What’s Cookin’? Hearty Breakfast Quiche

I’m sure most people would agree the year 2020 has sure been a doozy! Normally leading up to August, our staff gets excited for all the fun agricultural events we get to host at the Iowa State Fair. We love nothing more than getting people excited to learn how agriculture impacts our every day life. This year, all of that changed since we couldn’t meet Iowans in person to talk about agriculture. Instead, our staff came up with several virtual ideas that we could use on social media to engage with Iowans about our favorite topic – agriculture!

One of our annual events at the Iowa State Fair is a cooking contest where we invite participants to enter their favorite recipes using Iowa’s four largest agriculture commodities. This year, we decided to expand the contest to include several Iowa commodities or by-products: corn, soybeans, pork, eggs, beef, and/or turkey. We launched the Great Agriculture Cook-Off, timed when the Iowa State Fair would normally be held. Iowa commodity experts and Agriculture in the Classroom volunteers judged the best dish. Since we were doing this virtually this year, the judges cooked, tasted, and rated the recipes all individually.

Holly Houg (Urbandale, Iowa) won first place with her Hearty Breakfast Quiche with a Hash Brown Crust. Before I share the winning recipe, here’s the agriculture story behind the ingredients.


Butter is a dairy product made from the fat and protein components of milk or cream. It is most frequently made from cow’s milk, but it can also be made from animals like sheep and goat. Butter has a rich history. It can be traced clear back to the ancient Romans who used it as a beauty cream and to treat burns. Back then, people made butter by shaking milk in bags of animal skin. Today, we use modern technology to make our butter. After milk is gathered from dairy farms, large tanker trucks of raw milk deliver the milk to a processor. The milk is pumped into a separator to remove the fat from the liquid. Fat is called buttercream and the rest is skim milk. Buttercream is put into a tank where mixers stir it. After pasteurizing for 24 hours, workers put it into a churner. The churner spins as fast as a clothes dryer. After a period of churning and a few other steps, the result is butter. Watch our video on how you can make your own butter at home.


Iowa is the number one egg producing state in the country. Nearly 55 million laying hens produce 16 billion eggs a year in Iowa. In the United States, there are roughly 340 million laying birds, and each produces an average of 294 eggs per year. You can learn more about eggs in our previous blog post: Ag 101: Eggs.


Most cheese is made in factories but it all starts in one of several places – a type of animal that produces milk such as dairy cows, goats or sheep. In some parts of the world, even buffalo, camel, and donkeys are milked for cheese production. There are many different types of cheese – bleu cheese, cheddar, swiss, and Gruyere, among others. Milk first goes through a filter where more fat or cream might be added to ensure consistency. After that it is pasteurized, and good bacteria are added to the milk. The milk then begins to ferment the lactose, milk’s natural sugar, into lactic acid. This process will help determine the cheese’s flavor and texture. A few more ingredients are added such as rennet. Once it starts to gel, the cheesemakers cut it, which allows the whey to come out. It goes through several more processes until it becomes the cheese that you see in the store! Learn more about how cheese is made from the U.S. Dairy Association.   


Bacon comes from the side and belly of the pig. Iowa is the number one pork producing state in the U.S., and the top state for pork exports. According to the Iowa Pork Producers Association, nearly one-third of the nation’s hogs are raised in Iowa. At any one time, there are approximately 22 million pigs being raised in Iowa.


Cattle are raised on grass for much of their life and then fed with corn, soybeans, silage, and other feed components to finish them out. More than 97 percent of beef cattle farms and ranches are classified as family farms. Ground beef, used in the recipe below, comes from the less tender and less popular cuts of beef.

