By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat
I have often been asked why Tender Grassfed Meat has no recipes for pork. The answer I always give has been the same—conventional pork, even organic pork, is just too lean, lacks flavor, and is always fed a large amount of soy. Soy feeding, in my opinion, will ruin the taste of any meat. These pigs were specially bred to be lean, and have no real flavor. Nearly all the traditional ways of cooking pork were designed for fatter pigs, with every roast having the skin and a thick layer of fat attached. Traditional ways of cooking pork just did not work with the modern pig, a creation of fear, the fear of the fat we need to be healthy.
I knew there were some creative, intrepid farmers who were actually raising pork in the old way, by letting them roam in the forests, letting them root in harvested fields, giving them the skim milk left over from making cream and butter, and giving them table scraps. But I was unable to get any of this fabled pork—until now.
My local farmers’ market now carries real pastured pork. This pork is so much better than anything I was able to get before that it seems like a different species. The meat has incredible flavor, perfect fat content, and makes me feel good after eating it, something that never happened with any other kind of pork.
These pigs are not penned and stuffed with soy and garbage, but roam the woods, eating their natural diet of mast, which is composed of seeds and fruits fallen from trees, various plants, bugs and the occasional small animal. They are also allowed to root in harvested organic vegetable fields and orchards, and are given the skim milk left over from making cream and butter. Even better, these pigs are from the famous Berkshire heritage breed, a breed developed for fine eating in England, long ago.
Interestingly enough, a number of Berkshire pigs are raised in the United States, but almost all of them are exported to Japan, where their meat is called kurobata. But these Berkshires were raised and available locally.
Still better is the fact that these pigs come with a nice coating of their own life-giving fat. In fact, the pork shoulder roasts come with the skin on, and with all the beautiful fat under the skin. This is something I had read about, but almost never seen. Almost all the traditional recipes for pork roasts called for the skin to be left on. Now I would have a chance to taste why pork was so loved in traditional European cooking.
Roasting Real Pork, or Rediscovering the Lost Art of Scoring
I made the first pork roast. I roasted it carefully in a traditional way. I was surprised to see that there was very little fat in the pan. The meat was very good, with a nice flavor, fairly tender, and tasted nothing like the soy-fed pork that I disliked.
But something was missing. It was very good, but not great. Great is my standard for grassfed meat, not good. Good is just not good enough. It is not that I am a great cook—it is that traditional meat does taste great, when properly cooked, and anyone can learn to properly cook grassfed meat. The greatness is in the natural meat humankind has been eating for thousands of years. In other words, the greatness comes from the meat, not the cook. There is a very old saying—“God gives us good meat, the devil sends us cooks.”
If I cook grassfed meat and it tastes only good, then I know I have done something wrong.
I did a bit of research, and learned about the lost art of scoring. Several old books stated clearly that scoring was the most important part of cooking a pork roast. Most Americans have never even heard of it. The old books assumed everybody would do it as a matter of course.
Scoring means making long parallel cuts through the skin and fat of the pork roast, stopping short of cutting into the meat. Some books advocated making these cuts every quarter inch. I started to score my next roast, and learned that it was not easy to cut through the tough, slippery skin. I sharpened a sturdy knife, got a glove that would give me a good grip, and set to work, being careful to angle the edge of the knife away from the hand holding the pork. This went much easier, though I decided that making cuts every half inch was sufficient.
I roasted the pork the same way I had the previous roast, with the only difference being the scoring. The smell coming from the oven made me so hungry it was hard to wait for the meat to finish cooking. The taste was fantastic, like no pork I had ever tasted before. Very tender, juicy without being wet, rich without being greasy, with a wonderful deep flavor that makes me hungry just to think of it. I now understood why pork roasts were so loved in the past. I felt good and renewed after eating the roast—again a new experience.
And this was a shoulder roast, one of the cheapest parts of the pig!
It is only necessary to score large cuts of pork that have the skin on. Smaller cuts can be delicious without being scored, but trust me on this, a scored pork roast is more than worth all the extra work.
My next book, which will be on barbecuing grassfed meat, will have some wonderful recipes for pastured pork. My thanks to the heroic farmers who are reintroducing real pork to the American people.
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