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.

More of Everything Else, please

muffins

It didn’t feel like an Adventuring Sort of Day, even though Juno stalled just shy of letting us in on the snow dump. It was blustery and I felt chilled unless I was standing inches from the fire. Snow was swirling ’round outside our windows, but didn’t seem to land anywhere. It was a Chocolate Banana Muffins for Breakfast sort of Day, instead.

fivesenses101

It was a taste of sunshine from the south kind of day, a daydreaming of green things while we pored over our notes from myriad seed catalogs and planned our garden sort of day.

plant

The increase in daylight hours does all of us good, even in the thick of a winter storm. It sets me to thinking hopeful thoughts, whereas weeks ago, in the deepest darkness of the year, I struggled to get through even the most basic, every day tasks. Not least of all, it makes sledding more sparkly, and the boy likes to stay outside digging in the ice until dinnertime.

progress

Less moping means more of Everything Else.

fivesenses103

I revel in this mid-Winter time, when my brain is messy with ideas and there are so many unfinished projects around the house. Big projects, like our kitchen-in-progress, and the wee projects that remind us it’s okay to stop moving every once in a while and not feel guilty about it. If only for a few minutes in a day, while my eyes search and my fingers fit puzzle pieces together, I can move freely about in the brain clutter and start tidying up.

There’s a lot going on in there. I hope this is the year I figure out how to pick the choicest bits out and share them with the world.

Errata and: How to Put Five Pounds of Vegetables Into a Half Gallon Jar

Welcome!

Well, that was a bit longer of a hiatus than I had planned. I’ll be changing things up a bit here; doing some housekeeping. In the meantime, if you found your way here via the Hibernate workshop with the lovely Heather, I’m afraid I have some errata to report on the Bee Comforted hot water bottle cozy! It’s just one line:

errata

The eyelet round should read:

*k2tog, k1, yo, p1* repeat from * to end of row.

It was there in my notes all along. Sorry if I confuzzled you!

enchantedmesa

In sweater-land, I just started the fun part on my Enchanted Mesa pullover. I’m using sportweight, which feels like a slog since playing with a bulky project, but it’s interesting enough to keep me going. I’ve lost steam on the body of my fingering weight sweater, so hoping to complete the Mesa as a “break” from that. Knit, knit, knit. For so many more inches. Couldn’t handle the tiny, tiny yarn any longer.

cabbages

In other news, there are still vegetables at the farmer’s market in January in Vermont. I plan on purchasing cabbage each weekend until there isn’t any, and doing up a batch of new kraut every Sunday. It’s insurance, like successive plantings in the garden. Hopefully, I forget what they all are and have lovely surprises months from now. Because C has been on me to start processing the garlic we harvested back in August (yeah, yeah, let’s talk about this later), Garlic Kraut is what happened last night.

In the half-hour it took to whip this up, the sky went from sparkling, icy afternoon to dim and dusky, so here is the result, complete with dramatic lighting:

garlickraut

In three weeks, I’ll put it in the fridge, and try not to touch it for another couple of months. It will be challenging, but I probably have enough purple kimchi and gingered kohlrabi to see me through. Here’s what I did:

Garlic Kraut

5 heads cabbage, shredded

3 oz. garlic, peeled and crushed with the side of a knife (for me, this was 5 heads)

enough carrots, sliced, to bring the total weight of vegetables, after prep, up to 5 pounds (weighing is important here!)

3 tablespoons Real Salt

Aaaaah, the simplicity is stunning!

Mix thoroughly in a large (very large) bowl or a food-grade bucket, with your hands. Once thoroughly combined, I like to let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes or so before I start to pack it. This time, I didn’t bother pounding it in the bucket, but rather just added small amounts to the jar at a time, and then really packed it in with a wooden pounder after each addition. By the time it was packed to the neck, there was a good inch of brine over the top when pressed. I placed one full cabbage leaf over the mixture and then weighed it down with an itty bitty pyrex bowl (the kind that comes with a set of nesting bowls like this), but you can use any glass weight. Stay away from metal and plastic in your ferments.

This is the magic formula for me: 5 pounds vegetation, 3 tablespoons salt. Works every time and fits perfectly in a half-gallon jar. I should probably do something more scientific, but why mess with it? We had maybe two cups of unsquished mix leftover, so I threw it into the soup that was simmering on the stove, and all was well. The worms in our little worm composter are currently enjoying the cabbage cores and carrot skin. Life is beautiful.