I had one of the best pork chops of my life last night, thanks to a homegrown hog and Nancy, also known to our blog friends as The Lemon Verbena Lady. (Visit her at her blog Lemon Verbena Lady's Herb Garden.)
The pork chop came to me by way of my friends Ken and Nancy Krause, who own Fieldstone, the farm where I once lived. They raise heirloom apples and tomatoes, and this year decided to add some hogs to the menagerie at the farm, to help put all that apple and tomato excess to good use.
They asked if I wanted to buy a pig at the same time and, for the first time in my life, I agreed. The piglet grew to more than 100 pounds in just a few months and is now a whole lot of pork in my freezer. This is the first time I’ve ever actually known an animal that ended up as dinner and I have to admit, it was a challenge. The first time I cooked anything from No. 49 (I refused to name my pig—it was just too macabre), I actually cried.
Then I tasted the bacon—the best I’ve ever had—and pretty much worked through my feelings about the whole process. Here’s where I’ve come down on this issue, after considering it from many, many, many different directions on a continuum from strict veganism to what-the-hell carnivore. I think these animals—pigs, cattle, chickens, etc.—are alive now because humans have been raising and eating them for thousands of years. I think species eat other species and we are a species with pointy teeth for a reason.
Photo by Daniel Y. Go/Courtesy Flickr
My piggy had an enviable life, considering how most animals live. He got to gallop around in a large paddock, with weeds and roots and berries and all kinds of tasty treats. He also got fed bushel after bushel of heirloom apples and tomatoes, plus a few bushels of expensive heirloom carrots that turned mysteriously bitter (these were mine: I never have figured out what happened to them, but the pigs were really happy with my gardening insufficiency), and kitchen scraps from not one but two really good cooks. An absolutely elegant, enclosed system that echoes the way humans have been doing things for millennia.
So every day of the pig’s life was a pretty great day, except that last one. The processing was done just a few blocks from the farm by people who absolutely know what they’re doing—the most local of local consumption. So I now have hams, ham steaks, chops, bacon, bacon ends, ham hocks, and lots of sausage. Because I live alone and didn’t want to eat pork every single day for the rest of the next decade, I shared half with a friend here at work. But I still have enough that I won’t go hungry for at least a year. My total cost was right at $100, which works out to about $2 a pound. A deal, for sure.
So last night, I defrosted my first package of chops. What I thought was a pack of four actually was a pack of two very thick chops. I browned them really well, salted and peppered, covered them for about 20 minutes until the meat was no longer pink and called it dinner. The flavor was simply indescribable, and utterly delicious.
The piece de resistance was a jar of Rosemary-Garlic Jelly that The Lemon Verbena Lady sent for Christmas. I can’t imagine a better flavor to go with pork and I had to restrain myself to save the second chop for another day. (Click here for the recipe.)
Photo by The Lemon Verbena Lady
Meanwhile, my taste buds are doing the happy dance and asking for more, more, more. Once again, herbs (rosemary and garlic) took an already delicious meal from good to extraordinary. Gotta love those herbal upgrades!