And March, it came in…

…with bird song, duck eggs (for the first time in months), and tiny, glittering snowflakes. I didn’t even mind that last bit, because they were backlit by a rising sun.

I’ll be honest; I was starting to feel a bit like this knitting project:

brokenneedleblog

Tired. Broken. And with only the potential to be a warm thing.

It’s still not warm, by any stretch, but there’s something about the way the word March sounds coming out of my mouth, and the way it feels like hope. It stokes an inner fire I thought I’d let go out.

duckeggs

We lost too many of our girls to bitter cold temps this winter, and will be collecting some eggs to hatch. Looking out at this thick blanket of snow, I can hardly imagine duckling feet padding around, but the thought makes me smile. With ducklings will be soil and seeds and digging and barn-raising and all the goodness of warm, bright days ahead. Bring it.

In the meantime, audio books and neon knitting are keeping me sane.

springproject

Happy March!

When life hands you clementines…

pulledporksmall

…make pulled pork.

Also, if you have a very busy week ahead, a crock pot, and a few minutes in the morning…

…make pulled pork.

It has suddenly become serious deep winter here, with an 18″ dumping of snow the other day, and lows in the double-digit negatives regularly peppering the forecast. As much as I’d like to curl up under blankets, life must go on, and it feels busier than ever lately. Dinner needs to come together quickly at the end of the day, and it needs to be warming for body and soul.

We are lucky, in southern Vermont, to have a bounty of locally raised Everything. During the years we don’t raise our own pigs, there is plenty of pasture-raised pork from small farms to choose from. The cost is not insignificant, however. A four-pound hunk of shoulder can put you out $30+, so when we don’t have a freezer full of homegrown, we tend to go much lighter in our meat consumption, and stretch it as far as we can.

I’m working on ways to cut our food budget and still eat whole, local foods, so perhaps buying a $30 piece of meat seems ludicrous, but it was the only meat I purchased for the week.

Since the last few days were insane and full of other extracurricular photo projects, I didn’t shoot pics of gorgeously plated up dinner. We were lucky to all come together at a decent hour to eat together every night. It’s a point we make, unless C is going to be particularly late (which the goats don’t really allow him to be, anyway), to be present at the evening meal. So, you know, it’s annoying when I take pictures. I’ll be refining the recipe and shooting it for an ebook soon, but here’s the rough version in the meantime, and how we stretched it for several meals for three people:

Citrus-Garlic Pulled Pork

4-pound pork shoulder
2 onions, chunked
2 carrots, chunked
1 fennel bulb, sliced
2 heads garlic, crushed and chopped
rind and juice from 2 oranges (or a few clementines, if that’s what you have!)
2 1/2 tsp cumin
a sprig or two fresh rosemary if you have it, or 1 tablespoon dried
other Italian herbs, if you feel so inclined (I like a little thyme and oregano)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 – 1/2 cup broth (whatever you’ve got. Water will work here, also)

If you’re feeling fancy, and have the time, you can rub the spices, salt, pepper, and garlic all over the pork, let it sit for a few hours or overnight, and then brown the meat in fat (like bacon fat, lard, or oil), before placing into the crock pot.

I just don’t have time for that, so I throw all the ingredients except for the meat into the crock pot, swirl it around to mix it up, and then place the pork shoulder on top, and it know that it will be fabulous.

Set to low and go about your day.

Alternatively, you could put this all in a dutch oven and cook in a low-heat oven for several hours, but if you’re a busy family, I promise you that a crock pot is one of the best kitchen tool investments you can make.

Important tip! Don’t give in to the temptation to add more liquid to the pot. More juice than you can imagine will be released from the beast as it cooks, and adding extra liquid will put you at risk for boiling your pork, instead of slowly braising. Boiled pork = tough pork, and you want this to be tender and falling apart.

So, what did we do with it?

Day one: Pulled Pork Dosas

Dosa batter is a brilliant and beautiful thing. It’s an easy to make, fermented food delivery system. It’s basically a sourdough crepe made from lentils and rice, and takes about 5 minutes of active time to make a half gallon of batter that will last a couple of months in the fridge (not that we ever keep it that long). Leda Scheintaub has the perfect recipe in her book Cultured Foods for Your Kitchen. We love this book in its entirety, and if you come to the Brattleboro Farmer’s Market, she’ll sign a copy for you! She’s my local food hero.

Anyway, dosas cook quickly, and our meal came together in about 15 minutes. Pulled pork, leftover garlic-y beans from the night before, and sauerkraut went into the dosas, plus a salad, and we were pretty blissed out.

Day Two: Pulled Pork and Sweet Potato Stew

Here’s what happened:
I chopped up an onion and a couple of Japanese sweet potatoes (purple skin, pale flesh…less cloyingly sweet than the orange variety, which my son won’t eat). If you’re so inclined, add a head of garlic, crushed and chopped. In my opinion, nearly every dish could use a head of garlic.

Saute this for 10 minutes or so in lard or coconut oil. Then, add the leftover pulled pork and all it’s broth-y juices. Add more broth or water, if necessary, bring to a boil, skim, and then cover and let simmer until the sweet potato is soft. Here’s where I like to add a chopped up leafy green, turn off the heat, and let it all rest for five minutes while I ask O to set the table for about the fortieth time.

Day Three: Quiche, Frittata, Shepherd’s Pie, or Pot Pie

These are my favorite ways to stretch leftover stew into a meal that doesn’t feel as much like leftovers as simply eating stew again. There wasn’t quite enough leftover for that to be an option, anyway. Frittata is the easiest option. I just spread the leftovers in the bottom of a well-buttered or oiled cast iron pan (unless there’s too much liquid, in which case, I cook off some of the liquid first, or thicken with starch), pour my usual herbed egg mixture on top, and bake the thing. Quiche is the same, but with a crust. Crusts tend to be a weekend thing for me, so during the week, the other option would be Shepherd’s Pie with whipped sweet potato for the topping and corn added to the filling.

In the case of the stew and frittata, we bring leftovers for lunches the next day. So, the $30+ hunk of meat, seeming extravagant at the time of purchase, fed three people for several meals, stretching through more than half the week.

My apologies for lack of photographic evidence.

I did say ebook, though. More on that later.