Pork is a healthy, versatile and very affordable meat. Pork recently had a bit of a bad rap, but by showcasing its benefits, consumers can be swayed. Of all the animal production systems in South Africa, the pig industry are leaders in ensuring the highest levels of biosecurity are maintained.

Despite this, consumer perceptions regarding pork recently took another knock, when the outbreak of listeria in polony was falsely associated with pork. However, the South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO) always goes above and beyond to promote the industry.

A recent scientific study by the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) on South African pork proved that pork is a high-quality, nutrient-dense food that should form part of a balanced eating programme to promote good health. In addition, pork is a great way to squeeze a little bit more out of your monthly food budget. Compared to other meats, including poultry, the price per kilogram of lean meat is always a bargain. It is a very versatile meat and is available in various cuts that can be prepared in a number of ways.

Is pork really healthy?

According to the ARC’s research, pork is one of the best sources of complete protein, providing all the essential amino acids, and is much lower in fat than previously believed. Once the visible fat layer on the outside of cuts have been trimmed off, it is lower – or as low as – skinless poultry fillets.

People wanting to lose weight or who are managing diabetes or heart health will benefit from adding lean pork to their menu. It also helps to control the appetite and keeps blood sugar stable during weight-loss programmes. Once all the bone, skin and fat are removed and the lean protein meat content is compared, pork is the winner – every time.

Versatile cuts of pork

Another hurdle often keeping consumers from choosing pork over chicken, for example, is because people think it takes longer or is more difficult to cook. In other countries this issue has largely been solved through value-adding techniques to improve the cooking time of pork. For example, pork is often processed into cubes, strips or mince to improve its versatility. Here is a list of popular pork cuts available in South Africa and how they are commonly prepared.

Chops: This is probably most South Africans’ favourite cut. Chops are cut from various parts of the carcass including the thick rib, rib, loin, and chump. Chops from the thick rib are cut close to the ‘neck’ end of the carcass and are the juiciest, most tender chops you will find. Pork rib chops look very similarto loin chops and have a classical ‘chops’ shape. Chump chops are the rump steaks from the pork carcass. All chops are ideal for grilling in the oven or over the fire and can also be pan fried. It can be cooked with or without a marinade and basting sauce.

Roasts: Roasts are a classic way to prepare pork. Roasts can come from almost any part of the carcass. The shoulder blade can be removed from the thick rib that is tied with a string or put into a mesh ‘pocket’ to ensure an even shape.The loin can be used as an oven roast (bone in or boneless) and rolled for a great shape and easy carving.

Sometimes the chump, found towards the back-end of the carcass, is left on the leg of pork for a big oven roast. It can be deboned and used as an impressive, easy to carve roast. Another popular roast is leg of pork, which is an economical and tasty way to feed a large group of people. Pork belly also makes for a delicious, juicy oven roast. Lastly, sparerib can bedeboned and rolledfor a roast.

Spareribs: This cut is always afavourite. It can be marinated, basted and grilled in the oven or over coals.

Steaks: Some butchers cut largesteaks from the pork leg. These can be grilled in the oven or over the coals.

Shank: The shank is the bottom part of the leg. When left whole it is often cured and smoked. This is called eisbein. It is delicious when slow-cooked until very tender. When sliced, it is ideal for any slow-cooked dish. It can also be used in stews, curries, and potjiekos.

Rashers: Thesedelicious, juicy strips of pork are cut from the belly. Rashers are best when grilled over medium hot coals. It can be grilled plain or with a basting sauce and marinade.

Two ways with pork

To tickle your taste buds, here are two very different recipes. The first is a quick and easy stir-fry for a busy weeknight. If you cannot find ready-cut strips, you can cut up a thick rib or leg, which is often used for stir-fries. The second – a roasted rosemary pork neck – is perfect for a lazy Sunday, or for those occasions when you have time to cook and want to impress family or friends.

Quick and easy pork stir-fry

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

750g pork stir-fry strips

Olive oil 

1 onion, finely chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

3-4 baby marrows, sliced

450g mushrooms, sliced

2-3 carrots, julienned

15ml dry sherry

15ml balsamic vinegar

15ml brown sugar

10ml cornflour, mixed with a little cold water

15-40ml soya sauce

Cooked noodles or Jasmine rice

Method

Pat the strips dry with a paper towel. Heat the oil in a wok or pan and fry the pork strips until golden brown, but not dry. Remove and keep warm. Stir-fry all the vegetables until cooked, but still fairly crisp. Return pork strips to pan and add the sherry, vinegar, brown sugar and cornflour paste. Season with soya sauce. Serve hot with noodles or rice.

Rosemary roasted pork neck

Serves 5-7

Ingredients

1,2-1,6kg deboned pork neck

25ml olive oil

20ml rosemary and olive seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste

4 potatoes, cut into slices or small wedges

2-3 onions, cut into slices or small wedges

Sprigs of fresh rosemary for garnishing

Method

Place the pork neck on the rack of an open oven roasting pan and place in the centre of the oven. After approximately one hour, place the potato and onion slices in the roasting pan underneath the pork neck, to absorb the pan juices. Continue roasting until the pork neck is cooked through. Remove the roast from the pan and season the potatoes and onions with salt and pepper. Place the roast on a warm serving plate, garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary, and arrange the potatoes, onion slices and some steamed green veggies around it.

Tips for roasting pork

  • Always pre-heat your oven to 200°C. Roast the pork for 10 minutes at 200°C, then turn the heat down to 180°C.
  • Calculate the roasting time as follows: For every 500g, the pork should roast in the oven for 30 minutes. When cooked, add an extra 20 minutes before taking the roast out of the oven. For example, a 2kg roast needs 2 hours in the oven plus an extra 20 minutes, so the total roasting time will be 2 hours and 20 minutes.
  • Allow pork to ‘rest’ after taking it out of the oven for 5-10 minutes before carving. This will allow the delicious meat juices to ‘settle’, for a mouth-watering, succulent roast.

Ursula Human, Farm Fare

A special thanks to SAPPO for allowing us to use the information and photographs on www.TastyHealthyModernMeat.co.za.