Friday, November 21, 2008

This Little Piggy Went to Market

I have a new title to add to my resume: pig wrangler.

My working at the creamery to learn the fine art of cheesemaking has taught me an invaluable lesson, a lesson I will recall for years to come, a lesson in strength and endurance: I am much weaker and less tenacious than a farm pig!

In the midst of crisp autumn morning, one of my Fridays at the farm making cheese, a voice rang out from close range, breaking the routine of cheese churning and cheese washing….. I had to perk my ears to realize that, yes, I had just heard: “the pigs have escaped!”

Having worked on the farm for 6 months, I have befriended the cows, the goats and the resident farm cats, but had yet to see the pigs. I had no idea that these stalwart creatures each weigh in from 200-250 pounds and that I was about to I get an intimate, crash course in rodeo-style, frantic pig chasing.

I’ve been face to face with pigs before, but usually postmortem and on my plate: crisp bacon, salty pancetta, briny prosciutto, a juicy pork chop. I’ve also seen cute, diminutive pot belly pigs in pet stores at the mall. But never have I wrestled with a stubborn pig, a female Conan the Warrior in sow’s clothing.

The farm staff was able to wrangle most of the porky harem back into its pen, with the exception of one stubborn swine. The pig was unruly, zigzagging through the pastures, barreling through a maze of hay barrels, content to knock over any human that stood in its way of world domination. There were two of us to this pig: myself and the cheesemaker, Colin. In a wrestling contest, me versus the pig, there’s no question who would prevail: surely, the pig. I figured the pig was no match for me and Colin combined, a strong and confident team, but I could not have been more wrong than a horse and buggy going 90 miles-per-hour down a one way street!

This thing whipped through prickly trees, bushes, in between small spaces, until we had trailed it, fast as the dickens, down an incline into an area confined by an electric fence. Add another colleague to the mix: three against one. The situation remained unyielding, the pig dead-set on human dominance.

By now we were dripping with sweat, laughing out of control, out of breath. We had attempted to move the pig with sheer brute force, humans pressed up against the hairy body of the pig, while it stood steadfast, grazing for mushrooms and snorting. This thing had to go down, down like a misbehaving teenager, down like tonight’s pork roast dinner. We had become caricatures: lab coat wearing, hair-net donning fools, running around like blind bats in our rubber boots, wielding thick sticks, while the darn pig got the better of us. We know we looked ridiculous and yes, it was darn funny.

So, roused by my piggy encounter, here is a delicious Italian-inspired recipe for pork slow-cooked in milk. After simmering the roast in the milk with juniper berries, rosemary and sage, you get extremely tender, silken meat in a clear, clean broth: a perfect meal after a day of chasing unruly pigs.

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 (4 1/2- to 5-pound) boneless pork shoulder roast (without skin), tied
3 juniper berries, crushed
2 large rosemary sprigs
2 large sage sprigs
4 dried bay leaves
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups whole milk

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Heat oil in a wide 5- to 6-quart ovenproof heavy pot over medium heat until it shimmers, then lightly brown roast on all sides with juniper berries and herbs, 8 to 10 minutes total. Add garlic and sprinkle roast with sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, then cook until garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Pour wine over roast and briskly simmer until reduced by half. Pour milk over roast and bring to a bare simmer.

Cover pot and braise in oven, turning roast occasionally, until tender (milk will form curds), 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Transfer roast to a carving board and loosely cover. Strain juices through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl (discard solids), reserving pot, and skim off fat. Return juices to pot and boil until flavorful and reduced to about 2 cups. Season with sea salt and pepper. Slice roast and serve moistened with juices.

Serves 6.

1 comment:

Amy said...

HA HA HA - Kate, that is a truly hilarious story