Food & Drink

National show features SC combat veteran turned farmer

Host Lidia Bastianich (center) prepares stuffed tomatoes and porchetta with Army veteran Jon Darling and his wife, Tara, of McClellanville. ‘Lidia Celebrates America: Homegrown Heroes’ premiers on PBS on December 15, 2017.
Host Lidia Bastianich (center) prepares stuffed tomatoes and porchetta with Army veteran Jon Darling and his wife, Tara, of McClellanville. ‘Lidia Celebrates America: Homegrown Heroes’ premiers on PBS on December 15, 2017. PBS

Jon Darling, of Darling Farms in McClellanville, will be one of the “Homegrown Heroes” featured in Chef Lidia Bistianich’s holiday special debuting on PBS this weekend.

In “Lidia Celebrates America: Homegrown Heroes,” the eponymous host visits with a group of eight Farmer Veterans who found peace working the land after returning from combat.

In Darling’s enlisted in the U.S. Army after 9/11, and worked six deployments as an Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan in four years. After returning to South Carolina, he dealt with depression and a few run-ins with the law before turning to farming for a new purpose and to relieve PTSD. The Farmer Veteran Coalition provided assistance in connecting Darling with local resources and in 2015, he was able to purchase his own land. Currently, he and his wife Tara raise chicken, turkeys and hogs on a farm near McClellanville.

During the show, Bastianich pays tribute to the military men and women who gave to their country by traveling the United States, visiting the veterans’ farms and preparing meals with them. She says Darling is “yet another example of the resilience of our service men and women. He was put to the test on the battlefield and that experience is serving him well as he and Tara grow their farm.”

During her visit with Darling, Bastianich prepared a porchetta roll — rolled and stuffed pork tenderloin — from one of Darling’s Tamworth hogs. She serves the crispy pork dish finished with a drizzle of olive oil and a platter of sliced ripe heirloom tomatoes.

The show, “Lidia Celebrates America: Homegrown Heroes,” debuts Friday at 10 p.m. on ETV (Spectrum channel 11) and replays at 1 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, on ETV World (Spectrum channel 1276).

Other S.C. Veteran Farmers

LELAND GIBSON, Gibson Farms, USDA Certified Organic Beef, 251 North Retreat Road, Westminister.

SHANNON MERCER, Mercer House Estate Winery, Muscadine and country wines, 397 Walter Rawl Road, Lexington.

FRANK BLUM, S.C. Seafood Alliance, 815 Savannah Highway, Charleston. (843) 556-2520

TAYLOR AND CYNTHIA TARVIN, Tarvin Seafood Inc., 337 Seewee Circle, Mt. Pleasant.

JOE WATSON, Watsonia Farms, peaches and vegetables, 3755 Hwy. 23, Monetta.

HAP CARR, Titan Farms, peaches and vegetables, 5 RW DuBose Road, Ridge Spring.

RODERICK CELESTAINE, Capital City Greens/Celestin Farm, Blythewood. (803) 381-4673

JOHN RIVERA AND BOYAN ATHANASSOV, AJ’s Market Gardens, organic greens and micro-greens, 541 Hickory Hill Road, Columbia.

DAVID SMITH, Cross Keys Farm LLC, eggs & free range chicken and honey, 4677 Cross Keys Highway, Union.

WILLIAM WYETH, Wyeth Farms, 806 Flicker Place, Murrells Inlet. (843) 582-3282

JON DARLING: A Darling Farm, 6201 N. Highway U.S. 17, Awendaw area.

Want to know more?

Veterans who want to learn more about farming can visit

Porchetta (stuffed pork tenderloin)

Serves 10-12

1 suckling pig 30-40 lbs

1 lb small pork tenderloin with nice fat

2 lbs ground pork (at least 20% fat)

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt + fresh cracked pepper to taste

1 head of garlic

6 branches rosemary

handful of fennel seed gently crushed with mortar & pestle

handful of fresh thyme

several pinches of fennel pollen

several pinches of nutmeg

freshly grated orange zest

trussing twine + needle

PREPARE THE SUCKLING PIG (or have your butcher do this for you): De-bone the suckling pig removing the shoulder bones, spine, ribs and leg bones (head is optional). Clean, trim excess fat and pat dry. Lay flat on a large sheet pan. Save the heart, liver and kidneys and a few trims of meat to mince for the sausage mixture. Lightly salt and pepper the entire inside cavity of the suckling pig, sprinkle with several pinches of fennel pollen and grate the zest of one orange down the center.

PREPARE THE TENDERLOIN FOR STUFFING: Slice the tenderloin lengthwise down the middle along the fat line. Mince the rosemary needles from 3 stalks with 8 cloves of garlic and mix with 1/4 cup olive oil. Rub this mixture on each tenderloin and season with sea salt + fresh ground pepper.

PREPARE THE SAUSAGE FOR STUFFING (or have your butcher do this for you): Mince the heart, liver, kidneys and meat trim from the suckling and mix with 2lbs ground pork. Season and incorporate with a handful of fennel seed gently crushed with mortar & pestle, a handful of fresh thyme, several pinches of nutmeg, sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

STUFF and TRUSS: Place one half of the rubbed tenderloin in the center of the deboned suckling (along the removed backbone), place the sausage mixture down the entire center and top with the other rubbed tenderloin half. Roll both skin sides up to overlap and begin to truss at the head, work down in 1/2” intervals to the tail and tie off. Rub the tightly trussed porchetta roll with olive oil and finish with sea salt.

ROAST: Best roasted over fire or on a spit grill. Could also be roasted in a pan in the oven (convection is ideal for crisp skin). Time and temperature will vary depending on the heat source. Ideally roast near 500+ degrees for the first 30 minutes, take the heat down to 325 degrees for a few hours and bring the heat back up to 500+ degrees for the last 10-15 minutes for a beautiful crisp and burnished skin. Baste every 30 minutes with three rosemary stalks twined together. The interior temperature should finish at150 degrees to allow for resting and tender pink meat.

REST: Remove the porchetta from the heat and rest for 30 minutes. After 20 minutes begin the remove the twine and use any drippings or crackling bits from the savory porchetta roll to finish greens, potatoes or make a quick reduction.

SERVE: At 30 minutes rest, thinly slice the porchetta and serve on a platter. Finish with olive oil, drippings and fresh cracked pepper.

Recipe by Lidia Bastianich