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Heritage Pork

Foraging on open pasture, heritage breed pork is incredibly flavorful — it’s pork the way it’s meant to taste.

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Alexandre Family Farm's Tamworth-Berkshire Pork Chops

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The awesomeness of heritage breeds

Before factory farms became the norm for U.S. pork production -- and with them, dry, bland-tasting meat -- heritage breeds abounded on small farms. Today, a movement of small-scale pork producers around the country is working to save heritage breeds, while also giving eaters tastier, richer meat. Heritage breeds range in flavor from Berkshire on the one end, known for being tender and rich in fat, to Red Wattle on the other, a rare, flavorful variety bred by New Calendonians and later New Orleaners to star in Cajun cuisine.

The difference pasture makes

Pasture-raised pork comes from pigs that live outside in fields or forests, rather than confined indoors. The small-scale farmers who choose to go the very labor-intensive route of raising pork on pasture will tell you they do so because it produces more flavorful meat, happier pigs, and a healthier environment. Eaters love pasture-raised pork because it’s generally higher in Vitamin D thanks to an outdoor life in the sunshine, and they're fat richer in monounsaturated fats.

Tips for Cooking Pork

Pasture-raised pork can cook a little faster than industrially raised pork. For chops, use the reverse-sear method: cook the pork in the oven, to your desired doneness, then transfer to a skillet to quickly sear. Braises also work well for pasture-raised pork. Bacon is best treated to a nice, quick pan-sizzle. Read on for more on the cooking techniques you can use.

Cooking Techniques

Pan

  • Quickly sear chops and tender cuts in a heavy pan on a hot stove for perfectly crusted, tender meat.
  • Use a high smoke point oil to avoid breaking down the fat and ruining the flavor. Sunflower, safflower, avocado and refined olive oils are good options. A marinade is an optional step for extra tenderness.
  • Temp: High heat Cook Time: 3-4 minutes per side for most cuts

Grill

  • Whether using a charcoal or gas grill, nothing beats the primal feel of cooking over open flame.
  • Charcoal grills impart a smoky flavor, but gas grills are easier to control. A brine or marinade will ensure chops don’t dry out during grilling. Pork roasts require lower temps and longer cook times.
  • Temp: For chops, high (500 to 550 F). For roasts, low (200 to 250 F). Cook Time: 5 minutes per side for chops, up to a few hours for roasts.

Stew/Braise

  • Transform lean cuts into fork-tender feasts by cooking your pork low and slow in flavorful liquids.
  • Stew your pork in a braising liquid like broth or wine, and add in some aromatics like onions, garlic and herbs.
  • Temp: Heat oven to 325 F Cook Time: 2.5 - 3 hours

Roast

  • Create easy, delicious comfort food in the oven with just a few simple steps.
  • Insert garlic slices into your pork to infuse flavor. Some people tie their roasts with butcher’s twine to retain shape and ensure even cooking.
  • Temp: 350 F. Cook Time: 25-30 minutes / lb

Tips & Tricks

  • Thaw on a tray in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Pasture-raised and heritage-breed pork contains less water than typical store-bought pork, and will cook faster and at lower temperatures.
  • After cooking, all meat should rest for 5 - 10 minutes to let the juices redistribute. Tent loosely in tinfoil to retain heat.

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