When I agreed to work with Jones Dairy Farm on a variety of projects last year, it was because I was familiar with their products. Like many people, I grew up eating Jones breakfast sausages. In fact, when I was in high school I discovered the joy that is a fully cooked Jones sausage wrapped in a pancake — it was heavenly (and so was my teenage metabolism).
But the decision came from a place of familiarity.
Since then, I have learned that this company is so much more than just one that I grew up with. In fact, they are the sort of company worth paying attention to. Although I knew Jones was a family-owned and run company, I didn’t realize what an amazing commitment to both having a great company and a great product they had until I was recently invited to a fun event at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. Jones sponsors a scholorship program there, and also provides a kitchen that feeds the students. On a recent weekend, they invited a select group of bloggers to visit and learn more about the company, the CIA and the products.
Fun Fact: This was kind of a homecoming since I grew up in the area — in fact, my cousin lived practically across the street from the CIA for many years.
After indulging in a delicious breakfast served by the Jones Dairy Farm Kitchen at the CIA, we headed off to a CIA kitchen for a morning of learning, experimentation and fun. When we got there, this display featuring many of the Jones Dairy Farm products greeted us — Oh, the bacon. Jones makes everything from the sausages I grew up on to bacon, hams and even liverwurst.
Hint: Try Jones Turkey Bacon. It’s the best I’ve ever had — and I love it, which says a lot since I generally avoid turkey bacon.
Rick Lowry, Executive Vice President for Jones Dairy Farm, spoke about both the Jones products and their commitment to creating a high quality product — using the original recipe from the 19th century. He also showed us the pork cuts that go into everything from Canadian bacon to Jones’ hams. Did you know that Canadian bacon comes from a cured tenderloin? Very interesting.
We also learned about something called white slime (remember the pink slime we all learned about a few years ago — very similar concept), which some of their competitors use to create cheaper products. It was foul to hear about and see. I’ll spare you the photos, but if you want to know more about white slime, Forbes wrote an eyeopening article on it last year.
Jones, of course, doesn’t use white slime — they firmly believe in delivering the best product they can. That’s something I can definitely get behind.
After that, we moved on to a fun CIA-run exercise. A CIA chef instructor taught us about knife skills — including the proper technique for chopping onions, carrots and more. We got in some good practice too, which excited me because I realized that I am indeed capable of julienne cuts. And yes, I totally came home and changed the way I chop.
Doing it right is so much easier.
And of course, since Jones does some amazing hams, we had to check out the different ones — and dig in a bit too. Then it was off to work on a team cooking competition. We were assigned teams and each given a basket of foods we had to use in creating a recipe or three. My team had a basket with Boston Bibb lettuce, mushrooms, Swiss chard, ricotta and pears.
We quickly put our heads together and came up with a plan.
After taking to the kitchen for an intense cooking session, we got to see what all the other teams had come up with. And oh my, there were so many amazing dishes. See those lettuce wraps in the top left? They were my favorite — the flavors were just so good together. I would love to make them at home. And the cauliflower in the lower left? Cate made that, and I want to eat it again and again. Check out her recipe for Spicy Whole Roasted Cauliflower to try it for yourself.
I loved seeing the different food perspectives that came through.
As for my team, we created two dishes — a Swiss Chard Pesto Ricotta Stuffed Mushrooms with Slab Bacon appetizer and a Boston bibb salad with pears, Scrapple croutons and a yummy warm bacon vinaigrette.
As the judges explained, it was the Scrapple croutons — the brainchild of Otis from Burnt My Fingers — that won it. They also liked that our salad included two Jones products.
We ended our visit with a tour of the CIA. We explored the learning areas, pastry wing, restaurants and more. It was so interesting to get an inside look at this amazing culinary school.
Special thanks to the Jones Dairy Farm team for an amazing day of learning and eating.
Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored post. However, I am a brand ambassador for Jones Dairy Farm, and was invited on this trip due to my continuing relationship with them. All opinions are my own.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of four cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to a tween and a teen, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.