Hearty Breakfast Quiche with a Hash Brown Crust

For the Hash Brown Crust:
24 oz. pkg. shredded hash browns, thawed and squeezed dry
4 Tablespoons butter, melted, divided
1 egg
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

For the Quiche:
1 T. olive oil
1/4 cup red pepper, diced
1/4 cup green pepper, diced
1/4 cup onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 10 oz. pkg. baby spinach
5 slices bacon
1/2 lb. ground beef, cooked and crumbled
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese

For the Hash Brown Crust:
1. Brush a 9-by-2 1/2-inch springform pan with 2 T. melted butter. Line the sides and bottom of the pan with strips of parchment paper, brush paper with butter too. Be generous on the bottom of the pan so the potatoes don’t stick.

2. Squeeze as much excess moisture from hash browns as you can. The hash browns should be as dry as possible so the crust will get crispy.

3. Combine the hash browns, 2 T. melted butter, egg and spices in a bowl. Put them in the pan pushing them up the sides.

4. Cook in a preheated oven at 400 for 20-30 minutes or until the hash browns start to crisp up.

For the Quiche:
1. In a large pan, cook the bacon until crisp. Keep the bacon drippings in the pan.

2. Over low/medium heat, sauté the onions, pepper and garlic in the bacon drippings for 8-10 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the spinach and cook another few minutes over low heat until wilted. Set aside to cool.

3. In a bowl, combine the eggs, milk, cream, salt, pepper, cheeses, red pepper flakes, crumbled bacon & ground beef.

4. Add the cooled veggies and stir to combine. Pour into the hash brown crust.

5. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake for 45 minutes.

6. Remove from oven and sprinkle with Pecorino Romano cheese. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing the collar and base.

Second and Third Place Winners

Marcia Kreutner (Center Point, Iowa) placed second with her Turkey Cashew Casserole, and Holly Houg also placed third as well with her Spicy Sausage Wraps recipe. Holly’s Hearty Quiche also won Fan Favorite in our Facebook competition. This year we added a twist requiring each participant to include an agriculture fact for each agriculture ingredient.

Do you want to participate in the Iowa’s Big Four Cooking Contest next year at the Iowa State Fair? Follow our Facebook and Twitter pages for details next June.


Butter and Cheese and Ice Cream – Oh my!

Did you know that June is Dairy Month? To celebrate the first day of June, Colorful 90s Themed Party Photo Collagewe are going to honor some true fan favorites in the dairy industry and explain how they get from the farm to your fridge. We will cover products made from cow milk, but technically dairy can come from any mammal (sheep, goats and others)!


This list of dairy products wouldn’t be complete without the originator of all other dairy products. Your mother probably told you to drink milk when you were younger to make your bones grow stronger, and she was right! Milk serves as a great source of calcium, which helps with bone and tooth strength. Milk has other excellent components too. It provides eight grams of high-quality protein per serving (8 oz) and important parts of a person’s diet, like vitamins B, B12 and A, along with phosphorous and potassium.

We know that most milk comes from cows, but it doesn’t come straight out of the milking machine into the gallon jugs that we buy at the grocery store. The process that milk goes through from the dairy cow to your glass is a multi-step, highly regulated and careful set of operations to ensure that the consumer gets the best product for their money.

First, a dairy cow is milked on a farm. She produces about 8.5 gallons of milk every day. That milk is cooled from her body temperature to around 40 degrees and then is transported off of the farm by a truck. Before transport, the milk is sampled and is tested before it can be processed. The tests look for taste, look and temperature, but the milk is also tested in a lab for bacteria count, presence of antibiotics, and other quality factors. After that, the milk goes through a separator to separate the milk fat from the rest of the milk. The milk is then separated into the different types that we buy in the grocery store, like reduced fat and skim. Vitamins A and D are added at this point in the processing to increase nutritional content.

Next comes pasteurization and homogenization. Pasteurization is the fast heating of milk to kill bacteria in the milk. Homogenization is the spreading of milk fat throughout the milk so that the cream doesn’t rise to the top. Then the milk is packaged and sent out to stores to be consumed by you! Milk usually takes around 48 hours to get from the dairy farm to your table.


