This last weekend I stopped by the Fogline Farm booth at my local Farmer’s Market and picked up a pasture-raised pork shoulder. I didn’t really have any plans for it, but when I looked at my other purchases from the day – onions, herbs and apples. I figured this guy was destined to be slow braised with apples and herbs.
Pasture-raised? You may be asking why bother? Isn’t it more expensive? Simply put– yes it is more expensive, but in my opinion it’s worth it. As health has become a big priority in our family, it’s important to scrutinize all the food we eat. For us our priorities lie first with getting the best whole foods we can find. We look to local sources, eat foods in season and choose healthy options like organic and pasture raised options from our community. My family is fortunate to live in an area where making these choices is very easy. Our local farmers markets have unlimited choices in organic fruit, veggies, mushrooms, plants, pasture-raised meats and healthy fish year-round. Each visit to our local market is not about what we can get, but how best to spend our budget. A pork shoulder like this is a once-in-a-while splurge.
So why pasture raised? It’s healthier for the environment, it’s a healthier, better and more humane way of life for the animals, and it also means healthier meat for us. The cost of the meat is more, but I feel good about supporting my local farmer and this way of farming. I’ve included links to some resources at the end of this article that will explain the benefits of pasture-raised animals. I believe that proper nutrition makes a huge difference in our overall health, so why not for the animals we eat? It’s just that simple.
This big bone-in roast will feed us very well through several meals over the next few days. Including these yummy “tacos” that the kids LOVED. The idea for this apple braised roast comes from Jim Denevan, a local artist, chef and leader of Outstanding in the Field – they travel the country hosting unforgettable local farm dinners.
Apple Braised Pork Shoulder
1 Bone-in pork shoulder
Salt and pepper
Sage – a few leaves chopped small
Thyme – a few sprigs
1 onion, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 apple, cored and chopped
Garlic cloves – 3 or more cloves (to your liking -I like lots)
2-3 stems of parsley roughly chopped
2 cups stock or broth (home-made or low sodium)
2 cups apple cider or 1 bottle of hard apple cider
Preheat your oven to 325° F. My shoulder did not come with a big layer of fat, but some do. If so, you can score it. Rub the roast with the herbs and oil and heavily season with salt and pepper. Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot with tight fitting lid. When the oil is hot, brown the roast in the oil. This should take about 3 or so minutes on each side. Remove your roast from the pan and add celery, onion and carrot. Cook in the oil until just soft, then add your stock and scrape up all the bits off the bottom of your pan. Replace the roast, fill in the sides with garlic, apples and parsley and pour in the cider. Bring to a boil on the stove, then put on the lid and finish in the oven until fork tender. This could take 2 to 3 hours depending on the size of your roast.
When ready, remove the meat to a plate to rest. Skim the fat off the cooking liquid and strain. Return liquid to the stove and reduce to your desired consistency. Slice or break up your meat in a separate dish and pour the sauce over the top.
How kids can help: Pick out herbs from the garden, peel the garlic, wash the veggies, rub the seasoning into the meat, measure stock and pour it into the pot, keep track of time – set the timer and help you check it and break up the meat. Add some extra veggies or apple to your ingredients to account for kid snacking as you work.
Cabbage Cup Pork “Tacos”
- Napa cabbage leaves (any cabbage will do)
- Shredded pork
- Fennel, chopped small
- Apple, chopped small
- Mint, 2 or three leaves minced
- Italian parsley, about 2 tablespoons minced
- Plain yogurt (optional)
- Green onion, minced
- Sriracha or other favorite hot sauce
If you take a cabbage leaf and cut off about 1/3 at the bottom, you will have a cute little taco shell. Sturdy enough to hold a little taco. Ingredients can be changed to match tastes and you can leave off the Sriracha and green onions or use it very sparingly for kids if they aren’t accustomed to it. Look out, Sriracha is hot!
I have not added amounts here, this is all dependent on how many you need to make. Generally, plan for four per person with maybe a fruit salad on the side, but my kids will eat 6 or 8 of these if they are going through a growth spurt – which is all the time! Seems like the boy is always hungry.
Prepare your cabbage shells. Shred your pork and serve warm in it’s sauce. Chop your apples and fennel, add the herbs, and add a little plain yogurt (if your allergies permit it) in a separate bowl. Chop your onions small and keep in a separate bowl. You can then take all this to the table and let your family assemble their own. My 4 year old needs a little help with assembly, but can easily eat this on his own.
How kids can help: Set the table, put ingredients in little serving dishes, pick herbs from the garden, wash the cabbage and other veggies, shred the pork, make or pick out a beverage – we had hibiscus tea with honey, and if age permits, they can chop the ingredients as well. Challenge them to try a bite with a little green onion or hot sauce.
Benefits of pasture-raised meats http://www.chriskresser.com/handouts/pasture_raised.pdf
Where to find farms near you http://www.eatwild.com/