Cascading Kitchen Notes
If you're ordering a hog, or portion thereof, from the farm this year, consider forgoing the typical treatment of curing the "Ham". This method will, more than likely, cause the meat to go a lot further.
When you buy a hog, rather than turn the back leg and haunch into ham by curing and smoking, ask the butcher to leave it whole, bone included and freeze it.
- Upon defrosting it, cut it into 1-1/2" cubes, removing any fat or gristle. (save that pile to roast with the bone when you’re finished to make a rich broth)
- Toss the pork cubes generously with salt and pepper. Cover and store in the fridge for a day.
- Remove from the fridge the next day and allow it to come to room temp. It might take 2-4 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
- In a heavy cast iron, enamel-covered pot, fry off 10 -15 pieces at a time in ½ cup of olive oil. Keep the heat up to create a brown bit on both sides. Olive oil can stand temps up to 375° but no more. Don’t overheat it.
The reason you only cook a few pieces at a time is to prevent the temperature from lowering to the point you boil rather than fry the meat-never a good plan.
It takes about 2 minutes on each side for a total of 4 minutes per batch.
- Scoop the browned pieces into a holding bowl.
- Continue until all the pieces are nicely browned, being careful NOT to burn anything. You want all of the brown fond for the final cooking step.
- Put all of the browned pieces of pork back in the cast iron pot and cover them so they have 2 inches of olive oil over the top of them. Yes I know this is extravagant but it’s worth it and you’ll have all of that oil for cooking projects later on.
- Warm the olive oil to 200 degrees on the stovetop and then place the pot in a preheated oven at 200 degrees for 3-4 hours, with the lid on. I use the convection fan so mine takes about 3-1/2 hours for 5 lbs of pork cubes.
- When it’s done the meat will look a bit pale but it should break apart when you push on a cube.
- Allow it to cool with the lid off for an hour or two.
- Have 6-8 pint jars washed, along with any reusable lid. (No, we’re not going to can it BUT you want an air tight lid to keep smells out while it’s stored in the fridge. )
- Pack each jar ¾’s full of meat cubes, pressing them to the bottom of the jar and cover with the warm olive oil used in the cooking process, within ½ inch of the top of the jar.
- Allow it to cool for another hour and then place a lid on each jar and store it in the fridge.
The next day you’ll notice the olive oil has solidified and the meat is sealed underneath. These jars will keep for 8 weeks in the fridge as long as you don’t open and break the fat seal.
How to use the pork confit.
Allow the olive to return to room temp so you can lift the meat cubes out easily.
This is precious, very rich and flavorful so we tend to mix it with a lot a sauteed onions and other veggies like mushrooms, julienned summer squash or carrots in the winter. Once the veggies are well caramelized add a bit more olive oil from the jar and the meat. I break the cubes up as I add them to the mixture so they fall apart as they hit the skillet. I like to get them a bit crisp.
You can flavor this mixture to any food tradition you like.
Sometimes we use it in arepas, tacos, etc--something like carnitas. For a treat we make a stroganoff with lots of sauteed mushrooms and just a bit of pork confit.
Use the oil to cook with, it’s rich and flavorful and perfect for adding just a bit of umami to any dish.
Nothing goes to waste, you’re all set for quick meals, and you’ll be treating meat as it should be---precious.
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