Our pastured pork is grass & dairy fed which has a rich, delicious sweet taste. Do not over cook meat so as to keep it’s natural juicy flavor and tenderness. You can use ground pork where you would use hamburger in recipes. Slow cooking a large piece of meat such as a ham, roast or loin makes for wonderful meals, sandwiches and omelettes the following days.
Note: In June of 2011 the USDA Revised their recommended cooking temperature for all whole cuts of meat, including pork, lowering the internal goal temperature to 145 °F. For ground meats they still recommend 160 °F internal temperature. What this means is that the science has found rarer meats to be healthy so it is no longer necessary to cook it to shoe leather consistency. Enjoy! See the article “Rare Pork” for more details.
Sear in the juices with high initial heat and then finish cooking over a lower heat. Be sure not to over cook the meat or it will dry out and toughen. If you like well done, try medium since pastured pork is much more flavorful than corn fattened meat.
Brining – We brine fresh hams for our family’s table in 3 cups salt, 1 cup sugar or maple syrup, about 2 tsp cloves and black pepper in enough water to cover a 10 to 15 lb ham. Boil the brine, cool and place over meat in a glass, stoneware or plastic container – not metal. For large pieces of meat, debone or inject the brine to get good penetration. Soak fully covered with brine for three days in the fridge turning daily. Longer makes it more tender and saltier. Remove, from brine, rinse and bake 15 minutes per lb starting at 400°F for first half hour – then 325°F until meat reaches an internal temperature of 160°F. Remove from oven and let meat rest 10 minutes before serving.
Note there is the option of using curing salt (Prague #1 Cure) or celery salt (another source of nitrates/nitrites) in recipes but that isn’t necessary if you have refrigeration. If you’re just salting for flavor the amount can vary based on your tastes. Cure (Prague or celery) does change the color of the meat making it redder – this is a side effect of the chemical reaction and not due to the red dye used in the Prague. The red dye is to warn people that the nitrate/nitrite salt is not regular salt since a far lower dose can be toxic. The purpose of the toxicity is to kill bacteria. The color change in the meat doesn’t come from the tiny amount of red dye but rather from a chemical change in the meat. The coloration is really just a side effect that people have come to associate with the curing, it isn’t the goal. See:
“Curing meat involves adding nitrite or nitrate among other ingredients such as salt, sugar and spices to fresh meat. Most commonly nitrite is added to meat because the cured color reactions occur faster and more reliably than nitrate. The nitrite, usually dissolved in water, causes metmyoglobin to be formed, which causes the meat to turn brown. Eventually, the brownish colored meat will form the cured meat compound, nitrosylhemocrome, when the product is heated. The nitrosylhemochrome is a pink colored pigment that is heat stable. This pink “cured meat” color will continue to be pink when it is cooked as well as if the meat product is reheated multiple times.”
–Cured Meat Color.
Our family loves corned beef so it was natural that we look to make corned pork. We started with the brining recipe as our base, skip the sugar and change the spices to bay leaves, black peppercorns, dill, chopped garlic, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, mustard seeds and a few cloves. After corning, drain & rinse the meat. Bring a pot of water to a boil and simmer the corned pork for about 15 minutes per pound until tender. Late in the cooking you can add potatoes, carrots or other root veggies to the pot to cook them in the delicious meat juices. Rest for 10 minutes & serve.
My personal favorite is grandma Jeffries’ barbecue ribs in sauce. This versatile recipe also works with loin or pork roast. Begin by cooking the meat for one hour at 350°F – longer for a large loin or roast.
While cooking, prepare a sauce, ideally in a cast iron skillet or pot, of one chopped onion, 2 cloves chopped garlic, green pepper all of which has been braised in pork fat or olive oil for about 10 minutes. Add 1 and 1/2 cup paste tomato (crushed, sauce or chopped), 3 tblsp of molasses, 2 tblsp vinegar, 1 and 1/2 tblsp Worcestershire or A1, 2 tsp mustard and some red pepper to taste. Cook sauce 10 more minutes and then spread on baking meat. Bake 1 hour more. Let rest before serving.
How to Cook a Ham
Preheat the oven to 325°F. We slash the surface lightly in a cross pattern, rub it with brown sugar or maple syrup and pierce the junctions of the grooves with cloves. We then bake it at 325°F which is about 160°C until the internal temperature of the meat reaches about 150°F (65°C). That’s about 15 to 20 minutes a pound – use a meat thermometer, the best way, or cut a core to check color if you think it is done but aren’t sure.
While cooking the fat side should be on top so that the fat drips down over the meat. We use a pan that can collect the juices and holds the meat up above the drippings. After the first hour I baste the ham with the drippings time to time, maybe every 45 minutes or so depending on what else I’m doing.
Take the ham out and let it rest for about 15 minutes – it continues to cook internally. While the ham rests we use drippings to make gravy for potatoes.
“It’s amazing just how great integrity, excellence in care and husbandry, and commitment to quality tastes in every bite of Sugar Mountain Farm’s pork!”
-Tom Bivins, Executive Chef , NECI, New England Culinary Institute