9/12 CSA Bounty from the fields of Pennsylvania!

Hi Everyone – Adam here. I haven’t died nor have I abandoned the blog completely. I’ve just started grad school and that makes being a regular poster here a little bit harder. I thought I’d take a break from Microeconomics to share some pictures of the bounty that arrived today from the CSA we joined here in Washington. For more details follow below the fold.

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A Summer Southern Feastly Picnic

Saturday just past Laura and I cooked up a little indoor picnic for some amazing new friends all of whom just happened to be on staff with or hosts for AirBnB. There was cole slaw. There was cornbread. There were collards. There were sweet potato fries. There was even a syrupy berry salad for dessert. But! The core of the meal was an 11 lbs Boston Butt that I turned into some of the best pulled pork we’ve ever had. If I do say so myself. Now, a battalion of smokers, BBQers, and grill masters have spilled an ocean’s worth of ink and probably some blood on the best way to make this Southern staple and I have no doubt that any number of them can tell me exactly what I did wrong and why I am a heretic for having done it my way. So, I’d now like to spill a little myself describing how I did it so that you, dear reader, can have my Carolina Pulled Pork at home with only a little bit of effort.

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I have to admit upfront that this was the first time I had ever done pulled pork solo and so I relied on a few hours of internet research and a long conversation with my best friend, Whit, on the best way to get the job done. All that being said – here’s the way it happened:

  1. Obtain the Butt – I got lucky on this one. I was pretty sure when we were putting the menu together that the kind folks at Harvey’s Market would have what I was looking for and, lo and behold, they came through with a 22-day dry-aged pork shoulder and we’re even kind enough to do all the trimming for me. For those that don’t already know, dry aging is a process of allowing natural enzymes in the meat post-slaughter to activate and so tenderize the meat. 22 days is a long aging and made for a very tender shoulder.
  2. Brine the Butt – In my brief research, my experience being around pulled pork growing up, and through my conversation with Whit, it was made clear to me that brining your meat is absolutely necessary to getting the best results at the end. All Brining means is soaking the meat in a heavily salted water (with a few other choice seasonings) for 4-18 hours. Be sure to do this in the fridge. No one needs to die for their pork. The brining process  improves on the meat’s natural juiciness and infuses it with the flavors added to the brine. In my case that was a hickory smoked salt from Maine, my own dry rub mix, and a few bay leaves.
  3. Massage that Butt with Dry Rub – this last step before cooking is absolutely essential to having Carolina Pulled Pork. Take whatever mix of kosher salt, black pepper, and spices you want (mine is a secret) and shovel lots and lots of it onto the brined pork that you have pulled out of the liquid and patted dry. I really mean lots and lots. You want the pork to look like the first picture below. Massage the mix into the meat being sure you get into all those cracks and creases. It’s the dry rub that turns into what the old hands at this call a “bark.” That bark is what provides the sharp points of flavor in old-fashioned pulled pork that everyone loves so much.
  4. Slow Cook that Beautiful Butt – once the pork was thoroughly covered in dry rub, I lightly covered it with foil and put it in the oven at 215ºF. At that low temperature, the meat had to cook for 18 hours before it reached the goal – a core internal temperature of 200ºF. It was a long wait but it was totally worth it. When it was all done and had rested for about 30 minutes, the shoulder bone slid right out with no resistance at all and the meat pulled apart with two forks just like it was supposed to.

Those are the four steps to delicious Carolina Pulled Pork. Easy-peasy. Except that it takes three days. Enjoy these before and after pictures!


Things you ought to know about me – the Adam Edition

Damn it. Now I’m bashful.

(The never happens. I’m the social one around here usually)

Laura has already mentioned the important points you need to know about my cooking:

  • I don’t really believe in recipes – don’t get me wrong, they’re useful and all, but only for ideas.
  • I like meat. No. Really. I’m totally down with eating animals. Meat is murder. Tasty, tasty murder.
  • I started learning to cook as soon as I could stand tall enough to help my Momma at the stove.

There is more to the story than that though. I love the kitchen. I love cooking and I love feeding people. To be perfectly honest, I think it might have something to do with being a born and bred Southerner. You know – maybe. That whole hospitality shtick. It’s hard to tell.

My first memory of cooking is sitting at our kitchen table watching my Momma make chili in the bright red Le Cruset ductch oven she had been given as a wedding present. 12 years before I was born. 25 years later she is still using it to make  chili. Amazing chili. Reminds you of home, love, and everything-you-ever-need-including-the-sea’s-salty-air chili. You may be wondering what the secret to this unbelievable chili is. This chili that was an important part of my childhood. (Especially since it is the dish my Momma made to feed the hordette that followed my brother around when he was a teenager.)

Back to that red pot for a minute. It’s a great pot. Awesome enough that I convinced Laura that we should ask our families to get us one for a wedding present. They came through. In spades. Ours is bigger.

Now I’m going to tell you a story and a secret. The secret of my Momma’s chili.

I remember the way she started it because it was the way that she started all of her Meals-in-a-bowl meals (this is a technical term and  shall become familiar to you all, trust me.) – pouring enough jade green olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot, turing up the fire to heat it up, and then adding bright, white, diced onions and LOTS of garlic to sauté. Once she had clarified the onions, she’d add ground beef. Two pounds of red, raw ground beef to brown. She stood over the pot stirring the meat, garlic, and onions together until the meat had browned and then she added a chili mix. That’s right. A mix. (Queue dramatic music) Specifically two boxes of Fantastic World Vegetarian Chili Mix. That’s the secret. That’s it. My Momma added soy protein and a commercial chili mix to her chili. It’s what makes it so thick that you stand a spoon up in it. So hearty that one bowl is enough to see you through to the middle of the next day.

Once she had thoroughly mixed that into the ground beef, onions, and garlic, she would add pico de gallo. Otherwise known as Pace Medium Salsa, two of the big jars.

Now, I prefer to use Hot and/or to just make my own pico. But that’s because I can be a snob who has too much time on his hands.

Back to the chili. With the pico in, my Momma would add two or three cans of black beans, a can or two of pinto beans, and then a can of diced tomatoes. She salted the pot. Added a little water to get things thin enough to stew properly and then she put the lid on. She waited while the pot heated up. Occasionally taking the lid off to stir the pot. Once the whole pot was simmering happily she turned the heat down, put the lid back on, and went to her study for a little while.

Thinking about that chili again has got me going – I’ll just have to make a pot of it myself. There will be pictures. And if Laura can corner me, I may just have to put together a recipe to post up here.

In the mean time, here are my two favorite tools in our kitchen:

The Dutch Oven and my Chef's Knife