During the month of November we often take time to reflect on the things we are thankful for, which is why this is the perfect time for Part III of my reflections on the Niman Ranch Farmer Appreciation Dinner. This event is our opportunity to show appreciation for the farmers’ hard work and integrity.
As we prepare to gather with our families around the dinner table, consider adding to your dinner menu a new cornbread dressing recipe made with sausage from hogs raised with care by family farmers across the Midwest. Without dressing, even the best Thanksgiving dinner would be somewhat bare.
This version uses a bold combination of Italian sausage and a cured ham balanced by the sweetness of the cornbread and slight sourness of the sourdough bread. Bake the dressing separately because the turkey and dressing cook at different rates, making it difficult to gauge doneness and safe temperatures. If you’re looking for a little added turkey flavor, baste the dressing with some of the pan juices.
The Niman Ranch Farmer Appreciation Dinner provides an opportunity for our featured chefs and special guests to gain a deeper understanding of what traditional, sustainable and humane family farming looks like by visiting us here at Willis Farms in Thornton, Iowa.
Every year we provide a farm tour and this year it was more special for me than ever before as I worked side-by-side with my daughter, Sophia, many good friends and family members including some extra help from a crew of friends from out-of -town. Pete Marczyk and his entourage from Marczyk Fine Foods who had traveled all the way from Denver, Colorado, to help us prepare the outdoor dinner.
We’ve recently discovered a picturesque town east of LA in the San Bernardino foothills called Oak Glen where apple orchards and red barns line the curving mountain roads. Nestled next to cider presses and piles of fallen autumn leaves are patches with pumpkins still attached to their vines. Some gourds are striped green while others are white and the rest are Halloween orange. Allowing my two young boys to actually pick their favorite pumpkin from the vine is a good lesson in respecting crops and being certain about their choices.
I picked a few extra pumpkins for the soup I’ve been craving since the heat of this summer got the best of me. And since Halloween is the gateway to winter, I’m taking my first chance to make a velvety soup with Niman’s delicious smoky bacon. If roasting and pureeing your own pumpkins seems too daunting, don’t skip a beat, and substitute the canned version.