Butchery At Home: The Fourth of July

August 3rd, 2009
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That’s right, I cut up another pig. It’s late for me to post this, but, hey, I actually have a little time for once.
All my talk of butchery got me interested in doing a bit of my own. For our July 4th shindig, I bought a 37 pound pig and cut it up myself. This was the biggest pig I’ve tackled to date, but after a 16 and a 20 pounder, I had the anatomy down.
Like my first porchetta attempt last year, I deboned the mid-section and seasoned it with fennel pollen, rosemary, garlic and this time, lemon juice instead of full slices.
I rubbed the ribs with a cajun seasoning, which would have been great if there had been any meat to speak of there.
The shoulders and front legs were marinated in a Cuban citrus mixture, what’s been a fixture of mine for years. Orange, Lime and Grapefruit juice mixed with vinegar, cumin, onions and garlic.
One back leg was rubbed in an achiote paste and slow roasted on the grill. The other, I have frozen and plan to cure as a ham. I may wait until the humidity goes down so I can avoid the trouble I ran into last time…
And of course, there’s the head. Appleman made the wonderful suggestion of braising and then roasting it. It sounded like a great idea, but then I was perplexed by what to braise it in.
I found inspiration looking in the freezer. There were a number of containers full of porchetta stock from the bones of the Christmas party porchetta that I had no idea what I was going to do with. This was the answer.
I slow cooked the head half-covered in the stock and a mixture of the leftover seasonings from the new batch of porchetta, then I put the head on a cast iron and threw it on the grill for a bit to get some smoke and to crisp up.
It worked out really well. I shredded the meat from the cheeks and the ears and snout and chopped it up. it became an unctuous, mass of pulled pork that everyone who tasted it loved. The flavors of fennel and rosemary permeated every bite without dominating and the texture was transcendental in its tenderness.
The pig was definitely a win all around (except for the ribs, which had no meat on them). I don’t know the next time I’ll be able to do something like this again, but I’ve certainly eager to braise/roast another head and make wonderful things out of it.


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