Wednesday, 25 April 2012

How to Handle a Big Cheap Hunk of Pork

Pork joints, particularly shoulder and leg, frequently go on special offer for around £3 a kilogram or less.  Check out the one I just bought for £2.66 a kilo. 

That is a big cheap hunk of meat!   If I had a crowd to serve, I could simply roast it and serve with gravy and vegetables.  But there's just two of us to feed and it's going to last all week and feature in a variety of meals.

The first step is to cook it.   My pack says to cook for 35 minutes per 450g plus 30 minutes at 190 C.  If you do this, I advise you to first seal the meat in a hob on the frying pan to help retain the juices.  Also, let it rest for 20 minutes or so before slicing.

I'm going to ignore the instructions and use my slow-cooker.  This method makes pork shoulder come out so tender it simply falls apart when you stick a fork in it.  If you want neat slices of roast, use the oven method.

Slow cookers are great for inexpensive cuts of meat that need to be tenderized.  You can just put in the ingredients for a stew in the morning and it will be ready in the evening.  You can get a basic slow cooker for about £15, or try advertising on a free-cycling group to see if anyone has a used one taking up space.

With this hunk of pork, I'm not going to add any flavours to the pot because I'll be using the cooked meat  in differently flavoured dishes.  I just pour about an inch of hot water into the cooker, plop in the meat and cover it.  I leave it on high heat for about an hour to get things going, then switch to low and leave it to slow roast overnight. 

The next day, I take out the pork and transfer it to a cutting board to cool.  I then slice off the crackling (which I'll crisp up later).  I pull apart the joint, removing any gristly or rubbery pieces of fat.  I chop up the meat into bite-sized pieces and store in a lidded container for later use.  The unwanted fat goes outside for the neighbourhood fox.

I pour the juices from the bottom of the slow cooker into a separate container.  This is essentially pork stock and can be used to add flavour and smooth texture to sauces.  It will gelatinize when refrigerated, but quickly melt when added to a hot pan. 

Ideas for using cold roast pork shoulder

  • American pulled pork sandwich
Reheat with juices and barbeque sauce.  Serve on a buttered bap with caramelized onions. 

  • Poor man's crispy, aromatic duck
Stir fry with juices, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and Chinese five spice powder.  Serve on Chinese pancakes with hoi sin sauce and sliced cucumber or spring onions.  

  • Use instead of minced beef to liven up chilli con carne or bolognaise.

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