I have seen so many hogs butchered in my career that I can not even begin to count them. And the same thing always seems to happen with the ham; it is either cured into a country ham, ground for charcuterie, or ground for some sort of cooking. It has always bothered me that no one uses these beautifully large muscles for nothing else. I guess I can’t say never with any certainty in that no idea in the culinary world seems to be original. It is just my experience that other cuts of the pig seem to get more attention and ideas behind them. I have always wanted something more to do with the rear leg of the pig. I mean why not? We are always seeing the “Denver Leg” cut of venison or antelope which is the exact same part of the animal, just a different animal.
So I decided with this last hog we got I was going to change the norm for my butchering world. I took one of the hind legs and deconstructed it. What I was left with was six muscles that would yield good portioned steaks, lots of meat for grinding, a good amount of fat for rendering, and great skin for pork rinds. I removed all of the silver skin, fat, and random bits from each muscle so they where beautifully lean. I say lean but as you can see from the picture there is a great deal of marbling still present. I then used a jaccard meat tenderizer on each of the portioned steaks. I did this for two reasons. The first being the obvious, hind leg meat is notorious for being a tough cut (just one of the many reasons they are so commonly NOT used as steaks), and the second is that in all the “Denver Leg” venison steaks, even from the top producers I have used, I saw the marks of a jaccard.
Once prepped I heavily seasoned the steaks with salt and a twist or two of black pepper. I have to take a second here and explain why I say “heavily” when I refer to seasoning the steaks with salt. It has been my experience in sous vide cooking that if the protein, in particular pork, is not seasoned well then the end result is a bland taste. I can only equate this to the fact that many times pork is cooked with some time of liquid. Either stock, fat or some sort, or both are used in the sous vide bags with the pork. If this liquid is not seasoned, which neither a stock nor fat should be, then the liquid would of course absorb a degree of the salt thus reducing the amount the actual protein can absorb. I bagged the steaks with 4 ounces of pork stock (made from the bones of the same pig), a good slug of olive oil, and 1/2 cup of lard (rendered from the fat of the same pig). I also added 1 clove of garlic, 12 white peppercorns, and several sprigs of thyme. I cooked the steaks at 56.5 Celsius for 6 hours.
To finish the steaks I seared them in a mix of lard and canola oil to caramelize the outside and heat the steak through. I will admit the first one got away from me and cooked a little longer than I wanted and ended up a solid medium well when finished. I nailed the second at a perfect medium. To my amazement both were fantastic. Tender, juicy, and loaded with wonderful porky flavor. And while the medium steak was obviously my favorite I would not have turned away the over cooked medium well by any means. Finished with a nice bourbon smoked sea salt and a new dish was formed. Now what to serve them with?
This is the latest whole hog we received from our farmer Sam Yoder of Jolly Barnyard Farm in Kentucky. The pig itself is a mix of Landrace and Large White hogs. Both are very old European breeds brought to the United States in the 1800’s. It has to be one of the best crosses I have ever worked with. This picture is the cut I made between the fourth and fifth rib. What we yielded from it was 15 of the most beautiful chops (both bone in and out) that I have ever had. We seasoned them heavily with salt and black pepper and individually bagged them with pork stock(made from the bones of the same pig) and thyme. Then we sous vide them at 56.5 Celsius for 4 hours. Once done and chilled we pan-fried the chop in lard (rendered from the fat of the same pig) until crisp and hot. The result was the best pork chop I have ever had in my life. The meat was as tender as ever and cooked only to about medium. The flavor was truly pork in every way imaginable. I do have to say that for the bone in chops we left all the meat and fat on the bone, meaning we did not french cut it in any way.
I love a standing rib roast, and I do love the flavors of a prime rib though I am not the type to order it at a restaurant. I also love pork in all ways, racks, bellies, bacon, head cheese, loins, trotters, jowls, you name it I love it. So I decided to try creating my own version of a “Pork Prime Rib”. I like a good pork rack but it lacks the fat (i.e. protection and flavor) of a standing rib roast. Thinking about how to handle this situation it dawned on me that what the rack needed was all of the goodness of a braised pork belly. Now how am I to add a belly to a rack you ask? With transglutaminase (meat glue, also know as activa) of course. I went out and found a great four bone rack along with a beautiful piece of belly to go along with. I took them home and carefully glued them together using transglutaminase.
