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High on the Hog 

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Photo by Holly Harvey

Back when I lived in Brooklyn, shopping "locally" was a real problem. I made the effort to eat organically and locally, but it proved prohibitively difficult. There was no supermarket within walking distance so for daily purchases I had to content myself with the corner bodega. Whilst rich with such nominal luxuries as Bustelo coffee and egg and cheese on a roll, the selection of fresh foods left much to be desired. I would make the weekly trek to the Whole Foods on Union Square to stock up on foods that were at least organic but very rarely local. Now that I live back in Humboldt, I really appreciate being able to walk to the Co-op and select fresh produce from a multitude of farms that are within a reasonable driving distance (shout-out to Little RIvers Farms, your Spring Mix lettuces are amazing). Of course, we also have fabulous beef grown right here in Humboldt and you can get some local pork at the farmers market, but how great would it be to go direct to the source?

My brother Max and his partner Claire turned me onto a new option when they bought a pig — a live pig — from New Moon Organics Farm up in Shively. With the aid of their friend Mike, who does some butchering in his job at a charcuterie down south, they drove up to Shively one sunny afternoon and they selected a 130-pound pig from nice farmers Jane, Sean and John, and killed and butchered it. New Moon Organics sells its pigs for only $5 bucks a pound or $100 per piglet, which is a steal for pasture-raised certified organic pork.

New Moon Organics raises American Guinea hogs, which at one point were so common in the US they were called "yard hogs" — everyone had one in the backyard. American Guinea hogs are "lard hogs," not "bacon hogs," so they fell out of favor when everyone cottoned on to how indispensable bacon is, their numbers falling nationally to fewer than a hundred. Now, thanks to small farmers, American Guinea hogs have risen in popularity, though they are still among the rarest heritage breeds. Guineas are a smaller breed and slow growers. Females only grow to 150-180 pounds. This makes them much more manageable if you are thinking of butchering one for home eating — a 500-pound pig would take a lot of freezer space.

Don't be concerned about the lard hog tag; there is still plenty of bacon on a Guinea. There is also plenty of lard, which is a good thing. Lard from pigs raised organically in lots of sunshine provides one of the healthiest fats you can consume, full of Vitamin D and all the good things. We use it in all sorts of cooking — it makes a hell of a pie crust. If you can find someone who knows anything about pig butchering and you have some freezer space, I strongly encourage you to consider this option. The pork is absolutely delicious and you keep your money entirely in Humboldt. Plus, pasture raised organic pork is practically a health food. You can reach New Moon Organics at (415) 531-7765, or newmoonorganics@gmail.com.

So now, of course, we have a freezer absolutely filled to bursting with pork. It's interesting trying to think beyond the comfortable, familiar cuts like chops, bacon and ribs; there is a lot of shoulder and plenty of cuts with bones that don't fit into a recognizable shape. I have become adept at the long, slow cook, which has two fine attributes: It is almost impossible to mess up and it makes for meat that is so tender, so succulent and rich, that you can pull it apart with your fingers. We've been having a lot of pulled pork dishes, with barbecue sauces for delicious sandwiches or flavored with cumin and lime juice for fantastic tacos. I have adapted a favorite Turkish method for cooking lamb for pork, and it's both really easy and absolutely delicious. The only caveat is it takes time. It uses a lot of fresh spring herbs, so it's good if you are feeling tired of heavy, wintry dishes with root vegetables. Serve it with quartered potatoes roasted in olive oil, or nice fresh flatbread and a big salad.

Jada's Any Bone-in Pork, Spring Style

Serves 6

4 pounds of any cut of pork that has a bone, trimmed of excess (but not all) fat

2 large bunches of scallions, chopped

1 bunch of dill, finely chopped

½ bunch parsley, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 large onion, roughly chopped

1 cup water

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1 lemon, quartered

Salt and pepper

In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and add the garlic. Stir until fragrant. Add the meat, herbs, onion, water, olive oil, vinegar and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to maintain a low simmer and cook about 2 ½ to 3 hours, turning the meat over occasionally and adding a little more water as necessary to keep some simmering liquid — you don't want the pan to go dry. The meat should be so tender you can pull it apart with your fingers. Squeeze fresh lemon wedges to taste over each serving.

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About The Author

Jada Calypso Brotman

Bio:
Jada Brotman grew up in Arcata before moving to the U.K. and then New York City, where she cut a wide swath in the world of cheese. Insert joke here. She returned to the home of her fathers four years ago, and now works as a journalist and seasons her crepe pans in downtown Arcata.

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