across the meat cooler, he pointed out the sausages, ribs and chops, and drew my attention to the pork shoulders (aka, Boston butt), which he says are a particular customer favorite.
I chose an amber ale with apple cider.
“Our pork is not white; it’s more of a pinkish, amber color. Much is sourced from Michigan farms, but we also use a premium pork from Iowa, developed by a leading pork scientist at Iowa State University who believes that hogs should do what hogs are naturally inclined to do. This, in turn, ensures a happy hog and a flavorful, healthy product.They were raised on whole grains, forage and lots of sunshine.”
Aside from a more satisfactory eating experience, I, personally, feel better about eating meat that was humanely raised.
I love the flavor of pork cooked in beer, particularly beer brewed in Michigan, and Michelle Zajac, the beer and wine manager at Arbor Farms, is my go-to person. Last year she recommended I braise my recipe for pork Brats Wrapped In Bacon in a malty, rather than a hoppy brew. She said a malty beer would amplify the sweetness in the pork, and a hoppy brew would contribute bitterness. The Grand Rapids produced Founders Beer she selected for me was perfect.
Make a rich sauce by puréeing apples, onions and pan juices.
I told her of my current plans to braise a pork loin in beer combined with apples, and she recommended The Good Samaritan amber ale from Short’s Brewerey, which is brewed in Elks Rapids with apple cider. “The cider flavor will be perfect,” said Michelle, “And there’s a bit of spiciness from the yeast, which will play nicely off the pork.”
Michelle’s recommendation was, again, spot on. The amber ale lent marvelous yeasty notes to the toothsome roast, and resurrected itself into a sumptuous sauce when puréed with apples and onions. It was marvelous spooned over the pork, which had a sweet, clean taste — a porkalicious, happy flavor — thanks to a happy pig.
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