For anyone looking for some inspiration when it comes to cooking pork, Ontario Pork has you covered with a new cookbook called “The Whole Hog: Recipes for those who love local food and yearn for everyday sustainability.”
The book features contributions from people who work behind the scenes to get pork from the farm to the table, including some local faces.
The idea for the cookbook was born while Ontario Pork staff were creating an advertising video campaign to bring attention to the lesser-known professionals in the pork supply chain, the likes of veterinarians, drivers and chefs.
“We started doing some interviews where we wanted to reach beyond farmers. We wanted to talk about everybody that’s involved in getting pork to the plate, because it’s not just a story of farmers and consumers, it’s everybody along that chain that has to care and has to be committed to what they’re doing,” said Stacey Ash, the director of communications and consumer marketing for Ontario Pork, who coordinated the book.
During production of the video, Ash and her staff would ask the people they were interviewing two main questions: What do you wish people knew about pork grown here in Ontario, and what is your favourite way to eat pork?
Ash says it was peoples’ reactions to the second question that really piqued her interest.
“People’s faces just changed. The conversation became completely different because food is so rooted in emotion. It’s part of our history, it’s where we come from, it’s about experience. And we saw people getting really excited, remembering great meals or their favourite family recipes,” she said.
“That was what said to us, ‘this is more than just a short video.’ This is something that is real and solid, and it has the potential to be a really incredible book, not just a cookbook, but really a storybook about the pork sector as a whole.”
Ash and her team decided to create a recipe book. The recipes were either supplied by the people featured in the book, or selected by them from their database of recipes.
Emily Miller, for instance, is a swine nutritionist at Wallenstein Feed and Supply. She was featured in the video series and the cookbook.
“It’s a little bit outside of my comfort zone. I’m not normally one to seek the spotlight, if you will, but I think it was a really good opportunity for me, and a good challenge as well. And gives me a chance to at least say how I got where I am and also read about how other people got where they are in the industry.”
She said her favourite way to eat pork is as meatballs in sauce.
“We were asked to pick a favourite from that list. And so the meatballs that I chose are actually very similar to a dish that my husband makes, so I chose that one,” she said.
Miller’s job is to formulate the feed that best suits the needs of each of Wallenstein Feed and Supply’s customers. For example, farmers raising specialty pigs intended to have more marbling, or fat, will have a different diet than more typical pigs raised to be leaner, she said.
She likes her job because pigs are omnivores and can eat many things. This means nutritionists can get creative about what to feed them. For example, they can use some products that come from the process of making dried distillers grain with solubles, which is a byproduct of the ethanol industry. “It allows us to also be a little bit more sustainable, use ingredients that perhaps might end up in a landfill, but we can feed them to pigs.”
Neil Stephens, a feed truck driver with Wallenstein Feed and Supply, was another person featured in the book and video series. He said his favourite way to eat pork is in a pulled pork sandwich.
Stephens said he participated, “to be a good ambassador for the company.” His favourite part of his job is working with customers.
“I like the people I meet, the people I work with,” he said. He said driving the truck is kind of a means to an end and that he enjoys helping his customers get what they need.
He also appreciates the goal and message of the Whole Hog campaign. “You know, the farmer raises the pigs, but he doesn’t do it alone,” he said.
Other locals featured in the book include Ed Metzger, a veterinarian from Linwood, and Justine Parkinson, a producer services team leader at Conestoga Meats in Breslau.
Ash said any family recipes that were submitted were run through their partner chef Emily Richard in Guelph who worked with the photographers to prepare and plate the recipes and make sure the recipes were ready for consumers to follow.
Ash says Ontario Pork is donating the proceeds from the book to Feed Ontario, which supports food banks across the province.
The book is available at the Ontario Pork website (ontariopork.on.ca) and select stores.