ReLocavore: Redefining "local"

A locavore moves from Wisconsin to New Hampshire and rediscovers what "local" means.


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Pig Tails, Part 4: The Roasts

I have 7 beautiful pork roasts, all 3 to 6 pounds, offers up a world of opportunities. However, I know myself, and I have to be smart today because I will inevitably be stupid later. I want to plan out the best way to cook each cut, and map that onto my most favorite recipes, to come up with a roadmap for how to eat this beautiful pig and give myself something to look forward to in the wintery months ahead.

The Cooks Illustrated Meat Book provided ample information on what to do with the roast, once I had mapped the Butcher’s labels onto pig anatomy. From this, I know that the loin is the tenderest meat that can be cooked rapidly on high heat, grilled, etc, but the shoulder will need more time and slower, lower cooking temperatures.

I also have a long, well-honed list of pork recipes that I love to cook and eat.

  • Char Siu is a Chinese-style pork roast with warm spices (star anise, cinnamon, clove) and soy. If I do it right, I can get that lovely red line around the outer edge of the meat. I love to make it, slice it very thin and freeze for recipes later. I can use slices of char siu in ramen noodles, made into a pâté with hoisin sauce to stuff pork buns, and add a little bit of meatyness to a stir fry.
  • Tonkatsu, or Japanese-style breaded pork cutlets. A Faerber family tradition, for some reason. The cutlets get deep fried, so Tonkatsu makes a giant mess of things in the kitchen and so only gets made on holidays. And, Panko are far superior bread crumbs. I’ll leave that one out there to debate with Nick Scheeler.
  • Arista – Tuscan style pork roast with ample black pepper, rosemary, garlic and olive oil rubbed into deep slashes in the meat.
  • Pulled pork, braised American style for BBQ sandwiches, or braised and grilled Mexican style for Carnitas. This is ideal with the pork butt roasts from the upper part of the pork shoulder.

Now to map on tasty dishes to roasts.

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Pig Tails, Part 3: The Baconing

The best part of getting a whole pig is getting all of the bacon. Most store-bought packages are the center of the belly with a mix of fat and meat. However, when you get the whole belly smoked, cured and sliced, some parts have more meat and less fat, and others are mainly fat with a little meat.

Both are wonderful. I have over 7 pounds. Of. Bacon. All from the same pig. If I had wanted, I could thaw each package and lovingly line it all back up into the primal belly.

On the first night having the pig at home, I had to cook some of the bacon. To stare into the eyes (belly?) of the beast and know my adversary, my friend, this porcine lover that I had brought to my chest freezer. (The pork barely fit. I had to say a prayer to the chest freezer fairy and put a weight on the lid to keep it all inside.)

The bacon is wonderful. Well cured and not over-smoked. The smokehouse did excellent work.


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Blueberry haul 2016

I headed to Noda Farm to pick blueberries. The bushes were laden with fruit and picking was easy. Noda Farm is a lovely place to pick berries because their bushes are large and well kept. Picking is easy because you don’t have to crouch down and the large bushes provide shade.  I was able to pick 8.5 lbs of berries in about 45 minutes. I would love to share pictures with you, but my phone was dead. 

Back home, the blueberries went into some blueberry jam (9 half-pints), and into a recipe for Blueberry Boy Bait from Cooks Illustrated. I also froze a bunch for pancakes and smoothies this winter. 

Blueberries and maple syrup are two New England food trends that I can really get behind. 


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35 Pints of Jam on the wall…

Sam and I took the day Thursday to go to Edgewater Farms and pick strawberries to make jam and other good things. We ended up picking 48 pounds at $2.50 per pound. The strawberries this year are the most flavorful, plump, beautifully ripe berries that I have ever picked. With berries this beautiful, it is easy to make fantastic jam.

However, that was not in the works. (/foreshadowing) I had to go to an important meeting and left Sam with a boiling pot of jam and 36 empty jars. Unfortunately, I think the berries were so sweet and wonderful, there wasn’t enough acid to setup the pectin. The jam didn’t set.

Rather than eat strawberry syrup on our toast, I opted to take the 4th holiday to reset the jam. Gigantic PITA. One unintended consequence – resetting the jam requires additional sugar, lemon juice and pectin. I had to add so much that I ended up with an extra jar of jam after resetting. So 35 pints of jam.

2016-06-30 10.03.27-1


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The price of my homemade strawberry jam=$0.22/ounce

2015-06-22 08.38.34Here’s the sick thing… I did the math and my homemade jam costs about as much per ounce as Bonne Maman’s high-end grocery store jam: $0.22 per ounce.

I made 30.5 pints of jam, using 34 jars (some were half-pint jars for gifts), inputting 28 lbs of strawberries, 7 packets of Certo pectin and 21.462 pounds of sugar.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Jar and ring – reusable and depreciating resource.
  • Canning equipment – depreciating resource.
  • Canning jar lid. $1.99 for 12 = $0.17 per lid, or $5.78 for lids.
  • Sugar. $2.59 at the COOP for a 4 pound bag = $0.65 per pound or $14.07 for sugar.
  • Strawberries at $2.50 per pound and 28 lbs of berries into the recipe = $70 for strawberries.
  • Certo is $4.59 for 2 pouches = $2.30/pouch so $16.10 on pectin.

Grand total = $105.95 for 30.5 pints of jam. That’s $0.22 per ounce. 

Bonne Mamans jam was on sale at the COOP for $2.99 for a 13 ounce jar or $0.23 per ounce.

I hope some of you are jumping up and down right now and pointing out the serious flaws in my calculation… I don’t take into Labor costs, which was about 13.5 woman-hours. I don’t take into account the cost of my “facility” to produce jam. I don’t take into account transportation, and I’ve discounted my equipment. But hey! My jam is a heck of a lot tastier than anything you’d ever buy in a store. Plus I have a great memory of spending a hot, muggy day in the kitchen with my sister. That’s worth a lot more than $0.23 per ounce.


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Fruit, sugar, pectin needed to make strawberry jam in quantity

I got sick of doing the math every year, so I made a table for large batches of strawberry jam. The recipe is based on using Certo liquid pectin.

Certo Pectin Pouches Strawberries
Pounds
Strawberries
Hulled and crushed
cups
Sugar
cups
Sugar
Ounces
Sugar
Pounds
Yield
Pints
1 4 4 7 49 3.066 4
2 8 8 14 98 6.132 8
3 12 12 21 147 9.198 12
4 16 16 28 196 12.264 16
5 20 20 35 245 15.33 20
6 24 24 42 294 18.396 24
7 28 28 49 343 21.462 28
8 32 32 56 392 24.528 32