Monday, January 30, 2006

Nice butt.

Helen over at Beyond Salmon made herself some pork butt recently, and seeing her picture made me start obsessing about pork. You see,
I had used up the last of my Tamworth about two months ago. What to do? First, I called my favorite pig farmer, Jeffrey from Mamashoe World Headquarters. God bless him, he was willing not only to sell me a whole bunch of pig at the "whole pig" price, but he was willing to drop it off in the city. Now I only had to wait a few days for my pork.

So of course I broke down and went to Whole Foods. How could I wait a few days?

The pork above is organic, but not pastured. There's definitely a difference. This pork was good, but the fat was not edible on its own. I can't even tell you how good the pastured Tamworth pig fat is. I probably shouldn't be confessing publicly that I eat the fatty bits all by themselves, but if you only knew how good they were, you would understand. Still, this pork was pretty good, mostly because it's hard to go wrong with a Boston Butt.

My favorite cut of pork is probably the shoulder, which has the deep flavor of the butt, but without quite the fat. The butt's pretty good, though a bit fatty if you can't cook it slow and low over an open flame. The loin is useless, at least if you're buying at the grocery store.

At the end of my college-vegetarian period, I started cooking meat for the first time, and I was confused about pork roasts. I kept going to the store and asking for the best pork roast. Of course, I was given the loin, and I could never understand why it didn't taste like the roasts my grandmother used to make. Turns out that the "best" in American standards means the blandest meat, like the breasts of turkey and chicken. Once I figured out shoulders, butts and fresh hams, I was in business.

I cooked the butt above using a variation of a recipe from Please to the Table. Of course, the original recipe is for goose, and the "stuffing" it is roasted on includes green cabbage and apple cider. I used pork, no cabbage, and beer, but I retained the paprika/caraway rub and the mix of sauerkraut, prunes, and apples. This is peasant food, anyway - it will hold up to endless variation. Which is good, because soon I'll have a couple shoulders and a couple butts to play with... Posted by Picasa


lindy said...

I like the shoulder best, too,for any kind of roasting, but the butt comes in a close 2nd.
This looks really inviting.

lindy said...

PS.I was going to call a baking post "Nice Buns", but I chickened out for fear of the disappointed google traffic, and resulting comments I might get.
Thinking about it now, you can always change the title of the post if there's an overwhelming response of that sort!

mzn said...

Nice picture there. I use the loin in stirfries but otherwise I agree that it's useless.

I confess to being not quite clued into the distinction between shoulder and butt. Some sources say that butt is Boston talk for shoulder but you are actually in Boston and that's not how you use it. And Lindy's in Pittsburgh and she seems to speak your language...

Pyewacket said...

Lindy - no disappointed butt-searchers yet! I assume that people looking for that sort of thing on the internet use somewhat more, um, blunt terminology.

mzn - Here's a link to a site with a nice diagram of pork cuts.
I have heard people say that Boston Butt is really just a name for the shoulder, but that's not quite right. The butt roast comes from higher up, sort of behind the head, and is boneless, while the shoulder (or picnic shoulder), usually includes the bone and consists of what would be the upper arm and shoulder. Of course, you can bone the shoulder, but normally people don't. Butt is fattier, perfect for pulled pork, and shoulder makes the best roasts.

I love those charts. They really make me want to butcher a side of meat, though I suspect that's not really that fun in reality.

Helen said...

Hey, that is a nice butt :)

Would you happen to have a good recipe for how to roast pork? All the pork I cook is usually braised (unless it's tenderloin). I've never had any luck with loin roasts either, so I just gave up on roasting. Does the shoulder come out really chewy if roasted?

Thanks :)

Pyewacket said...

I like to marinade a shoulder overnight, usually in a mix of red pepper flakes, rum, brown sugar and lime juice, then dry it, brown the outside and cook on low. No official recipe. The shoulder isn't very tough, but the marinade helps a bit, too. It isn't a beef tenderloin, though - it's not chewy, but it's not really eat-with-a-spoon tender.

I prefer to do any pork over open fire, but alas, no bbq anymore, so I'm stuck with the oven. If you use that marinade, a spice rub of cumin, cayenne, black pepper, and allspice is the thing, and serve with a simple tropical salsa. My favorite is papaya/lime juice/cilantro/red peppers/hot peppers.

And buy good pork. I think standard supermarket pork is even more useless than supermarket beef, which is saying something.