Thursday, January 3, 2008

Fun Playing With Snavely Pork

It has been less than two years since we were introduced to the fabulous heritage pork being raised by Ohio farmer Ed Snavely at his Curlytail Farm. This type of pork, also called "Berkshire" or "Karobuta" is extremely hard to get and can be relatively expensive, because it is raised humanely and has not had its natural fat bred out of it. Factory pork farmers only raise what they think will sell - and we all know how the pork industry has tried to re-brand pork as a health food - the "other white meat". Often, one must go to the farmer's markets or "know" someone to get the most fatty, tasty and gently raised products.

A little background on me and pork. I am a nice Jewish girl from New York. My father's mother kept kosher, but mom's parents had given up on kashruth during World War II. Still, old habits die hard - and sometimes they morph into bizarre permutations.

The basic rules of kashruth include the prohibition on mixing meat and dairy products in the same meal, and the prohibition on eating certain parts of certain animals or the entire animal (such as pig or shellfish). During my formative years, the family eating habits reflected a cultural respect for these rules, while allowing them to be bent or broken. Thus, we might have bacon with breakfast. But almost never was pork a dinner item - and the few times mom tried to serve pork chops, they just didn't taste good to us kids. I never cared for ham or shellfish much, and I would never drink a glass of milk with a hamburger or cold cut sandwich. I can only remember one encounter with pork sausage - in the lasagna at an Italian restaurant where we celebrated Mothers' Day one year - and I remember that I picked it out. And the weirdest twist - mom regularly made veal or chicken Parmesan which we kids inhaled - yet the thought of a cheeseburger was gross!

So, it was with this ethnic, cultural and food background that I moved to Ohio to marry a man named Osterman. A man who regularly took for lunch all sorts of disgusting-looking pork-based cold cuts. A man who adored all forms of sausage. A man who only wanted to make me a pork roast with sauerkraut for New Year's Day - a staple NYD meal in his family's Bohemian tradition.

During our dating phase, he had made this delicacy for me once, using a supermarket pork roast. I really tried to like it, but it had that . . . I don't know . . . that porky taste. So, the tradition was put on hiatus.

I've lived in Cleveland for 12 years now, and within the last six or so, have been fortunate to discover this great passion for all things food which drives this blog, among other things. Also, I have made the acquaintance of several amazing chefs, who practically worship the pig, and have encouraged me to lose my boundaries and just try it (play with your food!!). And so, I can honestly say that thanks to my husband, and to chefs like Michael Symon, Matt Harlan, Dominic Cerino, Doug Katz, and with a little help from author Michael Ruhlman - I have learned to enjoy and appreciate salumi, sausage, and other assorted pig parts. (Ruhlman hosted a dinner at the now defunct Battuto restaurant that featured an amazing assortment of dishes from an acorn finished heritage pig.)

And so - the culmination of this education was the re-introduction, last NYD, of the Pork Roast and Sauerkraut to our home. But not just any pork roast - this is a fat bejeweled wonder from Snavely Farms. Bob discovered last year that the best way to make this dish is to roast the pork naked - no seasonings, no nothing - to about 140 degrees. He then adds the sauerkraut and slow cooks it to tender delight.

This was our second year of enjoying a Snavely Pork Roast at New Year's time - though it was actually the day after NYD; we were still finishing our Christmas Day Lamb and Brussels Sprouts on January 1.

Ok - I've talked enough - here are the pictures of us playing with our Heritage Pork and Sauerkraut:

These are what the pot looked like when it came out of the oven. Note how the roast is enrobed with beautiful looking fat. The skin was nice and crispy, too.

Snavely Pork Roast on the Platter - a beautiful thing!

I confess - I still can't eat the straight pork fat; but Bob doesn't let any go to waste! A little artisanal finishing salt and a grate of black pepper is all this baby needs. It tastes like no pork I ever tasted before. It tastes like no pork you will get at your local megamart. It is a plattered commercial for why we need to get back to sustainability, to basics and non-engineered foods - mostly because they taste good - and isn't that the main reason that we eat?

1 comment:

  1. good read and great photos. the pork looks amazing. Matt