Category Archives: pork

heaven on route 1

Karl's Sausage KitchenRoute 1 North from Boston is congested, tacky and, at times, terrifying. It runs up , close to the coast, through Chelsea and Saugus until it breaks west a bit to run alongside U.S. 95. The real estate along the road is stuffed to the gills with American commerce: a miniature golf course with a giant dinosaur, an Italian restaurant complete with 1/4 scale leaning tower of Pisa, and a steakhouse with an enormous, glowing cactus. On the right side, as you drive north and reach the end of the stretch of Route 1 that cuts through Saugus is Karl’s Sausage Kitchen, marked with a sign that looks straight out of 1962.

Karl’s is part German butcher, part specialty grocery. It’s the place to go if you are looking for any variety of Haribo gummy candy. They also have about 15 kinds of mustard. But the heart of Karl’s is the butcher shop. They make their own sausages, smoke their own bacon and pork chops, and carry several types of imported deli specialties (like ham, cured sausages, liverwursts, and cheese). My German neighbors tell me that Karl’s doesn’t really specialize in any one region of Germany, but offers up a kind of greatest hits of German charcuterie.

Karl's BaconWhen you go, you must get the bacon. It is amazing. You will never be able to eat grocery store bacon again, so you should buy at least 2 — 3 lbs (that’s as much as I can order without feeling totally embarrassed; otherwise, I would order more). You’ll freeze it and it will be gone before you know it. I also enjoy the house-made bologna — it’s meaty deliciousness without the greasy, gross feeling of the bologna of my youth. As for sausages, I love the fine bratwursts (made with — gulp — veal). Also excellent are the coarse bratwursts (these are a traditional mix of beef and pork) and the plump, red knockwursts. All of these work great in the following recipe, which is an excellent way to enjoy your Karl’s bounty.

Bratwurst & Sauerkraut

Bratwurst & Sauerkraut
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
6 — 8 bratwursts or knockwursts (about 4 oz. each), punctured several times with a skewer
1 small onion, halved and sliced thin
10 whole juniper berries*
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater
1lb sauerkraut, drained and well-rinsed
1 medium sweet-tart apple, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper

Heat the butter in a 12” skillet with a tight fitting lid over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, add the wursts, and reduce heat to medium. Brown the wursts, turning after about 1 minute. Remove to a plate.

Add the sliced onion, grated carrot, juniper berries and about ½ teaspoon salt to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and begin to brown. Add the drained sauerkraut, grated apple, brown sugar and chicken broth to the pan, along with another ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt (depending on the saltiness of your broth). Increase heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer.

Return the wursts to the pan and nestle them in the sauerkraut. Cover the pan, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes or until almost all the broth is evaporated. Taste the sauerkraut and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serves 4 — 6. Serve with boiled potatoes or noodles and spicy mustard.

*If you’re around these parts, you can buy juniper berries (along with about any other spice you can think of) at Christina’s in Inman Square, Cambridge. And after you’re done shopping, you can go next door to the ice cream parlor for a scoop of burnt sugar, khulfi, pumpkin, fig, fresh mint or Mexican chocolate ice cream.

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overcoming irrational fears

In a comment, Kiki, a regular reader of Urbanfeed, gave a ringing endorsement of the black bean soup recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. It’s from the January 2005 issue, and for three years, I’ve contemplated trying it. I love black bean soup, and Black HamI don’t have a good recipe for making it at home. But something was standing in my way: black ham. Cook’s has you simmer the beans with 4 oz of ham steak, to give the beans and broth a nice porky flavor. This makes sense. For most of us, a ham steak is easier to find than a ham hock, and then you have some nice bits of salty meat floating around in your soup. The thing is, the beans turn the exterior of the ham black. It just looks weird.

