A story about swine that doesn’t mention flu

The problem with cuts of meat in America is that they’re so damn large, you have to invite around thirteen people around in order to get through everything. And with The Special One’s family all being caught up with other things this weekend, that left just the four of us to consume an entire pork shoulder. Which is particularly difficult when one of you is a vegetarian.

Of course, I say that I was cooking a pork shoulder, but here in the States, I am forced to say that I had got my hands on some Boston butt. Just to be clear for the purposes of those in the UK, I had not been indulging in appropriate posterior fondling with Barbara Walters, contrary to what you might read in the National Enquirer this week. Instead I was cooking with a cut of meat that usually gets used for barbecue in the US – slow cooked with plenty of smoke, to give you the tenderest bit of pork that you can imagine.

As it was, I don’t possess a smoker, so I had to settle for roasting the meat at a low temperature for seven hours. And it was pretty damn good even if I do say so myself. I even made my own barbecue sauce. Sadly I used enough vinegar to flood a small village in Wales, and my attempts to present the sauce as ‘tangy’ were greeted with sneers. And pursed lips and squinted eyes, if I’m honest.

The cooking extravaganza hadn’t begun well, after I showed The Special One the naked butt. Again, I’m still talking about the pork, folks, so please try to stay with me. Like all good bits of pork, the skin still showed a few pieces of hair, as I believe that getting out the Gillette Mach 3 was probably the last thing on the pig’s mind when he woke up and read “Monday – fieldtrip to abbatoir, Tuesday – no plans” in his schedule for that week. But while the occasional chicken feather seems OK to her, The Special One apparently draws the line at stubble in her meat products.

The fact is that Americans like meat, and many of them can deal with fat, but the vast majority of them would scatter to the four winds if asked to eat any of the more challenging parts of your average animal. The Special One still rails in horror at the idea of black pudding (or blood pudding as she still insists on calling it, just to ensure that she can never give in to its magical ways), and I’m guessing that haggis is off the menu after we saw a programme detailing its manufacture. I’ve seen the occasional mention of tripe in the US, but am yet to meet anyone who has tried it, while liver and kidney is much less prevalent over here than in the UK.

But what drives me most beserk is the unwillingness to eat pig skin. To me, crackling pork skin – heavily salted, and crisped up to bubbly perfection – is probably the best reason to eat pork in the first place. Back in my bachelor days, I was known to roast the occasional joint of pork just because I knew that I would be able to have crackling. And don’t even get me started on my love for pork scratchings, or the look of horror when I told The Special One that the tiny foil packets contained just salty pig skin and fat.

Pork skin is conspicuous by its absence in America. Most bacon comes rindless, and pork chops are trimmed to within an inch of their (former) lives. ‘Suckling pig’ in a restaurant I recently ate at had all of the porky goodness, but none of the porcine epidermis. I went home happy, but marginally disappointed about the opportunity that had been denied to me.

As it was, yesterday’s slow roasting meant that the skin wasn’t suitable for eating anyway, and besides, the sight of three people vomiting at the table as I ate might have been too much for me. The search for crackling continues.

6 thoughts on “A story about swine that doesn’t mention flu

  1. Iota

    Crackling is the best, I agree with you. I’ve always found it very difficult to cook a roast with good crackling, so there’s the added thrill of achievement to enjoy along with the delicious taste and texture.

  2. Stella Jones

    I agree with you about the port, oops, I mean pork, Freudian slip there! I have yet to see a pig or a sheep since I’ve been here. I have seen cows, though not many and a few horses. I can only assume these lovely farm animals exist on farms which are tucked away behind the trees. I suppose it’s because I live in a city, but I do miss seeing the farm animals when we travel along the highways.

    I have discovered good meat at Fresh Market, but no kidneys, liver, heart or suet. I keep looking…
    Blessings, Star

  3. gabi

    You can get a gordita filled with “chicharron” (crispy pork skin) on 116th St in East Harlem. Or alternately you can buy a giant bag of it. You can also get tripe tacos.

    You should also head to Red Hook Ball Fields one weekend. All the pork products you can imagine.

  4. Kent

    Love the post. And your life over here. Welcome, somewhat belatedly. Also a fan of cracklin’s, since I am now in Texas. The Mexicans call them chicharrones, which are delightful. Just wash your hands before you eat them. And after. And after.
    I will be back again.


  5. Carole Lanno

    Telling people you eat Head Cheese and how it is made, really grosses them out. Have you ever had it? Not the garbage they sell in the store, but homemade. My French Canadian relatives make it.

    After removing the brain, eyes, and ears of a pig’s head, you slow cook it in a pot on the stove with some water for a few hours. You then take the cooked head, shred it and put it in glass bowls, topping it with the remaining liquid from the pot and put it in the fridge to cool. Once cooled the liquid turns to gelatin.
    It is usually eaten spread on bread with a bit of mustard. Goes well with home made soup.

    At Easter my Italian relatives cook a lamb’s head in the oven and then scoop the brains out and it eat. No kidding

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