We here at CF successfully completed our first pork pick up day for our customers! This was the end result of many firsts on the farm: first “Mama Pig,” first litter of babies (10!), and first processing and distribution of half hog shares. For those that have been following us for a while, this was a major accomplishment for this small family farm and a very long time in the making. Farmer B didn’t sleep at all the night before and said the day felt like Christmas morning!
At the pork pickup, we served up some fresh breakfast sausage and had some of the best conversations about food and cooking with everyone. I was so inspired by the porcine pontifications and as promised, here are some links and instructions to recipes and tutorials; our tiny contribution to your pork education. Let’s get the most out of your meat! Even if you aren’t in the business of trying to get the most out of a pork share and are just a casual cooker of swine, we hope this can help you discover new horizons in bacon, chops, and ham.
Over the years we have built quite a nice repertoire of skills and recipes, so enjoy our favorites. I have posted some explanations broken down by cut of meat, and at the very bottom you will find a list of books for your piggie pleasure for further reference. And we would love links and instructions to your favorite recipes too! Please post your faves and don’t forget to send pics of your finished products.
Cooking all of your half share of Callywood Farms pork…
Neck bones – We encourage many of you to take these. We LOVE this portion of pork. It is super easy to prepare and is good stand alone or part of a dish. Below you will see two different preparations. The first is the a pack of neck bones thrown in the crockpot with BBQ sauce. Farmer B often makes this when he has to make dinner for himself, ha! A typical man dinner: pork, slaw, beer.
Most often, we throw a package into the crockpot along with beans. The best pork n’ beans ever. The neck bones add fat, gelatin, and flavor without sacrificing your delicious bacon or another cut of pork. You’ll have to extract the bones from the crockpot (pic on top left) and spend a few minutes picking out the chunks of meat (pic on bottom left) and then throw it back in the crockpot and mix it back in (pic on right), but we have found that it is always worth the effort.
Ham – We have cured and smoked many hams over the years with great success. We have roasted a “fresh” ham as well and both preparations are delicious.
Finding a container large enough to cure and brine your ham is a challenge if you kept your ham whole. Many chose to order a half ham which is easier to wrangle. Below is a full ham submerged in curing brine. It then needs to fit in your refrigerator for a week or so, so you need to account for that too. We have only home cured using nitrites/pink salt, which we order online. I find Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie book to be the best reference for curing pork (link to book at bottom).
Out of the brine and to the smoker!
And on the smoker. You can also bake after curing for a more honey-baked ham approach, as well.
Out of the smoker and oh so delicious…
Fresh Ham with Lemon, Garlic, and Rosemary – You guys. This is one of the best pork recipes I have ever tried. It was so so good. We made this last Easter served with freshly creamed spinach from the garden…it was one of those meals you’ll always remember. My picture looks quite different from the magazine, but one thing to NOT LEAVE OUT is the cherry jam sauce. DIVINE.
Feet and hocks – The feet and hocks can be cured and smoked or used fresh. Most feet and/or hocks you find in recipes will call for cured/smoked hocks. It is often used as a sub for bacon in recipes, particularly soups. If you are curing a ham, just throw your hocks/feet into the same container and cook alongside your ham. Plan accordingly to weight with your brine and smoking time/temp.
You can also just throw the fresh feet/hocks into your dish like the neck bones. Just know that if your original recipe calls for cured/smoked hocks (example: split pea soup) and you use fresh, you’ll probably have to add salt.
Well, I could write a book on this topic. But here’s the low down real quick. There are two types of lard: leaf lard and not leaf lard. Leaf lard is the cream of the crop and is the coveted lard for baking and pastry. You can use it as a substitute for butter or vegetable shortening and it’s dairy free (for those with an intolerance), non-gmo (unlike shortening), and actually healthy. Lard has gotten a bad rap, but when it comes from heritage pigs fed a rich diet, it is actually very low in saturated fats and heart healthy. Leaf lard is the fat you find surrounding the kidneys and internal organs of the pig. It is pure and white. You might find some pieces of meat on it and that’s fine, but you’ll need to render it. You won’t have much of it, so you can choose to render it separately if you want to reserve it for pastry use or your can render it alongside all your fatback and get a large batch of lard.
For some, this combo lard comes out clean enough to use in pastry, for some it doesn’t and they choose to use it more like olive oil to cook with. Your choice. With leaf lard you won’t get any cracklins’ and with fat back it may not come out clean enough (white/odorless) to use in pastry. I love making a lard/butter pie crust myself. I also love using lard as a cooking oil, it maintains a high heat (unlike olive oil) and if it isn’t totally “clean” lends a bacon-y taste to your dish (hellooooo cornbread).
My favorite way to render lard is in the crockpot (my crockpot gets a lot of use and I actually have many sizes, ha!). You can also render on the stove top.
Rendering lard in a crockpot
To Render Lard – Stove top
Perhaps the most under rated cut from the pig. The jowl/cheek produces a very similar marbling to the belly. Many customers chose to cure and smoke theirs alongside the belly. The jowl is a smaller cut of meat that is perfect to try curing bacon at home with. If you would like to try something different, we have done a very nice braise with ours before that was a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner ragu over homemade pasta!
Pork cheeks braised in red wine
For those that get a couple packages of plain ground pork and would like to try your hand at sausage making, I highly recommend it! For our household, we order ground pork in 5 lbs. bags which we season and then re-freeze in packages of 1 lb. and take out as needed. Though our butcher uses top shelf organic spices to make the sausage, we like making our own unique sausage flavors and enjoy the creativity and process of having one of a kind sausage. Again, my favorite reference for the best sausage recipes is Charcuterie. I particularly LOVE their breakfast sausage (fresh ginger, garlic, sage…is so so good), spicy italian (I add lots of basil and garlic), and chorizo.
I can recommend the kitchen aid grinding and sausage stuffing attachment. It’s good for a beginner and making small batches of sausage.
Here’s a quick collection of some of our very favorite recipes that we keep coming back to over the years.
One pan whiskey pork chops
Cocoa and chile pork chops
Bourbon and apple juice ribs
Bacon Jam – You need to make this. This is a base recipe. Add/edit/ take out to your preference. This is perfect to make for a special guest, but be aware that it will go very, very fast.
Books & Products
Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and David Polcyn
Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey
Kitchen Aid Grinder and Sausage Stuffer