If you’ve been baking bread like nearly everyone has during quarantine, you may have purchased some butter to spread on your sourdough, banana bread, or cinnamon twist loaf. Butter is high in calories and fat, and it provides some vitamins, like A and E.


Photo from Healthline

Making butter is a centuries-old practice that dates back to when humans first domesticated animals. It can be made at home, but butter is mostly made in factories using the fat from milk.

When milk goes into the separator, it separates milk fat and the remaining liquid milk. That milk fat is collected and turned into other products, like butter. The milk fat is called butter cream, and it is pasteurized and then churned into butter. During churning, the butter cream’s particles are combined and clump into butter, discarding a liquid called butter milk. The butter is churned for about an hour, and it is during this time that flavoring and other add-ins, like salt is added. The butter is then packaged and sent out to stores for you to purchase.

Ice Cream

You scream for it, I scream for it, we all scream for it- ice cream! A beloved summertime favorite, this frozen treat can also be made at home, (and in the classroom- here’s a lesson plan) but we’re going to look at the processing that happens on a large scale in an ice cream factory.

ice cream

Photo from Serious Eats

Ice cream is composed of three different dairy products: milk, cream, and buttermilk. Other ingredients include: sugar, flavoring and add-ins, additives for processing ease, air to keep the ice cream light, and sometimes eggs. The dairy products are homogenized and pasteurized, and then the ingredients, except for the final add-ins, are whipped together in a tube that freezes the ingredients as it stirs the mixture, while blowing air into the mixture to keep it light and fluffy. After that, the add-ins, like cookie dough, birthday cake or brownie bites are mixed in and the whole mixture is packaged, frozen, and delivered to a store near you.


Greek, low-fat, frozen, in a tube––yogurt comes in many forms. Some types, like low-fat yogurt, are a healthy source of protein and calcium. Yogurt can also contain probiotics, which can increase gut health.

Making yogurt is an interesting process. It starts with milk, but may include other dairy


Photo from Serious Eats

ingredients, like milk fat and solid, dry milk in order to achieve the solid and fat content. Ingredients that can also be added at the first step include stabilizers, sweeteners, and some flavorings. The milk is pasteurized, homogenized and cooled, and after that, the cultures are added. The main cultures are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. These cultures interact with the lactose in milk to produce lactic acid, which causes the yogurt to ferment and create the creamy texture. The yogurt sits until the pH level reaches 4.5, and then is cooled to stop fermentation. The mix-ins, like berries, are then added into the yogurt, or are put at the bottom of the packaging to be mixed in by the consumer, and the yogurt is sent out to stores.


Cheese comes in many different forms and types, but nearly everyone has at least one type they enjoy. So whether it’s melted cheddar in your cartoon-character mac and cheese, shredded Parmesan sprinkled on a pasta dish or a chunk of brie surrounded by olives and curated meats on a charcuterie board, this dairy product finds a way to work its way into nearly every meal.

Making cheese starts with milk, like every product on this list. However, with different

cheese cheese cheese

Photo from Mid-West Farm Report

types of cheese, the order, steps and time vary to create a great variety of cheeses. For cheese made from pasteurized milk, the milk is first standardized and pasteurized or heat treated. Then it is set to 90 degrees Fahrenheit to allow for optimal bacteria growth. Next,  starter cultures, called lactic acid bacteria are added, along with non-starter bacteria and given time to begin the fermentation process. Then an enzyme called rennet is added to curdle the milk. At that point, the cheese forms a solid and it is cut and heated to allow the whey to drain from the solid cheese. The curd, which is what’s left after the whey is drained, is periodically flipped and piled to form a tightly knit lump. Next, the cheese may have another step to go through depending on the variety. For example, mozzarella and Gouda cheese are both put into a salt water solution. After that process, the cheese is cut into the correctly sized blocks and is aged. Aging varies based on type of cheese, but can take months or even years! Then the cheese is packaged and ready to be included in your favorite soup, salad, potato or pasta dish, appetizer, with crackers, or even just straight out of the package!

