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Take the Mystery Out of Pork

April 6, 2015

It’s been a while since I’ve featured a book on here, but here’s one for pork fans. Pure Pork Awesomeness. Written by Kevin Gillespie and David Joachim, this takes a celebration of pork to a whole new – and delicious – level! With recipes from Spain, Scotland and beyond as well as the USA, it’s an awesome way to eat around the world and around the hog.

Hampshires are dark pigs with white belly bands.

Hampshires are dark pigs with white belly bands.

It’s a book for homesteaders, gourmet folks, hog fans and good food fans.

There’s the Good to Know tips and tricks where you learn extra things not only about bacon and ham but lard, salt pork, pigskin and more. The recipes are divided by the part of the pig it comes from, so shoulder recipes are grouped together, loin recipes, ribs, belly and so forth are together.

If I was going to be picky there’s an error on pig identification of some white pigs listed as Hampshire, but kudos for an attempt at connecting farm to fork! Of course a part of me is biased at seeing the good comments about heritage breeds. Certainly volume is needed to keep bacon and ham easy access for everyone, but I admit liking the old breeds to.

The authors delve into pork labels, from all-natural to pastured to locally grown. “No hormones: The Feds don’t permit using added hormones in any type of pork production (or poultry production, for that matter). Whether or not you see this label, pork does not contain added hormones.” Little facts like this remove the mystery that so often the media tries to raise.

Stories from the author’s use of the pork and recipes used are interesting, and there’s a lot of information packed in the “Good to Know About” sections. For example, regarding pork shoulder:

Full grown hogs weigh about 250 pounds. The shoulders of the animal support most of that weight. The shoulders are also physically smaller than the hams (the hind legs) so the shoulder muscles get worked even harder. The more a muscle is worked, the tougher it gets. Translation: Shoulder meat is tough meat. Since pork shoulder is so tough, it’s best for slow cooking methods like braising, slow roasting and smoking.

While I would point out a full grown hog is much bigger than 250 pounds, in the context of market hogs, the author is right that 250 pounds is when hogs will go to market. Other random tips from the book – don’t freeze pork loins.

Transglutaminase is also called meat glue,and that’s exactly what it does: It glues meat together in the absence of starch or other binders. It’s a harmless enzyme. Look for it online at shops such as modernistpantry.com

The recipes from around the world – well don’t say I didn’t warn you about finding a whole hog before reading this book! From Serrano Ham Croquettes to – oh where to start in the bacon and sausage sections! Yum. Yum and Yum.

If you love pork, if you’re learning, if you’re wanting to learn more about pork  here’s a book to check out. And a recipe to try. From the chops to jowls and ham hocks, learn to use the whole hog as our grandparents did, but in recipes fitting of today.

My Mom’s Pan-fried Pork Chops with Sawmill Gravy

4 boneless pork loin chops, cut from strip end, each about 3/4 inch thick and 5-6 ounces

kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper.

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

3/4 cup lard

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cups chicken stock (page 26 of the book has a recipe)

Season both sides of the pork with salt and pepper and let them sit so they are nice and wet, about 15 minutes.

Place the flour, cayenne, garlic powder and 2 teaspoons salt in a shallow bowl and whisk to combine. Dip the pork chops one at a time into the flour mixture and shake off any excess. The chops should be completely but lightly coated. Reserve the flour mixture.

Add 1/4 inch depth of melted lard to a 12 inch cast iron skillet and place over high heat. When the lard begins to smoke, add a pinch of flour to the hot oil; it should ‘pop’ and turn brown when the oil is hot enough. Add the chops to the skillet in a single layer, leaving a little space between them, and lower the heat to medium. Cook until the sides start browning, about 3 minutes. Adjust the chops to make sure they are cooking evenly and when they are deep golden brown, after another minute or so, flip them and continue to fry until light golden brown on the second side, about 3 more minutes. The internal temperature should be 140* to 145*F (The temperature will rise a few degrees as the meat rests.)

Remove the chops from the pan, place on a plate and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm. Take the pan off the heat and, using a large spoon, carefully tilt the skillet and spoon out the excess fat and discard. Leave enough fat in the skillet to completely cover the bottom, about 1/4 cup. With the skillet still off the heat, whisk the reserved flour into the fat, making sure all the flour is completely absorbed and dissolved into the fat. Return the pan to medium-low heat and whisk constantly until the mixture is golden, about 3 minutes. Continue whisking and add the cream and chicken stock until thick and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Stir any juices that have collected from the chops into the gravy and add the chops back to the skillet, turning to completely coat with gravy.

Good to know – Four steps to perfect pan gravy: 1) scrape all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan; that’s your flavor base right there. 2) stir enough flour into the hot fat for the mixture to look like wet sand, and whisk the flour constantly to completely dissolve it and prevent lumps. 3) Cook this mixture, the roux, long enough to cook out the flour taste but not so long that the fat separates back out from the flour. About 5 minutes will do it here. 4) Add cold or room temperature liquid to the hot roux, stirring constantly to prevent lumps.

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