My version of nesting for the baby has been to make a ton of food and freeze the leftovers. And since the freezer was starting to fill up, I decided it was time to cook that organic, Berkshire pork shoulder roast I’d been saving.
I got this piece of meat from Becker Lane Organic Farm this summer. Coincidentally, my wife happens to be from the next town over from where the farm is. And even though we do make the 180 mile trip back to visit my in-laws regularly, this pig had to travel all the way to Lincoln Park for me to find it at the Lincoln Park Farmers Market.
1. sear it: this hunk of meat was pretty expensive, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t screw it up. So, I started out with a Cook’s Country pork shoulder roast recipe, and even though this was going to cook in the crock pot, the first step was to sear the meat. Then, once seared, put it in the crock pot. It’s a snug fit.
2. sauté it: dice one and a half onions sauté it in the pan that seared the pork. This will make the onions very yummy. Once the onions start to brown, add 5 or 6 minced cloves of garlic.
3. paste it: add a tablespoon or so of tomato paste and mix it thoroughly with the onions and garlic for a full minute or so. Anne Burrell says that you have to do this to tomato sauces. Otherwise, it tastes raw. She’s right.
Tomato paste is annoying because just about every Italian-ish recipe calls for about a tablespoon of it, but they sell it in the grocery store in tubes (which are way expensive) or 12 ounce cans. So I scoop them out onto a wax paper lined tray and freeze them. Once frozen, I bag them up and throw however many I need into each recipe. Each ball is about 2 teaspoons because that’s how big my scooper is.
4. deglaze it: once the tomato paste is cooked (and you’ll know it’s cooked when it starts to take on a dirt/muddy color), add chicken stock. The recipe I was trying to follow called for only half a cup, but when I make chicken stock, I freeze it in 1C pucks. So, I took a puck from the freezer and dropped it into the sauce pan. Once it all melts, let is simmer for a second, and it will start to thicken.
5. de-can it: add 1 large can of crushed tomatoes. Let this simmer for a minute or for however long it takes you to peel and slice 1 pound of carrots.
6. de-pan it: get the sauce out of the sauté pan and add it to the crock pot.
7. sauté it: add a little extra oil to the now-empty sauce pan and cook the carrots until they start to get a little color. After that, put them on top of the pork and sauce.
8. crock it: cover and cook on high for a couple hours and then low for a couple. Longer is better. My total cook time was about five hours.
9. flip it: every hour and a half or so, flip the meat over and give things a stir. The crock pot is really full, so do this carefully, or you will end up wearing it, and my wife will tease you. If the liquid bubbles a lot, turn the crock pot down to low.
10. eat it: Once the smell of pork overwhelms you, or about five hours later, carefully pull the shoulder out of the pot and let it rest. In the meantime, use a slotted spoon to fish out all the sliced carrots. Then, fish out the tomato and other veggie chunks to use as a sauce.
I tried slicing the roast into slices like the recipe did, but my pork work just start to pull apart, which was fine. Top with the tomatoes and a little bit of the crock pot liquid. Do not throw away the rest of the crock pot liquid. It’s rich and thick and has a wonderful crimson color.
The pork was delicious. It was everything you like about pork shoulder, and it was the epitome of crock pot cooking in the winter. It warmed you from the inside out, and I could swear that the area around the dinner table was a balmy 10 to 15 degrees warmer than the rest of the apartment.
The carrots, too, were delicious. My wife claims to not-like carrots, so we have not really eaten many of them over the years. But lately, we have both been really enjoying carrots when they come out of crock pots or roasts. These were sweet and not too mushy and strong dose of meatiness permeating throughout.
This was my first time cooking a heritage pig, and it was my first time cooking an organic pig. Was it worth it? Absolutely, and especially so when it came to the crock pot cooking liquid (I will talk more about this particular crock pot liquid in a future post). But, it was several times more expensive than regular grocery store pork shoulder. So, I don’t think I will go organic every time I make pork, but it certainly is a nice and relatively affordable treat to indulge in a couple times per year.
Tomorrow, we will talk about the cornbread stuffing.