But Kiki is a trustworthy source, and things have been a little crazy around the Urbanfeed homestead. I needed a batch of soup I could just re-heat throughout the week for a quick lunch or dinner. So I set my fear of black ham aside, and tried it two weekends ago. Not surprisingly, Kiki was totally right. The soup is delicious. It has a great texture — a little thick (but not muddy) with some whole beans still floating around. I know it looks like a lot of cumin, but it’s really perfect. And, of course, the best part of black bean soup is the accoutrements — a little chopped cilantro, diced avocado, sliced scallions, sour cream and, clearly, cheese. I like Monterey Jack diced up super tiny. The little cheese cubes sink into the soup and get all melty. It’s great.

Black Bean Soup

Don’t be afraid of black ham — it’s delicious. Seriously, I ate this soup almost every day for a week, and was only sorry when it was all gone.

Black Bean Soup
From Cook’s Illustrated, Jan/Feb. 2005

For the Beans:
1 lb dried black beans, rinsed and picked over
4 oz. ham steak, trimmed of rind and excess fat
2 dried bay leaves
5 cups water
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

For the Soup:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, chopped fine
1 large carrot, chopped fine
3 medium celery ribs, chopped fine
½ teaspoon salt
5 – 6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 ½ tablespoons ground cumin
6 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1 – 2 limes)

Chopped HamPlace the beans, ham, bay leaves, water and baking soda in a large pot with a lid. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; using a large spoon, skim scum as it rises to the surface. Stir in salt, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer briskly until the beans are tender, 1 ¼ — 1 ½ hours. (It may be necessary to add about 1 cup additional water if the beans begin to dry out before they get tender.) Discard bay leaves. Remove ham steak, cut into ¼” dice and set aside. DO NOT DRAIN BEANS.

Heat olive oil in an 8 quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, carrot, celery and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and beginning to brown, about 12 – 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic, red pepper flakes and cumin. Cook, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the beans, bean cooking liquid and chicken broth. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes.

Ladle 1 ½ cups beans and 2 cups liquid into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Return mixture to pot. (You can also ladle the mixture into a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup and puree with an immersion blender.) In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water. Gradually stir about half this mixture into the soup and bring the soup to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring, to thicken. If the soup is still thinner than desired, add the remaining cornstarch mixture and return the soup to the boil to thicken. Off heat, stir lime juice into the soup and serve with garnishes of your choice – lime wedges, minced cilantro leaves, finely diced red onion, sliced scallions, diced avocado, sour cream, finely diced or shredded Monterey jack cheese.

pig skin

Last year, I wanted to make ham for Thanksgiving. I was out-voted (we had a turkey). The thing is, how many occasions does one have, other than Thanksgiving, to roast a large piece of meat knowing there will be plenty of folks around to help you eat it?

Ham, Gravy, Cracklings

When I received a fresh ham in my meat pick-up last month, I immediately called my friend Allison, a fellow ham-lover (but also a turkey for Turkey Day purist). When I suggested Sunday, February 3rd for ham dinner, it was only with very mild exasperation that she reminded me that February 3rd was Super Bowl Sunday. Not a problem — ham should be eaten in the late afternoon, before money-hungry networks televise long-awaited sporting events, forcing small children to stay up past their bedtimes.

A fresh ham is essentially a large piece of roasted pork. It has none of the smoky, salty flavor of the ham most of us eat regularly. It’s more like roast pork loin — sweet and clean tasting. This recipe, from the Gourmet Cookbook, ups the ante with a killer gravy and homemade cracklings. That’s right: gravy and crisp, roasted pig skin.

Beer Basted Fresh Ham With Cracklings and Pan Gravy

Adapted from Epicurious

For the Ham:

8 – 10 lb fresh ham
Vegetable oil for rubbing
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1⁄2 teaspoon dried sage, crumbled
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon English-style dry mustard
12 oz. beer (not dark)

For the Gravy:

2 tablespoons AP flour
1 cup beef broth
1⁄2 teaspoon English-style dry mustard
1⁄4 teaspoon dried sage, crumbled
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1⁄4 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Ham with RubPre-heat oven to 500°. With a small, very sharp knife, prick the ham skin all over. Make four parallel, ½” deep incisions through the skin, running the entire length of the ham. Rub the ham lightly with oil all over. In a small bowl, combine salt, thyme, sage, pepper and mustard and rub the mixture over the entire ham. Place the ham on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Place ham in oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 325°. Roast for 1 hour. Pour half the beer over the ham and roast for 30 minutes more. Pour remaining beer over the ham and roast for 2 – 2 ½ hours more, until the pork registers 150° on an instant-read thermometer.* (If the drippings appear to be burning, add some water to the bottom of the pan while cooking.)

