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Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

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Pork, Pork and More Pork (Plus Recipes)

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Butcher case at Rosemont Market's Brighton Avenue location, where local lard is touted as the new olive oil. Pork there is from Milkweed Farm right here in Brunswick.

Butcher case at Rosemont Market’s Brighton Avenue location, where local lard is touted as the new olive oil. Pork there is from Milkweed Farm right here in Brunswick.

I’m totally spent, after appearing on local TV for the first time, and banging out a cover story for The Portland Phoenix’s pig issue, plus my side column take on Jews and pork. I attended a whole hog butchery workshop (lung was delicious, spleen was gross) and have tracked down numerous chefs, pig farmers and butchers. I remain indebted to Oregon for teaching me how to cure my own guanciale and to seek out meat CSAs and heritage Red Wattle hogs. Now, for some recipes (previously discussed on our latest WBOR radio show on food waste).

Breaking down half a hog in the butchery and curing workshop organized by Giant's Belly Farm in Greene, Resilient Roots and the Local Sprouts Cooperative.

Breaking down half a hog in the butchery and curing workshop organized by Giant’s Belly Farm in Greene, Resilient Roots and the Local Sprouts Cooperative.

First, pig ears, normally considered dog food/dog chew toy. Perhaps they should stay that way. I’m all for crispy pig ears at restaurants, but I found them a bit gross and not worth the effort to do at home. I worried about ear wax and hating shaving the ears of hair. For a recipe, I consulted the trusted Michael Ruhlman, a charcuterie guru with a new book out (with co-author chef Brian Polcyn, whom I interviewed) on the porky art of Italian dry-cured Salumi. He recommended prepping pig ears confit-style.

Pigs ears confited per Michael Ruhlman's instructions. Next time I'll leave them for the dogs.

Pigs ears confited per Michael Ruhlman’s instructions. Next time I’ll leave them for the dogs.

So I rubbed the ears with salt, pepper, garlic and Chinese five spice powder and let them cure overnight (well, ok, they were left in the fridge for a few nights). I was thinking crispy pig ear banh mi. That never happened. I confited them in a super-low oven in grapeseed oil (didn’t have lard). But when I tried to fry them up, they were chewy and gummy and not that crisp. I now see I ignored Ruhlman’s advice to roast them, weighed down between pieces of parchment in a 425 to 450˚ oven. My bad. I missed his note that “a serious issue with frying is that water remaining in the skin can cause them to pop and splatter in hot fat.” Splatter they did.

Bone-in leg roast brined per Tamar Adler's instructions.

Bone-in leg roast brined per Tamar Adler’s instructions.

The pork roast, really an uncured bone-in ham, recipe I tried from Tamar Adler‘s An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace proved far more satisfying. I got to taste a little roasted bone marrow, which tasted just like that fancy restaurant appetizer. The next day, I made a good ole New England pot of baked beans, flavored with the bone and pork scraps, inspired by a recipe in a recipe from the revamped classic Cooking Down East. Here’s Adler’s recipe…you definitely want to try to brine the ham first, to tenderize the dense muscle. I added molasses and liquid smoke to the brine, to make the meat, well, more ham-like.


The lovely bone-in ham roast (see that yummy bit of marrow) from a Red Wattle hog from Squire Tarbox Farm on Westport Island.

Meat brine (from Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal; roast follows)

1/4 cup salt

1/2 tablespoon sugar (I used molasses too)


2 bay leaves

2 whole dried chiles

1 teaspoon juniper berries

4 sprigs thyme

1 teaspoon peppercorns

Combine the salt and sugar over low heat with 1/4 cup water. As soon as the salt and sugar have dissolved, take it off the heat. In the container in which you’re going to brine the pork leg roast, combine everything with a few ice cubes. Mix it all well. Once it is cool, add the meat and water to cover. Brine, before meat is added, stays good forever.


Pork roast

Brine a three-pound pork leg roast (preferably bone-in for flavor) overnight in the refrigerator. Cover the meat with a plate that fits inside the container and weigh it down so that it doesn’t float. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the pork from the brine and pat it dry. Heat a cast-iron pan or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Brown each side of the meat over medium-high heat. Let each side turn caramel brown. This will take 10 to 15 minutes.

Once the pork is browned, put the pan or pot directly in the oven. Cook the meat, untouched, until it’s medium-rare. In an oven, this will take about 20 minutes per pound. Pork will need an internal temperature of 165 degrees when you pull it out of the oven, and will go on cooking once you remove it. Err on the side of under-cooking the meat. Check it with a meat thermometer at its thickest part until you get good at telling doneness by pressing on the meat.

