Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Cold Nights, Warm Kitchen

No visitors at the buffet. Bad sign.
Having repeatedly taunted the New England weather over the last several weeks mother nature has decided to kick me hard, and it probably serves me right.  From temperatures pushing 50° F around Christmas we have plummeted severely.  Daytime temps have flirted with freezing for the past week and overnights have been closer to zero. Tomorrow we'll be lucky to get to 20° for a high and -10° (yeah, that's 40 below freezing) overnight.

Makes me shiver just talking about it.  One benefit from last week's weather though is we have a bit of snow on the ground.  This makes chores harder but the scenery better.  So far I have not slipped on the ice yet, but I suspect I'll have my chance before things warm up.  With the snow layer as shallow as it is, a day or two of halfway decent weather will probably melt it all.  Not that I'm complaining mind you... but this time last year I'm pretty sure we had over a foot on the ground and more on the forecast. (continued)

Pulled pork perfection. A great meal to prep and freeze.
All that cold means the wood stove is burning all the time, and as often as I can manage it the oven is too.  There is little better for feeling homey and cozy than the ambiance of the fire and the smell of something tasty cooking.  Recently, it's been mostly pork.

Last week we had all that pork laid out to use and I have no trouble admitting that we have really enjoyed making use of it.  Pulled pork, whether from your own hogs or with a store bought Boston Butt is a GREAT option for making your oven work for your heat bill. 12-18 hours of slow cooking at 180-200° is perfect for a whole day or night of porky-smelly-goodness and less literal legwork to feed the wood stove or figurative legwork to pay the oil man.

Lard ready to render. Crock pot makes it
completely "hands off".
Another pulled pork plus-side is it freezes ready to eat, and defrosts with ease.  A perfect meal to create in bulk and pull out of the freezer when needed in meal sized portions. Those two pans pictured made a meal right away, with 4 quarts "extra" for the freezer. I smile a lot eating pulled pork sandwiches because I am winning over and over again when I get to make it.

We also had a lot of fat to make lard.  Lard has gotten a bad rap for a long time, pretty much ever since the medical establishment started their crusade against saturated fats. I truly believe that well raised clean living animals make clean food, and also clean fats, which translates to better for you, healthier fats as well.  Connect that sentiment with the desire that nothing go to waste and it will be no surprise that anything that can't be used elsewhere is being rendered. Those with more experience using lard than I assure me it is liquid gold in the kitchen. I look forward to finding out.

Rillets, aka "something new" to try.

With pulled pork in the oven and lard in the crock pot the stove top has not been left out.  The remaining bits that aren't being roasted or rendered go into a pot to be slow cooked.

A little bit of water, a canted cover, salt, pepper, and low heat combine to make rillets.  These fatty cuts of pork render slowly and (like with pulled pork) the connective tissue in the meat will begin to break down and let go.  The end result is an incredibly decadent loose spread.  It reminds me a great deal of deviled ham without the "deviling'.  On crackers, a sandwich, or a wrap it is amazing and exceeded my expectations greatly. I like trying new things and experimenting to see what I've been missing but this really blew me away.  Simple, easy, DELICIOUS. You can't go wrong with this, I think, and I know we'll be making it again and soon.
Tenderloin, a drop of olive oil, salt and pepper.
"Dinner".  Aw yeah.
All this fancy slow cooking is well and good but what about now?

Well that's what those tenderloin medallions are for, of course.  Silly.  The only thing better than good food prepped and ready for tomorrow is good food ready to eat right now. Sometimes the only way to keep me away from the storage food is to bribe my belly with something else.  I am always so grateful to have such a level of abundance.  Makes the work worth it, usually.

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