Slow-roasted pork

It’s a day that shouts that fall is finally, really here–steady, gentle rain, cool breeze, a bit dreary–the kind of day that says cook something savory and warming.  As the weather has been getting cooler, I’ve been anticipating this kind of day, so on yesterday’s trip to the market, I had the butcher cut me two extra-thick, bone-in, loin end pork chops.  When I got home, I “prepped” them for roasting–a generous sprinkle of salt (for a dry brine) and let them stand overnight in the fridge. Though it’s not cool enough to turn on the heat, just what I get from the oven while these roast will be cozy, and the smell of roasting pork….almost as good a baking bread.

I’ve gotten two chops because I actually want to have extra meat. Leftovers in this case are welcome (which is, admittedly, unusual for me).  This kind of weather brings out a desire for soup-making and other hearty fare, and roasted meat is a good starter!

Slow-roasted loin-end pork chops

Note: The pork was roasted in the clay cooker–with very simple seasoning. I just wanted some big roasted pork flavor. I used loin-end chops here, but thick-cut shoulder chops, or country-style spare ribs will also work. I love the Schlemmertopf/Romertopf for cooking, but you can do this in a Dutch oven if you don’t have a clay cooker.  It will still taste good!

loin end pork chopIngredients

  • 1 or 2 extra thick (1-1/2 to 2 inches) loin-end pork chops
  • a generous tablespoon kosher salt (for the two chops)
  • 2 large Yukon Gold potatoes scrubbed, cut into large chunks (eighths)

pork chops and potatoesPreparation

  • Pat chops dry and sprinkle kosher salt evenly over the chops.
  • Refrigerate overnight or for about 8 hours (up to 24)
  • Soak clay cooker for at least 20 minutes, add chops and place in cold oven set for 295 °F until easily shredded with a fork (about 3 hours).
  • Serve with roasting juices from cooker.

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roasted pork and potatoesI made the spicy grilled cabbage from The Kitchn, to go with this. The weather didn’t permit grilling (and lack of planning the oven, therefore the broiler, was in use) so I did a thinner wedge on a smoking hot cast-iron griddle. It was fantastic–no doubt this would be even better on the grill. The spicy lime sauce is yummy (and the bit that found it’s way onto the pork was good there, too).

I did make a couple changes to the sauce: since I was lacking the “smoky” grill, I added chipotle chili powder as well as the cayenne, and I used honey instead of sugar. (I would love to try this sauce with buckwheat honey in it, but none in the house today.)  Definitely a keeper of a sauce!

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There are leftovers–but I’ve planned how to use them. The pork is seasoned only with salt at this point–deliberately so that I have lots of flexibility in using the rest of it.  I want to try a pasta dish with the “pulled” pork, sage and brown butter sauce. There are roasting juices that will contribute to some good soup–maybe hot and sour soup, or maybe something with hominy and sort of southwestern flavor. I suspect that a serving of basic roast pork is headed to the freezer for a quick comfort-food meal in colder weather.

pork, potatoes, cabbageA son goût!

Offal–the other tasty bits

When I look at the meat counter in the supermarket I always wonder why we use so few of the parts of the animals that we raise and slaughter for food.  It seems wasteful and disrespectful of life, and  we’re missing a lot of good eating that way. Obviously, I favor of using all of the beast if you’re going to slaughter it to have a steak or a roast (the skeletal muscle, in other words).

Maybe part of the reluctance to use organ meats is that many cooks don’t know how to prepare these other bits–they can be a bit more complicated to cook than a steak. Certainly many popular cookbooks don’t include recipes for them.  It might also be because we are told that these are not good for us–that they are high in fats, and in cholesterol–which is supposed to be so terribly, horribly unhealthy for us. Maybe it’s also related to controversy about whether or not fat, and animal fat in particular, is actually bad for you–government and medical recommendations on what we should–or should not–eat.

There does seem to be increasing  interest in “variety meats” as something other than pet food. (Yes, I will  share the giblets with the cat when we’re cooking chicken or turkey but I will not give them all away.)  There are some excellent cookbooks available now.  I’ve added some of my favorites to the bibliography. Whatever the reasons, I’m glad to see it (and you can expect more of my opinions on the high-carb, low-fat controversy about how to get rid of the excess weight we tote around with us).

But to get to the thing that got me started on this particular topic. One of my favorite bits of offal is tongue and I found this delightful post on Fae’s Twist & Tango with a recipe for cooking tongue that is a good addition to my collection recipes for that particular bit of the beast.

(It’s really unfortunate that “offal” is pronounced like “awful” so that enunciating that word leaves a lot of people thinking that you’ve said “awful”–which is what many think of organ or “variety” meats. I’m sure there are people who love foie gras and caviar, and maybe even shad roe, who would not consider other organ meat from a cow, or a pig, or a chicken.  But offal is not awful–it’s good stuff.)