Remove the meat from the pan and let it sit on a cutting board. It needs to rest for at least 20 minutes. Sliced earlier, the outside of the pork may taste salty; if there is still a bone in the cut, the meat along it will still be bloody.

Slice the meat thinly with a sharp knife. If you can avoid it, leave the serrated knife for bread and use the sharpest straight blade you have.

Serve with a big green salad.


Hog butchery workshop in South Portland (notice James Beard Award winning chef Rob Evans of Duckfat in the audience!)

Burnheimer Meat Co. CSA Dispatch: Month One

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Burnheimer Meat Co. CSA: Month 1 Box

Omnivorous flexitarian that I am, I still find myself in an off-again, on-again, feast or famine relationship with pork. It’s not the Jewish background: my Friedberg grandparents had their kosher friends over for ham. I’ve learned that meats as unctuous as pork–and all meats really–are best experienced as a condiment (with a nod to Thomas Jefferson and Chinese cuisine), used to compliment and flavor the fresh vegetables and whole grains that make up a bulk of one’s plates. Meat is a precious and rare resource, a great source of protein and sustenance that creates environmental challenges we can’t ignore. We should pay more for animals raised in a humane and Earth-friendly way, and eat less of that meat, with more reverence. With that spirit, this spring I signed up for our first (three-month) meat C.S.A.

First, I tackled the delicate duck breasts from Evergreen Creek Farms in Philomath. Brad promises me duck legs in April, so I can try my hand at confit.

Next time, I'll cure duck proscuitto. This time, just went with fennel-and-lavender-studded "Roasted Duck Breast with Bourbon-Braised Italian Prunes (I used cherries instead)," from Seattle chef Jason Wilson of Crush, included in Ivy Manning's standby "Farm to Table Cookbook."












At first, $80 a month (a $240 check) seemed a lot for three months of meat. But GTF charcuterie wiz Brad Burnheimer promised 10 lbs. of fresh cuts, sausages and bacon, from free-roaming heritage pigs. I picked my first box at Gathering Together Farm on March 2. Enclosed was the note:

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Written by baltimoregon

March 27, 2012 at 12:10 am

What’s Guanciale?

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Cured hog jowl, after one week of brining and three weeks of drying.

The pig jowl, pre-cure.

Finally, some back-to-back success with curing meats, just as I’m feeling the need to go vegetarian more than ever. Fasting on a cleanse just isn’t going to happen. I love food too much. At least I’ll soon be trying to go bread-free for Passover. But for now, I’m still on pork. Just remember curing it doesn’t mean you eat much of it. It’s still hanging in the fridge, a thin lardo-like, umami-rich slice to be rationed at a time. Still, it’s thrilling to see the guanciale turn out so well, after bacon and especially pancetta proved somewhat disappointing. And guanciale is more of an investment since it hangs to dry (in the fridge this time) for three weeks after the week-long salt, sugar and spice cure.

Clear out space to hang it in the fridge: thankfully it didn't absorb those funky smells that the baking soda does.

If you haven’t heard of guanciale, you’re not alone. I hadn’t heard of it either until making this Pasta All’ Amatriciana recipe (with bacon as a substitute) in Bon Appetit recently. But unsmoked cured pork jowl just seems to have a more memorable quality that many cultures, including Southern, revere. So try some of your own. Sweet Briar Farms at our farmers’ market seemed delighted I wanted pig cheeks and jowl, those unloved cheap cuts no one ever requests. To make your own guanciale, Mario Batali seems to have the most recommended recipe. I’d like to try some more famous all’ amatriciana recipes with my finished product. Of course, I’d like to eat at Batali’s restaurants sometime, too. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to in Vegas last weekend.

Written by baltimoregon

March 24, 2010 at 11:27 pm

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Figs and Quince

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Foraged figs.

Thankfully, I recovered from that unfortunate foraging experience. I’m certainly not ready to swear all scavenging off. Maybe I should stick to fruit, like these beautiful figs that drop on the sidewalk and into the street just around the corner from us. They must be a neglected student house, because the inhabitants  don’t seem so interested in picking the fruit. They aren’t the sweetest, ruby red-inside black Mission figs, but in a paper bag, these ripened nicely enough.


Broiled figs with fennel.

I broiled some of them with fennel seeds for a hearty arugula salad recipe I found in The Spice Bible, which I reviewed a while back for The Sun. The recipe called for first slathering quince paste on a pork tenderloin and then broiling it. (If you don’t have membrillo, you could substitute another paste, chutney or jam.) Then you broil the fennel-crusted figs and toss both with arugula, in a light balsamic-olive oil vinaigrette. I had plenty of quince paste on hand from cooking for my Kitchen Window piece which runs Nov. 11. Speaking of quince, much of our October KBOO Food Show focused on the beguiling fruit.