So the next time you enjoy a dairy product, remember the people who work hard to get an extremely highly regulated product from the dairy cow to your table. The process varies greatly from product to product. Why not go out and purchase your favorite dairy product to help support dairy farmers and product manufacturers in honor of Dairy Month?


What’s Cookin’: Blue Ribbon Brownies

There’s not much better than a soft, warm chocolate brownie.  The recipe I am sharing today is my favorite because it is easy to make, delicious, and also brings back great memories.  It was the first recipe I remember baking as a kid, without the help of my mom.  It became my signature item as a young cook.  I always jumped at the opportunity to make a batch to take to a church pot luck or deliver to a neighbor, just because.  When I became old enough to enroll in 4-H, of course it was on the list of projects I wanted to take first to the county fair.  I remember anxiously waiting for the judge’s reaction after taking a bite and being so proud when she said they were delicious and handed me a blue ribbon.

Before I share the recipe, here’s the agricultural story behind each ingredient.

cocoa beansCocoa Powder is made from beans of the cacao tree grown in tropical climates. After harvesting the beans are fermented, dried, and roasted.  The beans are then ground into a paste to separate the cocoa solids from the fat, or cocoa butter. Once the butter is removed the cocoa solids are ground into a fine powder.  The bitter powder can be packaged and sold for as unsweetened coca powder for baking cooking, or mixed with cocoa butter, milk and sugar to create the chocolate bars and chips.

Sugar for home cooking and baking can come from two agricultural crops, sugar cane and sugar beets. Sugar beets are a root crop grown in the upper Midwest.  Sugar cane is a tall perennial grass grown in more tropical environments like Florida, Latin America, and South America.  Although the plants are very different, the process of turning juice from sugar beets and sugar cane into granulated sugar is very similar.  After the juice is extracted, it is purified, and the crystals form as the water is removed through several stages of evaporation.

eggs1Eggs– Iowa is the number one egg producing state in the country! Eggs are an essential baking ingredient. They add structure, leavening, richness, color, and flavor to your delicious treats.

Butter – Fresh whole milk from dairy farms is collected and brought to the creamery. The cream is separated from the milk and rapidly heated to a high temperature. Pasteurization removes any disease causing bacteria and helps the butter stay fresh longer. The cream is then churned by shaking or beating it vigorously until it thickens. The remaining liquid, appropriately called buttermilk, is removed. The clumps of butter are then washed and formed into sticks or blocks. Check out this video to see exactly how butter is made today.

vanilla beansVanilla extract is made from the seed pod, or bean, of the flat leaved vanilla orchid.  They are picked unripe, submerged into hot water and then laid out to dry.  Vanilla extract is made by macerating the vanilla beans and mixing them with water and alcohol.

Wheat PortraitFlour:  All-purpose flower is made from a blend of both hard and soft wheat grains. The bran and the germ have been removed leaving only the starchy endosperm for the flour.  The United States ranks 3rd in the production of wheat and is the #1 wheat exporting country. The top wheat-producing states are Kansas, North Dakota and Montana.

Pecans – The pecan tree is a species of hickory native to Mexico and the southern United States. Today they are grown on orchards across the southern United States, from California to North Carolina. Check out this video to see how pecans are harvested commercially. Once harvested, they are transported to a shelling plant where they are cleaned, sized, sterilized, cracked and finally, shelled.

Blue Ribbon Chocolate Brownies

¾ cup cocoa powder
½ cup baking soda
2/3 cup butter, melted and divided
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup coarsely chopped pecans


  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cocoa and baking soda;
  3. Mix in 1/3 cup melted butter.
  4. Add boiling water and stir until well blended.
  5. Stir in sugar, eggs, vanilla and remaining butter.
  6. Add flour and salt and stir until just combined.
  7. Fold in pecans.
  8. Pour into a greased 9 x 9 inch pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes.