Pork butt steaks

One of the frustrations of cooking just for me is that some of the cuts of meat that I like best are typically way too big!  For example, one of my favorites is pork butt (also known as Boston butt).  Note that this does not refer to the location of the cut on the hog–but to the way it was processed and cut in pre-revolutionary and revolutionary times in New England–it’s shoulder that was salted and packed in barrels (called butts).  History aside, it’s good eating no matter what you call it. Enough fat to be succulent, and great for BBQ–friends are always willing to help eat it, but that takes a long time to cook and it’s a LOT of meat, so I generally turn to other cuts.

I use  chops (both loin and shoulder) often. I mean, chops are wonderful–quick, tasty, good size for one, but they are not the only good part of the hog!  I’d rather have cuts other than the ubiquitous loin chops with so little fat that they can be dry if not cooked carefully–such as, a pork neck steak is great (even if hard to find).

Country Spare Ribs

country-style spare ribs

Most often I use country-style spare ribs (from the rib end of the loin), since these can be had in quantities suitable for one person–single-serving plus one for the freezer.  These work well for braised pork and cabbage, and in chilli con carne.

pork butt steak

pork butt steak

While skulking through the supermarket just the other day is was quite surprised to find a package of pork butt steaks lying there in the meat case. No hesitation on my part, they went right into my basket, and home with me, especially since they were on “manager’s special”, but not a problem since I was planning to cook them right away: maybe griddle one, and pop the others into the Romertopf after salting and seasoning with a little chilli powder and coriander.  No water needed to roast these in the Romertopf–but good broth when they come out.   I had one hot meal when they came out of the oven,  packed two more servings with broth for the freezer, and had some for the hot and sour soup.

Some good eating with very little effort on my part–and all very inexpensively!

Pork stock

Not an instance of absolutely great planning, but here I am as the thermometer hits the 90s making pork stock.  Well…I never said that I was the greatest planner in the world–strawberry ice cream and stock-making in the kitchen all at one time.  My favorite meat supplier (Meadow Lane Farm, Louisburg NC)  had great meaty pork neck-bones at the market this past Saturday so I had to bring some home–so despite the heat it’s stock-making time.

These are very meaty bones, so I’ll have some meat to use after the stock is finished.  Since there is so much meat on these bones, and I want to use it, I’m not doing the quick stock–but rather the stove-top method (now you’re sure I’m not great at planning, right?).  But when you have the opportunity to get pork neck-bones, you take it.  Meadow Lane farms is doing more pork (as well as beef) so next time I can plan to do this is cold weather.  (I’m glad I’ll have more access to pork…love that “other white meat”.)

Basic Stove-top Pork (or Meat) Stock

Ingredients: 

  • about 4 pounds meaty pork neck bones
  • 2 medium onions, chunked up
  • 2 medium carrots, chunked
  • 3 bay leaves (dried ones)
  • about 2-3 teaspoons salt
Preparation:
  • Rinse the bones well.  If you feel that there is any old, or “off” odor, or they’re very bloody, blanch quickly in one change of water.
  • Add aromatics–onions, carrots, and bay leaves
  • Add water to cover.
  • Bring to a boil quickly, and then reduce to keep a bare simmer, and leave for about  2 or 3 hours.  Test after about 2 hours–when the meat is fork-tender and “fallin’ off the bone” (a country expression that means really tender), remove from heat.
  • Strain to remove bones/meat and aromatics.
  • Cool stock quickly in an ice bath, stirring frequently to help cool evenly;  then freeze or refrigerate. (Do not put the hot stock in the freezer or refrigerator as it will (1) warm up the refrigerator and affect everything in it, and (2) it does not cool evenly and quickly so that you could have bacterial growth.)
  • When the bones are cool enough to handle, remove the meat and save for another use.
I want a neutral white stock, so I’m not roasting bones.  The meat from making this stock may be a bit less flavorful than had it not been used to make stock, but it will still be good to use for  eating.  I don’t add celery to my stock unless I’m making stock for a specific recipe that needs it.  Carrots and onions, and bay leaves provide some sweetness and depth.  Because I may want to use the stock in a recipe calling for reducing it, I don’t add much salt; I do add a little, because I think that helps develop flavor of the stock as it cooks.   (Salt is for more than just making things taste salty!)  The meat and the stock will both likely need to have additional salt added to taste, but now I have stock that I can use in a reduction sauce if I wish. 

There was a bit of cursing in the kitchen as I removed the meat from the bones because I tried to do it before they had cooled quite enough, but for my efforts (sweaty through they were) I have bit over a gallon of pork stock that is cooling in the refrigerator to be de-fatted.

I have about a pound of very tender, succulent pork to use for another purpose, maybe a chili verde since the garden is rife with green chili peppers.  The meat recovered after making stock is not as flavorful as it would be had I cooked it primarily to use  just the meat, but it’s certainly great for a dish that is supplemented with herbs and spices like that.  I could also use it in hot and sour soup, or posole.

My active cooking time was about 45 minutes from setting the stockpot on the stove to washing the stock pot.  That includes the time to remove the meat from the neck bones!  Although not the ideal time of the year to make stock–it’s well worth the effort.  (Have to have some priorities–right?)  In the winter, I’d have put the pot in the oven for the cooking time, but I thought that, perhaps, the stove-top (very low simmer) would be a bit cooler way to do this. (No, I’m NOT planning to check that out any time soon!)