Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The King of the Southern Table

We are so pleased that our good friend and fellow farmer – Brian Miller of Winged Elm Farm – has allowed us to cross-post one of his recent “Farm Notes” that we thought was just great.  Do be sure to visit his farm’s website and blog, the addresses of which are below.  Here it is:

“Mogul of appetite, lord of misrule, the king who must die": John Thorne, a favorite quote from a favorite author. More pork is butchered each year per pound than beef, lamb, goats or chickens and any other competing livestock. That is more pork around the world. Scratch the billion plus Muslims, scratch the kosher adherents of Judaism, pork is still tops.

The pig has been our constant companions for over ten thousand years. A fellow omnivore, a perfect companion, a domestic vacuum cleaner or gleaner of all things left over. The pig converts food into pounds at a ratio of 33%; a sheep does the next best at 13%, and a steer at a measly 7%. The hog plunges out of the starting gate at a couple of pounds and ends the first year at an easy 300 pounds. Take that you squalling human infant!

I have no books on my shelves celebrating the sheep or goat (excluding the instructional), only one on the steer, a handful on chickens and an even two dozen celebrating the hog: Serious Pig, Pork and Sons, Pig: King of the Southern Table, The Whole Hog, Pig Perfect and Everything but the Squeal, to name but six.

Pig meat: nothing is more communal than a pig roast. Next to it beef is positively boring. Pig meat is accessible and democratic. We all eat  “high on the hog” with pork because pork is easily raised by one and all. In Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson, she speaks of how little kids gather choice thistle and grasses during the day to feed to the family pig: A year-long family project to fatten the pig so that all could enjoy the sausage, flitches of bacon, salted hams, head cheese, chops, loin, blood puddings.

Pigs are the meat of choice for the sustainability crowd. We can survive, do for ourselves, a pig in a paddock proclaims. Pull up an overturned bucket, hunker down and watch a cow eat hay and you feel nothing. Watch a pig tuck into a trough of steamed zucchini, corn and stale bread and you shout Comrade!

Tonight we dined on what Cindy referred to as a keeper: Lacon Con Grelos, A Galician dinner that could be ripped from the pages of any decent Southern cookbook. We physically restrained ourselves from eating until sick. Fix this immediately and restore your soul, find a new center for well-being, toss out the yoga class, deliver up your Lipitor to the porcelain god. Better to check out a few years early than to squander those extra years deprived of good eats.

Lacon Con Grelos: as adapted from The Food and Wines of Spain by Penelope Casas.

1.5 pounds of smoked or salted pork. We used left over smoked shoulder
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1 pound collard greens, rinsed and roughly chopped
Half a pound Andouille sausage or other piquant cased meat
4 new potatoes

Place pork in pot and cover with water. Add salt and pepper. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for one hour. Add greens and sausage and potatoes. Simmer for another hour. Serve.

This dish is so elemental that it blew us away in its complexity. Get thee to a pig!

Brian Miller
Winged Elm Farm

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