What’s Cookin’: Fresh Cranberry Sauce


I often take advantage of shortcuts when cooking during the holidays.  I think a pumpkin pie made with canned pumpkin puree, is just as good if not better than starting with a whole fresh pumpkin.  Cranberry sauce, on the other hand, is worth the extra effort to start with fresh cranberries.  Cranberry sauce is simple to make, you can adjust the amount of sugar to your tartness to your family’s liking, and the flavor and texture far exceeds that of any canned sauce.  With just a few ingredients and 15 minutes, it is guaranteed to be a hit on your holiday table!

Before I share the recipe, here’s the agriculture story behind the ingredients.

cranberreis2CranberriesCranberries are one of only a few fruits in the grocery store that are native to North America. Native Americans used wild cranberries long before Europeans arrived and the first thanksgiving was celebrated. They ate them fresh, dried the fruit for longer storage, and made tea out of cranberry leaves. The also used the versatile fruit to cure meats, dye fabric, and treat wounds.

You probably think of water when you picture where cranberries grow. Cranberries naturally grow in bogs and wetlands, water-soaked areas that create a transition from dry land to open water.  But cranberries do not grow directly in water. Wild cranberries naturally grow right at the edge of the water, taking advantage of the rich and acidic soil there.

Cranberries grown for juice, dried fruit, and other processed foods are wet harvested. This technique takes advantage of the fruit’s natural ability to float.  Farmers flood the bogs with water and use machines to shake the berries loose form the plants.  The floating berries are then corralled together and loaded into trucks.  Fresh cranberries, like the ones used in this recipe, are dry harvested using a mechanical picker.

sugarSugar:  Sugar you buy for baking and other sweet treats can come from two agricultural crops,  sugar cane and sugar beets. Sugar beets are a root crop grown in the upper Midwest.  Sugar cane is a tall perennial grass grown in more tropical environments like Florida, Latin America, and South America.  Although the plants are very different, the process of turning juice from sugar beets and sugar cane into granulated sugar is very similar.  After the juice is extracted, it is purified, and the crystals form as the water is removed through several stages of evaporation.

lemonsLemon Juice:  Lemons are the fruit of a small evergreen tree, native to Asia. In the United States, California is the land of lemons, producing 92% of U.S. lemons!  Even though we think of lemon as summer fruit, winter and early spring is when lemons and other citrus fruits are harvested.

The juice of the lemon is about 5% to 6% citric acid, with a pH of around 2.2, giving this fruit its distinctive sour taste. Lemons are a great source of calcium, vitamin C, magnesium and potassium, minerals and antioxidants.

butterButter: Fresh whole milk from dairy farms is collected and brought to the creamery. The cream is separated from the milk and rapidly heated to a high temperature. Pasteurization removes any disease-causing bacteria and helps the butter stay fresh longer.  The cream is then churned by shaking or beating it vigorously until it thickens. The remaining liquid, appropriately called buttermilk, is removed. The clumps of butter are then washed and formed into sticks or blocks. Check out this video to see exactly how butter is made.

Fresh Cranberry Sauceingredients

12 ounces fresh cranberries

1 ¼ cup sugar

1 cup water

1 T butter

1 T lemon juice


20171122_100619Bring water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan.  Add cranberries and return to boil.  Reduce heat and bil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice and butter.  Pour into a bowl, cover, and cool completely at room temperature.  Refrigerate until serving.



What’s Cookin’? Winter Brussels Sprouts

New year equals new resolutions. If you are anything like me and millions of other Americans your New Year’s resolutions include either eating better or exercising more (or both)!  Sometimes in the winter months I’m not as good about eating my veggies. With short days, when I get home from work the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time cooking. But, I need to stop making excuses. There are some great winter vegetables that are nutritious, delicious and easy to get on the table in as little as 20 minutes. Here is my new favorite side dish – Winter Brussels Sprouts – and the agriculture story behind it.

