Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lazy Pork Roast

Its hot out today... and in all my infinite wisdom, I have been wielding a manure fork in the barn for the past few hours.  In an effort to justify some time inside my beloved, air-conditioned home (and still feel productive), I thought I would share one of my not-so-secret recipes.

Each year in the late fall, we purchase a hog from an Amish family.  They are kind enough to do the less-appealing work of raising and slaughtering it, and we take it from there... cutting, wrapping (well, vacuum-sealing), and eventually, eating the whole darn thing.  First to go generally are the chops, as there is no finer gastronomical pleasure than a perfectly grilled pork chop. In cleaning out my freezer and doing an inventory a few days ago, I was thrilled and amazed to discover a few beautiful, precious packages of chops and ribs left to use up this year... along with around twenty roasts.

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy roast pork!  But with a whole hog, you do tend to get a lot of roasts.  While the butt roasts usually are tender and juicy no matter the method of preparation, shoulder roasts tend to be a bit tougher cut.  I have, however, found a (ridiculously easy) method of preparing them so they turn out juicy, flavorful and mouthwatering, no matter which corner of the hog from whence they originate.

The crock pot.  I love my crock pot.  All I do is throw the roast into it, top it off with a sliced onion, a couple minced cloves of garlic, 1/4-1/2 cup of water, salt and pepper... put the lid on, and let that baby cook.  All day.  Until it is falling apart, and has tormented my family with its mouthwatering aroma to the point of mutiny if I don't feed it to them. Immediately.

From there, I pull the meat from the crock pot, shred it with two forks, and toss it back into the juices in the pot.  It makes awesome sandwiches, particularly on buns (and if they are homemade buns, prepare yourself to loosen your belt a few notches, as you won't be able to eat just one).  I like mustard on mine, but barbecue sauce is very good, as well.  My husband bastardizes his with ketchup... but to each his own, I guess...

A couple things to remember.  Do not trim the fat from the meat before you cook it... you can always drain or separate the fat later, but the fat is important to the flavor and moisture of the meat while it cooks.  Also, be sure to start the roast early enough to give it time to cook to the point of falling apart or shredding easily... it makes a *huge* difference in the tenderness of the meat.  The water, even though it is a small amount, is important as well.  It seems to facilitate and speed up the cooking process, and also improves the tenderness of the meat.

I've been known to throw all caution to the wind, and put the roasts in the crock pot frozen, cooking them on high... they turned out great, and none of us contracted food poisoning or trichinosis.  But more often, I don't think about whats for supper until after lunch (great foresight, I know)... so then defrost the meat in the microwave and cook it on high.  It works because we generally don't eat supper around here until dark... which, in the summer, means late.  The best way to do it, however, is to do as I say, not as I do, and start the previously-defrosted roast in the crock pot, in the morning, and cook it on low all day so it is ready for a reasonable mealtime of say, 6pm.

Give it a try... pork shoulder is an inexpensive cut to buy, and with few other ingredients and little prep time, you can have a tasty meal, and the leftovers reheat well for lunch the next day.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Every Rose Has Its Thorn... That's What Makes Them Interesting

I love roses.

Wild roses, shrub roses, hybrid teas... and I love rose patterned china and wallpaper and rose-scented perfume and the Jackson & Perkins catalog.  My youngest daughter's middle name is Rose.  During the college years, I actually worked in a shop that sold only roses... and never tired of being surrounded by them.

I love receiving roses, love arranging them and love growing them.  My daughters gave me two rose bushes for Mother's Day... both hybrid teas, a challenge to my horticultural ability.  They are both actually still alive.  I'm not sure how to gently suggest that if, in the future, they decide to bless me with more rose bushes, that blessing might live longer if they choose the hardier "shrub" variety.  Particularly those bred in Canada.  But I'll do my best with these, and hope they prosper for years to come.

Where did I get this love of roses? Honestly, I don't know.  Maybe I'm just fussy... but think its more likely the contrast between the delicate beauty of each rose, and its thorny backbone.  To me, something is truly beautiful when it has a bit of an edge or a challenge to it.  One cannot frolic about picking roses as you would daisies, without receiving a fistful of thorns.  They command respect.  Admire their beauty, inhale their fragrance, and pick them if you wish... but carefully, or risk being scratched...

A bouquet of roses from the bushes my daughters gave me sits on my table at the moment... the first of many (I hope).  The flowers are a bit faded and droopy from the heat we've endured lately. In my eyes, however, a more beautiful bouquet does not exist.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The County Fair

We've been working hard.  Like, for a long time.  

It was time for some fun.... so we went to the county fair.

We rode the carousel...

...played a few games...

...rode some more rides...

She scored the #24 car... atta girl!

Keeping her eyes on the... road?

"Don't text and drive... call when you arrive... don't talk to strangers..." 

Here we go!

Hang on!!!

Then it was time for some fair food...

 She doesn't like corn dogs (my fair food of choice) and wanted to buy her own lunch.
A pork chop on a stick.
How a child who doesn't like corn dogs could have sprung from my loins, is a mystery to me.
Its heresy.

I'll bet this gentleman's mother raised him right, and that *he* likes corn dogs.
(I love seeing the seniors at the fair.  Especially old farmers in John Deere hats.)

YUM! Corn dogs!
(We are having more success indoctrinating this child. Guess practice makes perfect.)

The prodigal daughter.  I love her anyway.
And she did eat most of my deep fried cheese curds.
There may still be some hope for her.

With full bellies, it was time for more fun...

Shaking a leg.
Yes, they are shy and reserved.... until you cue the music.

Taking a bow!

The crowd loved it!

With the show over, it was time to check out the livestock exhibits...

Milking a cow!
They made us sign a liability waiver, and dispensed hand sanitizer afterward.
I told the guy with the hand sanitizer they needed it more over at the carnival rides, than in the cow barn.
He laughed.

She earned her stripes... er, stickers!

The DNR had a baby fawn on display...

So precious and beautiful!

The day was a hot one, and all that fun wears a girl out, so we finally headed for home...

All that singing and walking and riding and dancing and corn-dog eating just plumb wore her out!

...and we went back to work...
sort of...

(Gotta love a man in a tool belt. Be still, my heart.)