Heirloom tomatoes opened the door for a new appreciation of bygone produce, and that led to a re-examination of long forgotten livestock breeds. One of the most successful heritage breed hogs are raised right here in Maryland. So we invited our pal Shane Hughes of Liberty Delight Farms in Reisterstown to talk to us about the Berkshire pig.
The Berkshire (in the US we say "berk-shy-er") is an ancient English breed that originated in the county of Berkshire. The animal is all black, save for its white feet and snout. By 2008 it was listed as an endangered species, with only 300 breeding sows left in the UK. But certified Berkshire breeders live in the US where the breed has suddenly become very popular, especially with smaller farmers.
Standard store-bought pork is either fatless and dry, or banded with a heavy layer of fat, with virtually no marbling. It is a difficult meat to cook well because of its tendency to dry out. No juice, no flavor. But the Berkshire is a naturally well- marbled pig. It stays juicy, and its natural flavor is hands down superior to all pork.
It is a rich, almost nutty flavor, with high quality juiciness. I have found it virtually impossible to overcook, whether in the frying pan or on the grill.
Shane Hughes sells his Liberty Delight Berkshire pork cuts at the Waverly Farmers Market year-round. Or you can go to his website, libertydelightfarms.com and order there.
An oven roasted pork rib roast is a great holiday meal. And it's simplicity itself. Trim up a bone-in 4 pound Berkshire rib roast, and season with salt and pepper. You can whip up an olive oil/rosemary/garlic mixture to rub into the pork.
Start it uncovered in a 475° oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325°, cover with tin foil, and slow bake for an additional two hours. Check with a meat thermometer, and shoot for 155° internal temperature.