Brussels sprouts, close up

Brussels sprouts – This underrated vegetable might be loathed by kids, but is actually really tasty. A lot of people don’t like them because they can smell bad if overcooked. Overcooking can release a natural compound that contains sulfur which stinks, so be sure to only cook them until easily pierced with a knife. The plant is said to have been originally cultivated in the area that is now Belgium and was named after the capital city. They are very nutritious and a great source of vitamins A, C and K as well as folic acid, iron, magnesium, selenium, and fiber.

wild-mustard-plantBrussels sprouts are descended from the wild mustard plant Brassica oleracea just like cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, broccoli and cauliflower. Brussels sprouts were bred and selected to promote lateral buds that grow up along the stem. Other members of this family were selected for their terminal buds, large leaves or flowers. While not GMOs, this family of vegetables is a perfect example of breeding and selecting for desired traits. From one common ancestor agriculturists were able to make a variety of veggies we all know and love.

rustic cooked bacon

Bacon – Mmmm….bacon… This tasty pork product comes from the side and belly of the pig. Pork bellies are cured in a salt brine and flavorings to provide the rich taste. The curing process evolved before refrigeration as a way of preserving the meat. Iowa is the number one producer of pork in the U.S. Companies like Farmland Foods and JBS Swift have meat packing plants in Iowa and employ hundreds of Iowans.


Butter – We’ve covered butter a time or two before. It is an essential component for the richness of the dish. You could also substitute margarine in place of butter. Margarine can be made from canola, rapeseed, palm, or even soybean oil. Soybeans of course are grown right here in Iowa. These liquid vegetable oils are hydrogenated with water to make them into the more solid margarine that we are familiar with. Depending on the base ingredient they would have different melting temperatures than butter and taste slightly different. It is hard to say which is healthier – butter or margarine – but the key is to eat them in moderation.

Roasted cashews

Cashew nuts – Cashew nuts grow in tropical environments so you won’t likely find this tree in the U.S. Each nut grows out of the bottom of a cashew ‘apple’. These seeds provide proteins, fat and vitamins that contribute to a healthy diet.  Raw, cashews have a toxicity and so it is important to buy roasted nuts unless you know what you are doing to roast them yourself.

Salt and Pepper – Salt is not an agriculture product. It is one of the few minerals that humans mine for consumption. Besides being a great flavor enhancer a small amount is essential in your diet. Black pepper comes from the fruit of a pepper plant species which grows in hot and humid tropical climates. The unripe dried fruit, called peppercorns, are ground into the spice we call pepper. Pepper was one of the spices that early explores traded because of its high value. It came from the spice islands of southeast Asia which also were known for nutmeg, mace and cloves.

Ingredients:Brussel Sprouts with Ham

2 lbs Brussels sprouts
4 slices of thick bacon
2 Tbsp butter
1.5 ounce cashew nuts
Salt and pepper


  1. Rinse and trim Brussels sprouts. Cook in boiling, salted water for 7 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife or fork. Drain and run under cold water to cool and stop the cooking process. Cut each sprout in half.
  2. Cut the bacon into 1/2 inch pieces. Fry bacon in a skillet until crisp. Drain off most of the bacon fat reserving approximately 1 Tbsp.
  3. Add butter and cashew nuts and saute for a couple of minutes until cashew nuts are lightly toasted.
  4. Add Brussels sprouts to the pan and toss. Cook just until the sprouts are warmed through. Salt and pepper to taste and serve.


– Will

What’s Cookin’: Ham & Apple Skillet

This time of year I love warm cozy meals featuring fall ingredients, like apples. I also love simple stove-top meals that come together fast. This dish fits both criteria and is a staple in my house. It is an easy weeknight meal that I can put on the table in less than 20 minutes.   It takes some of my favorite ingredients – ham, apples, maple syrup and Dijon mustard – and combines them to create sweet and savory goodness.   Mustard and apples may seem like an odd combination, but trust me, it’s delicious. Even my two year old thinks so. Pair it with a side of steamed veggies and it’s a prefect meal for fall or any time of year.