Peeling off Ham SkinLet the pork cool on the rack in the pan for 15 minutes. Carefully pull the crisp, brown skin off the ham, leaving the fat behind. With scissors, cut the skin into small pieces, arrange on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and roast at 350° for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp and brown on both sides. Transfer cracklings to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Remove the remaining fat from the ham with a sharp knife. Tent the ham with foil and let rest while you make the gravy. Skim the fat off the juices in the roasting pan. Add one cup water to the pan and deglaze the pan over moderate heat, scraping up the brown bits. Transfer the drippings to a saucepan. In a small bowl, whisk together flour and ¼ cup of the broth until the mixture is smooth. Whisk the flour mixture into the pan with the drippings, along with the remaining broth and the remaining gravy ingredients. Simmer the gravy, whisking, for 5 minutes.

Slice the meat thinly and across the grain. Arrange on a platter with the cracklings. Serves 8 with leftovers. I think the leftovers would make awesome Cuban sandwiches, but I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet.

*The original recipe said to roast until the ham reached 170° — that is way too long. Trust me, my ham was cooked throughout with nary a trace of pink — I think I could have taken it out five degrees sooner. I’m also very curious to know how brining would have affected the texture of the ham and I might try that next time.

a marriage made in heaven

I don’t know why it took me almost five months to try this recipe for pork chops with pear and onion pan gravy, because as soon as I saw it, I knew I would love it. My Eastern European heritage means that I am, essentially, genetically programed to like a little fruit with my savory (especially when that savory involves pork): garlicky sausages with prunes, bacon with marmalade, ham salad with mango. It seems so wrong, but it tastes so right.

Pork Chops with Pan Gravy

This recipe is a new (to me, at least) twist on pork chops with applesauce. Here, the applesauce is replaced with a luscious pan gravy, overflowing with silky onions and soft, sweet bits of pear. As my sister is always telling me, doesn’t everything just taste better with gravy? Sometime I’ll tell you about her plans for a gravy-themed dinner party. But not now because right now I’m trying to encourage you to make delicious pork chops, not gross you out.

Pork Chops With Pear and Vidalia Pan Gravy
From The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

Four 1 ¼” thick bone-in pork loin chops, trimmed of excess fat
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 ½ teaspoons flour
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 ¼ cups thinly sliced Vidalia or other sweet onion (about 1 large)
1 cup Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and cut into ¼” dice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon dry sherry, Madeira or tawny port
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

Preheat oven to 425º. In a small bowl, mix salt, pepper and ½ teaspoon of the flour. Sprinkle half the mixture on one side of each of the chops.

Heat peanut oil in an oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat until you start to see wisps of smoke. Place the chops, seasoned side down, in the skillet and sear until well-browned, about three minutes. Season the second side of the chops while in the pan with remaining salt/pepper/flour mixture. Turn chops and sear second side, about 3 minutes more. Move the skillet to the oven, and bake about 4 minutes for medium-rare chops.

Remove skillet from the oven and place on the stove. Remove chops to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Add the onion, half the pears and the butter to the skillet and cook, over medium-low heat, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. With a wooden spatula, move the onions around the pan, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the skillet.

In a small bowl, whisk together the broth and remaining 1 teaspoon flour. Add broth mixture, Madeira and vinegar to the skillet, and increase the heat to medium-high. Once the liquid comes to a simmer, add any juices that have collected on the plate with the resting chops. Simmer the gravy vigorously, until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Turn off the heat, add remaining pears and taste for seasoning.

Serve each chop with a heaping spoonful of the pan gravy.