Vicki Huelskoetter

Vicki Huelskoetter can make almost anything with her family's pork. Even the dessert.

BEASON, Ill. — For bitter cold nights, Vicki Huelskoetter has freezers full of her main ingredient for a comforting dinner. All her favorite recipes — for everything from pizza to spaghetti sauce — include pork raised on their farm. Even her desserts are known to have a bacon topping.

She shares this pork goodness with customers at farmers markets in Bloomington and Springfield, Illinois, and shares recipes on Huelskoetter Pork’s website, hpork.com.

Huelskoetter and her husband, Larry, live in Logan County near Beason, Illinois, where they raise about 5,000 hogs annually with most marketed commercially. But they market almost 10 percent through their activities at farmers markets, local grocers and to area restaurants. They also grow corn and soybeans.

For years they donated and cooked pork at fundraisers and special events. Nine years ago, she was encouraged to participate in the weekly Downtown Bloomington Farmer’s Market, and their new approach to community marketing grew.

She always has samples of pork ready to serve. Customers often want the same cut to take home, with cooking tips.

“If you get in trouble making it, give me a call,” she says.

Huelskoetter laughs when she recalls how small she started, with only her Department of Health license, a small Weber grill, tent and tables. People liked the taste so much, they wanted to buy a pound or two.

“We didn’t think of that,” said Huelskoetter, who had previously sold quarter, half and whole hogs to rural buyers.

Soon they needed a trailer and a freezer.

“Then we needed two freezers … and now we have 10 freezers in our garage,” she said.

“We love it,” she said of developing relationships with customers, chefs and grocers throughout the year. “It’s a fun process. We treasure all the friends we’ve made.”

Huelskoetter’s Swiss Pork recipe is one of her favorites — and part of a family tradition. Her husband’s parents always made Swiss Steak for Christmas. She re-introduced the popular Huelskoetter family Christmas tradition last year. The difference: The main ingredient now is pork steak, rather than beef steak.

Phyllis Coulter is Northern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.