Before I share the recipe, here’s the story behind the simple, but delicious ingredients.

ham steakHam Steak – Ham steaks are simply thick slices of a whole cured ham. Ham is pork leg-meat that has been preserved through salting, smoking, or wet curing. Ham steaks are usually bone-in and cut from the center, which is the leanest and best part of the ham.   They are an incredibly versatile cut. Ham steaks can be the star of a meal or diced and added to everything from omelets to soups. Iowa is the number one pork producing state. Hog farming alone generates $7.5 billion in economic activity for our state. One more reason to keep ham in the fridge!

You can almost always find ham steaks in the grocery store pre-cut, or you can ask a butcher to slice off steaks from a whole or half ham. Ham steaks come thick (about 1 inch) or thin cut (1/4-1/2 inch).   I use thin in this recipe, but thick would also work well and serve more people.

dropMaple Syrup – Not to be confused with maple-flavored syrup, pure maple syrup begins as sap in a Sugar Maple tree. The sap is harvested in the spring when days are warm and nights cool below the freezing point. Trees are tapped using a drill to make a small hole. A spile is inserted into the hole and the sap drips out if conditions are right. The sap either drips into a bucket or flows down a special tube to a holding tank. Maple sap is clear, slightly sweet, and very thin. The distinctive maple flavor and thick consistency of syrup is developed through careful heating to evaporate most of the water. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

brown white mustard seedDijon Mustard – Mustard is made by combining ground mustard seeds with vinegar, water, spices and flavorings. The mustard plant is a cruciferous vegetable related to broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. Mustard is grown commercially in Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon and Washington. Dijon mustard refers to a style of prepared mustard that that originated in the Dijon, France. The traditional Dijon mustard recipe included wine vinegar and brown or black mustard seeds. American yellow mustard is made with white mustard seeds, which are actually yellow in color.

Apple Cider Vinegar – As its name implies, apple cider vinegar is the fermented juice of apples. It is made by crushing apples and squeezing out the liquid. It is then fermented by adding bacteria and yeast to turn the sugars in the cider to vinegar.

apple treesApples – Apples are the second most consumed fruit, following oranges.   They are also one of the most valuable tree crops in the United States. Every state grows them, and 29 states raise apples commercially. Washington produces about 70 percent of U.S. grown apples. Although it is not a top producing state now, Iowa has a rich apple history. The Delicious apple was discovered here by a Madison County farmer, and Iowa was a top apple producing until the devastating Armistice Day Ice Storm of 1940 severely damaged orchards across the state.

Butter – Fresh whole milk from dairy farms is collected and brought to the creamery. The cream is separated from the milk and rapidly heated to a high temperature. Pasteurization removes any disease causing bacteria and helps the butter stay fresh longer.   The cream is then churned by shaking or beating it vigorously until it thickens. The remaining liquid, appropriately called buttermilk, is removed. The clumps of butter are then washed and formed into sticks or blocks. Check out this video to see exactly how butter is made today, or try making butter at home. All you need is heavy whipping cream and a glass jar!

Ham & Apple Skillet IMG_2518

1 ham steak (1-1 ½ lbs.)
2 T butter
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1½ T Dijon Mustard
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 T water
2 large apples, sliced or cut into 1’ chunks

  1. Brown ham in large non-stick skillet over medium heat-high, about 1-2 minutes on each side or until heated through. Remove from pan. If desired, cut into serving size-pieces or bite-size pieces for easy serving.
  2. Melt butter. Stir in maple syrup, mustard, vinegar and water.
  3. Add apples. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stir occasionally until the apples are cooked through. Add a little more water while cooking if sauce becomes too thick.
  4. Return the ham to the skillet or pour apples over ham on a serving platter.


– Cindy


Five year-old Sam approves too!