And speaking of quince, we stewed some in to tarten up the applesauce I canned with a neighborhood group yesterday.

And speaking of quinces and figs, it appears there is even a new cookbook devoted to these sensuous, perfume-laden Persian fruits.


Apple-quince sauce.


Quince, Pork Tenderloin, Fennel-crusted Broiled Fig Salad on Arugula.

Written by baltimoregon

November 9, 2009 at 1:31 am

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Pork Pork

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Restaurant-style pork chops with rosemary polenta and grilled quince.

Restaurant-style pork chops with rosemary polenta and grilled quince.

We really live, or at least eat, like kings here in Oregon. Grant us our one indulgence in these hard times, please. Thick cuts of pork twice in one weekend, oh my! We had milk-braised pork loin at a special quince-themed dinner at Big River Friday. Hard work researching an article. Perhaps that succulent meat prodded us to spring for bone-in loin chops from the Sweet Briar Farms stand at the Saturday market. Their smokey slab bacon was also to die for with pickled quince in Big River’s silky pumpkin soup.

Sam Sifton’s maple-glazed pork chops and rosemary polenta recipe also  inspired the purchase. The man loves his meat. When will we be treated to his regular restaurant reviews? Here he recreates a popular Brooklyn bistro staple that was surprisingly easy to make at home. I didn’t go all out with the polenta, just boiled up the scant grains I had with some butter and rosemary. Didn’t have green apples but I’m swimming in quince and grilled in the maple pork juices, it was a tangy substitute. The chops were sweet and steak-like, with enough meat to feed us again tonight. The carmelized pecans and crystallized ginger made for an unfussy yet elegant garnish. There’s just nothing like open-range, acorn or hazelnut-foraging pork. Amy, we cooked it well (and that study was funded by industrial pork lobbyists).

So cute when they're young (at My Pharm in Monroe).

So cute when they're young (at My Pharm in Monroe).

Yet so nasty months later.

Yet so nasty months later.

I’m looking forward to a Slow Food Corvallis event later this fall, where we’ll taste-test a heritage breed alongside your supermarket Smithfield variety. The later will be hard to eat. The tasting will be at Gathering Together Farm, but the November date has apparently been pushed back because the Hampshire or Berkshire isn’t ready for slaughter yet. I’d love one as a pet!

Written by baltimoregon

October 13, 2009 at 12:02 am

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Perfect Picnic Fare: Paprika-Rubbed Pork and Egg Salad Nicoise

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Egg Salad Nicoise

Egg Salad Nicoise.


Paprika-and-Thyme Rubbed Pork Tenderloins, Served with Pickled Red Onions and Blue Cheese.

Looking to spice up your next picnic? The latest issue of MIX Magazine, for which I did my Newport restaurant reviews, offers some fresh suggestions. And the food tastes just as good when prepared and even consumed inside.

The Nicoise Egg Salad showcased a tantalizing array of flavors. I cut the eggs back to six, since I’m not a big egg salad fan, and added more tuna and chopped garden-fresh cucumbers instead to soak up the garlicky mayonnaise. A dollop of the fresh pesto I had made added some zest. Delicious with fresh sliced tomatoes. It was certainly worth splurging  on Oregon albacore tuna for this dish.

Though we tend toward vegetarianism at home, we seem to be eating more and more meat these days. Perhaps it’s because Oregon has so many local, sustainable sources that we can feel good about (farms close enough that we can visit, which most seem to encourage). On 10 percent off member day at the food co-op, I sprung for a Lonely Lane pork tenderloin with this MIX recipe in mind. I need to get more into spice rubs. Applying the aromatic blend really gives you a chance to viscerally connect with the meat before slamming it in the oven or slapping it on the grill. Smoked paprika can be an elusive ingredient to find, but standard paprika is no substitute. And the earthy seasoning contrasted nicely with the tart onions and sweet blue cheese.


Pickled onions from my garden.

Pickled onions from my garden.

Making up the pickled red onions was extra fun since the bulbs came from my garden. Note to self: plant more onions next year. I’ve had real success with onions, garlic, leeks, lettuce and herbs — items so indispensible in the kitchen but often overlooked. When you’ve got them in the garden, they’re always on hand. Just two little cucumber plants have been incredibly prolific as well. I’m grateful and still in awe that I didn’t kill off everything.

Onion right before pulling.

Onion right before pulling.

Onions and other friends waiting to be picked upon our return.

Onions and other friends waiting to be picked upon our return.

Written by baltimoregon

August 17, 2009 at 12:39 am

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