Want to be lucky in 2011? Eat pork on New Year’s!

LINCOLN— As Nebraskans plan their New Year’s parties and make resolutions for the upcoming year, many are likely hoping for a healthy dose of good luck in 2011. Eating Nebraskan pork could make those wishes come true—in many cultures, pork stands for good fortune and prosperity throughout the year ahead.

“Pork is served at many New Year celebrations because pigs are known to symbolize progress and a prosperous future,” said Larry Sitzman, executive director for the Nebraska Pork Producers Association.

Sitzman said pork is often served on New Year’s because the holiday is a time to look forward, and a hog cannot look backwards without turning completely around. Also, some believe that eating a bigger pig may translate into increased riches or a chunky wallet in the coming year.

Additional examples of traditions from around the world that incorporate the world’s most widely consumed meat, pork, into New Year’s celebrations include the following:

  • Double up on lucky chances— serve cabbage alongside pork on New Year’s. The vegetable is also known to be a sign of prosperity.
  • Do as the Australians do: Decorate the table with miniature pigs made of marzipan, a mixture of sugar and almond meal that is often used to make shapes and candy.
  • Follow the Swedish custom of preparing pig’s feet for New Year’s, or instead adopt the German practice of feasting on roast pork and sausages.
  • Cook a roast suckling pig – Nebraskans will be in good company, that’s how people in Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Cuba, Spain and Austria will be ringing in 2011.
  • Prepare Pork and Cabbage Dumplings—a New Year’s staple in China, where the pig is considered a symbol of honesty, tolerance, initiative and diligence. (Recipe Below)

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Back to basics with classic ham makes holiday easy

By NPPA 

LINCOLN – While the holidays are a great time to get together and reminisce with friends and family, the holiday meal can be quite intimidating for the newbie or even the veteran home chef. This year, the staff at the Nebraska Pork Producers Association (NPPA) encourages Nebraska cooks to get back to the basics when preparing the classic ham as the traditional dinner table centerpiece.

“As many Nebraskans are looking to keep things simple and affordable this holiday season, Nebraska pork offers a solution to keep the kitchen stress-free for cooks by sticking to the basics,” said Larry Sitzman, NPPA executive director. “Ham is a traditional, show-stopping favorite and is an easy dinner table centerpiece to purchase and cook for a party of any size – from a meal for one to a larger celebration.”

Purchasing the perfect ham 101

Hams are labeled according to the amount of water added during the curing process. Hams are most commonly available in three varieties:

  • Ham with natural juices, which has had little water added during the curing process and is ideal for holiday celebrations.
  • Ham with water added retains more water during the curing process than ham with natural juices.
  • Ham and water product is a common type of ham that is most often found at the deli counter. It is a great choice if ham is intended to be served cold.

 All varieties of cured ham are either boneless or bone-in. Bone-in hams are traditionally considered more attractive and boneless are considered easier to serve because of simplified carving. For a traditional, simple holiday dinner, the Nebraska pork experts recommend purchasing a bone-in, smoked, cooked ham and adding pizzazz with a homemade glaze.

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Student ambassador promotes agriculture

By Amanda Bergstrom, Ag Ambassador

                Working as an Ag Ambassador for the Ag Sack Lunch Program has been an amazing experience and the kids’ enthusiasm in the program has been wonderful. I was approached by Karen Brokaw at the beginning of the semester about being one of the Ag Ambassadors for the NPPA and Soybean Board funded program and I jumped right on board! I helped recruit Amanda Schutz and Emilee Dorn, also Agricultural Journalism majors at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln and the three of us made up the Ag Ambassador team for the fall semester.

                 We meet most of the groups on the lawn of the state capitol after they’ve toured the building and the program provides each student with a sack lunch full of Nebraska grown or produced products to enjoy during our presentation. Our presentation focuses on the importance of agriculture in Nebraska and how it affects everyone, even if they don’t live on a farm or work in an agriculture-related field. As we present we ask the students a series of questions about agriculture, such as: what are the four main livestock in Nebraska or what are Nebraska’s three main crops? The groups have varied on their initial knowledge of Nebraska’s agricultural but every group has told us they left having learned something new. I have even been approached by teachers and parents who said they didn’t know about something I’d mentioned or they had additional questions regarding a topic I covered.

            Ag Sack Lunch Program    At the end of the presentations we tell the students to check in the bottom of their sack lunches to find the deck of cards the program provides. It’s our “Crazy Soybean” card game, a fun spin on crazy eights that has the four main livestock, beef, dairy, poultry and pork as the four card suits and the crazy eight cards as soybeans. The deck is a lot of fun, the other ambassadors and I have flipped through it several times just to read the agricultural facts on each card, often learning new things ourselves. The students are always very excited to learn the surprise is a card deck and want to pull them out immediately. We got to enjoy watching one school actually playing the game while they waited for their next tour to start, they was a lot of laughing and several discussions about different cards.

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