This is the winter of Tom Clark’s pig. Well, half a pig, that I bought from Tom last summer and picked up from the butcher on Thanksgiving weekend. I was disappointed when I discovered the butcher had discarded parts of the pig that he thought I wouldn’t want, as I wanted to learn to use the whole pig.
I discovered this week that the parts I do have provide me with plenty of learning experiences. The pig came to me butchered, but this is one step back in the process from picking up meat at the grocery store. It comes wrapped in plastic and then paper labeled with a simple description like “pork roast”. Last weekend I had a group potluck and thought I would pull out the roast as a special treat. Alex roasted the “pork roast” on Saturday to 145′ as per my favorite cookbooks. When it reached 145 he refrigerated the roast. I then forgot to take the roast with me when I was out the door on Sunday.
I dealt with the immediate crisis and fed the folks at the potluck (the local Fred Meyer had an acceptable Hempler’s ham roasted in the store). Monday night I attended the KCAA meeting which always includes a potluck. I said, well hey, I can take the roast I forgot yesterday! I re-warmed it in the oven. While waiting for it to come to temperature I made an apple compote to put alongside. When I pulled the roast out and cut it I discovered it was still reddish in the middle, definitely not done. Argh! I took the apple compote by itself and was surprised and pleased when the people ate it gone.
When I came home I threw the roast back in the oven and roasted it up to 160′, which seemed safer, at which point it looked done to me. I threw it in the refrigerator again. The next day I took it out and started to carve it. This is where I discovered that “pork roast” did not mean “nice slice of loin you can roast and slice for your friends.” It meant something like “tough striated muscle you want to cook the beejuzus out of.” The meat lay in lots of directions and the cut had a bone in the middle. I studied diagrams of pork but still don’t quite know what part of the animal this one came from.
By this time of course the already tough meat had been rendered even tougher by my rough treatment. Okay. I pulled out the big guns, a wonderful book published in 1977 called The Complete Pork Cookbook. There I found a slew of recipes for taking tough meat and stewing until soft. I adapted one recipe to make pork stew, adding root cellared vegetables and the celery from the freezer. Took it up to Ted’s parents last night and the whole family loved it. So I finally got to share the meat!
Stock: if you have frozen stock you’ll want to pull it out of the freezer first. I thaw mine in a sink of water just until I can get it to come out of the container. I used turkey stock leftover from Thanksgiving, but any stock will do.
Chop the roast into bite-sized pieces. Take a medium-sized pot, the one you make soup in. Heat the pot, add olive oil, and brown the pork.
Chop one onion. Add to the pan where the pork is browning and sweat until they’re soft. Add chopped celery and stir it in for a minute.
Add 1 quart of stock and 1 quart of water, some kosher salt, some freshly ground pepper, a sprinkle of parsley (I dried some last summer, you might have fresh), a sprinkle of thyme (ditto), and a couple of bay leaves. Bring to a boil and simmer for half an hour or so.
Add 8 or so chopped carrots and enough chopped potato to fill out the soup. I used three large ones. Bring back to a boil and then simmer until the potatoes are very soft.
Take off heat. Using a spoon, smash the potatoes right there in the pot. When you’re done you won’t have potato lumps and the stew will be nice and thick.
Served four hungry people.