The Year of the Pig – Part 4: Slightly Past the Half Way Point

Strictly speaking, I have slightly less than five months to go in my year-long pig experiment. To date, there have been half a dozen chickens + a couple of cuts of beef, one duck, and two rabbits (and a lot of lentils) supplementing our pork-focused diet.
I cook with lard fairly frequently, and use stock made from pork bones (as much as any other bones – see above) – in fact, I’ve got another round of bone stock in the slow cooker right now – but the majority of the half-a-pig that we picked up last May is still in the freezer. The leaf lard remains un-rendered, the kidneys, tongue, and other bits and bobs un-cooked. Though I did make Creton (Quebecois spread made from ground pork, cream – I used goat’s milk + a couple of tablespoons of lard – onion, and pie spices) from one pound of my ground pork (It makes about 3C when it’s all said and done, is thoroughly tasty on crackers.
I’ve learned that there’s not much eating on a pork hock, though the meat is marvelously flavourful and shreds up a treat for pulled pork sandwiches or stew (the next day, after cooking it for 8 hours). I’ve also learned that, as much as I love a good roast or braise, they don’t work so well if you need things to thaw out in less than 72 hours. Next time I buy half a pig in one go, I’ll ask our provider to have most of the hams (which aren’t cured, so they’re just more pork, basically) cut into ham steaks that I can thaw inside of 10 hours and cook like pork chops in the oven. That, alone, will probably mean we go through our half-a-pig faster than we’ve been doing.
On that subject: I suspect our half-a-pig will last well past May 30th (so this may become the year-and-a-half of the pig, or similar). When I started this experiment, I was more than a little worried that we would run out of pig halfway through (didn’t happen!) by eating too much meat, too often. So I made a point of cooking lentil and bean dishes once a week or so (using bone stock and poorly-rendered lard to impart hints of umami to them, so I wouldn’t call them vegetarian dishes by any stretch of the imagination) and making sure to stick with stews and pasta dishes that could use limited (left-over) pork augmented with cheese and/or beans for most of the other weekly meals.
Now that it’s officially Winter (seriously – December 26th involved getting a solid two feet of snow dumped on our heads, followed by -30 (with wind-chill) temperatures all of a week later), I’m more than happy to slow-cook All The Things (or at least many of the things) and rely on my preserves to get dinners on the table. At the moment, we’re both a little sick of finger food, having been eating Nibblies for the past 3+ weeks, so I’m focusing on stews and pasta dishes that make lots of use of the heaps of left-overs and stocked-up-upon root veggies[1] crowding my fridge, while still being hearty and filling and requiring of a fork to enjoy. It’s working out quite nicely, I don’t mind saying. It turns out that left-over creton makes a really lovely addition to a molee sauce (the pie spices do it), and pot-pie-without-the-pie (parboiled root veggies & nuts, fried onions & mushrooms, leftover meat of whatever variety, and alfredo sauce[2], all mixed up in a well-greased skillet and topped with parmasan cheese, then baked for 20 minutes until everything’s bubbly) is shockingly delicious and an amazing way to use up Leftover Everything.
Going forward, I have no idea if I’ll use up the rest of Francis The Pig more quickly, now that it’s winter and the thought of having the oven on for hours isn’t anathema. I confess to hoping that my experiment in economic and ethical eating spills over well past the 1-year point and we are munching on Francis until next October or similar, but we shall see.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] When I did the Big Stock-Up of goodies for Winter Solstice – a grocery-run that includes something like 10L of non-booze-based beverages – I got everything delivered to my door. So, naturally, I made sure to invest in HUGE bags of baby potatoes, onions, and carrots while I was at it. Like you do.
[2] which I finally bit the bullet and made from scratch. It’s marvelously easy, and super-cheap even with the parmesan cheese involved, so I’ve been making a lot of it… and wanting to invest in a Pressure Canner that much more as a result. >.>

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