july 25, 2018
One of my tasters for this dish was raised on a farm with real food. She swears these pork chops from Harlow Ridge Farm taste like the pure, unadulterated meat she enjoyed in her youth. I also have a memory of farm raised meats and chicken which had a richer taste and texture than today’s supermarket offerings. Family-owned Harlow Ridge Farm in nearby Hanover County, Virginia, has pasture raised Berkshire and Tamworth pigs as well as beef and poultry. They sell directly from the farm, at local farmer’s markets and at several small grocers. Some of Richmond’s finest dining establishments feature their meats.
During spring and summer, I occasionally attend the Ashland Farmer’s Market, where I buy beef and lamb from Dragonfly Farms and produce from The Carrot Top Farm and Deer Run Farm. Ashland is a quaint and charming railroad town, home to Cross Brothers Grocery along the tracks, a small shop packed to the gills with all the necessities and none of the hustle of massive grocery stores.Very recently, Bruce Johnson of Dragonfly Farms joined forces with Chris Stem of Harlow Ridge and purchased Cross Brothers which is now known as Ashland Meat Company at Cross Brothers. Everything you’d want for a meal or snack is lining the shelves and cases : meats both fresh and frozen, local produce and dairy products, vintage beverages and a deli counter with unique sandwiches.The good word here is local—you know where your food is produced.
On opening day of Ashland Meat Company, I purchased some Harlow Ridge bone-in pork chops and reveled in the clean taste of meat from pasture raised hogs, nourished on local non-GMO feed. Returning to the store soon thereafter and admiring the aromatic beauty of local peaches and corn, more chops were purchased along with the produce and this recipe was born. Pan seared chops with a lemony bright fresh peach and corn salsa assisted in the flavor department by tender fresh oregano from my garden.
My favorite piece of cookware for searing is a well-seasoned cast iron pan. These can often be found in local thrift stores, but I was lucky to inherit my treasured pans. Lacking one, be sure to use the heaviest skillet you own. Because of smoke and oil splatter, I use either a screen or a skillet lid placed loosely over the pan. Some folks like to sear and then finish in the oven, but my goal was to make a meal without excess heat. The salsa tastes fine made a couple of hours ahead, but longer will make the peaches mushy and the herbs flat. If you have everything prepped and ready, the salsa may be whipped together while the meat cooks or rests – easy!
Pasture raised meats are so tender, flavorful and satisfying. A meal made with local heritage pork chops and local produce is a nod to all that is good about supporting local farms and reaping the benefits of sustainable agriculture. Happy cooking.
Pork Chops with Peach Corn Salsa
recipe by Michele Humlan
makes two-four servings
kernels from one ear fresh corn
two 8-10 ounce bone in pork chops, ½ to ¾ inch thick*
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon neutral oil like canola or grapeseed
1 tablespoon thinly sliced shallot
1 medium peach, unpeeled and sliced
juice of one half large lemon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
optional garnish : sprigs of fresh oregano
*allow pork to sit at room temp at least 30 minutes
- Microwave corn kernels in glass dish, loosely covered with cloth, for 1 ½ minutes and set aside to cool.
- Add oil to heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium high heat.
- Season both sides of pork with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- When skillet begins to smoke, add chops and cook four minutes per side (one or two minutes longer if very thick); remember that pork will continue to cook with resting, so avoid cutting and losing juice.
- To avoid oil splatter, use screen or skillet lid placed very loosely across the top of the skillet, at an angle.
- Rest pork about 10 minutes.
- While pork rests, toss corn with peach slices, oregano, shallot and lemon juice.
- Serve pork chops topped with salsa and more oregano sprigs if desired.