I have to stop here and truly ask those who read this and decide to work with a meat glue (transglutaminase) to do all the research they can. This chemical while fun is extremely dangerous and potentially lethal. Not because of side effects but because of what it does. Transglutaminase bond proteins together and they do not discriminate. Should you breathe them in, then you will end up with lungs that are glued shut. So again, please do all the research possible and take all of the necessary precautions when using this product.
Now back to the project at hand. My theory was that I needed a larger amount of fat, or fatty tissue between the primary heat source and the back part of the bones along with a lower overall temperature and longer time period in order to cook this thing properly. I carefully trussed the meat so that it would maintain a nice round shape and scored the fat cap of the belly in an attempt to render the fat quicker thus flavoring the meat before it was over cooked. I then seared the entire thing on all sides in a hot roasting pan. Placing the pork on a rack in the same roasting pan I then put it in a 250 degree Fahrenheit or 120 degreses Celsius or Gas Mark 1/2. I cooked the pork for just over eight hours, longer than I expected to have to cook it, and longer than I wanted to cook it. I did not monitor the internal temperature on purpose. The reason for this is the fact that I know how long pork belly can take to cook to a perfect point of tenderness. What I was hoping for was the rack of pork to work out because of the added layers of meat and fat the heat had to get through until it was completely cooked. I had thought about gluing the belly all the way around the rack and looking back I probably should have tried that. The two reasons I didn’t do it were one I did not like the presentation aspects of it, and two I did not think the meat below the bone line would cook the same as the meat glued to the rack meat.
After cooking the entire piece until the belly section was tender enough for me to want to eat it I removed it from the oven and allowed it to rest for 30 minutes. I then put it back into a 350 degree Fahrenheit or 180 degree Celsius or Gas Mark 4 oven to reheat for a mere 10 minutes. From the pictures you can see that the pork in my opinion was over cooked though it had an amazing flavor. I was going for a medium well done here thinking that the belly itself should be no less than well done leaving the rack meat at a medium well. Overall the belly was tender, needing no knife to cut it, and the pork rack itself had a wonderful flavor. You may also notice that the belly started to come off of the rack which in my opinion did add to the over cooking of the rack meat itself though not by much.
For the next attempt I am going to cook it using two different methods. First I will slow sear the belly part just as I would a duck breast, allowing the fat to render down slowly and for that wonderful Maillard reaction to occur. Once I have achieved a beautiful caramel crisp exterior I will the cook the pork as I would a standing rib roast at 200 degrees Fahrenheit or 93 degrees Celsius or Gas Mark 1/4 for one hour per pound to achieve a medium internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit or 63 Celsius. I will again allow the meat to rest for a period of 30 minutes and then return it to a 350 degree Fahrenheit or 180 degree Celsius or Gas Mark 4 oven for a period of 15 minutes to re heat at which point I will slice and serve.
— matt bolus
Filed under Charleston, Cooking, Flavor, Ideas, Matt Bolus, pork, Pork Belly, Pork Rack, Rack of Pork, Standing Rib Roast, Uncategorized
Here is an image of the book I just mentioned. I am sorry for the Amazon like look, but that is where I got the image from, and a good place to get the book as well.
My wonderful wife bought me this new book after she learned I was having a horrible day (isn’t she great). I don’t have many fortunately and after hearing about some of it she decided I needed another book about pork, one of my favorite, if not the number one on my list, proteins. This book is amazing. Mostly stories, mainly just one large continuing story with different small stories within. But none the less outstanding and the recipes that I have tried have been spot on. The title of the book is “Pig Perfect” written by Peter Kaminsky. I will try to post an image latter on. He starts off on his quest for the perfect ham and leads the reader through many an adventure filled with scientific facts, folklore, and his own personal experiences. After reading the book and trying some of the recipes I am inspired to return to my home state of Kentucky and the state that I spent most of my life in Tennessee to research ham and pork production. He also does a great job explaining the consequences of mass production. Not just the simple facts but detailed stories and facts from those who live through and suffer from the industrial side of the story.