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 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.