Pork’s reputation as a high fat meat not entirely deserved

Pork has had a bad rap for being high in fat but, in fact, it depends upon the cut.

The tenderloin, loin and shoulder have two to seven grams of fat per 100 grams of lean meat. Comparatively, the ribs have about 25 grams of fat per 100 grams of lean meat. Lean ground pork has 14 grams and medium ground pork has 22 grams per 100 grams of meat.

Pork is rich in B vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, B12 and niacin, which are important for the nervous system, muscles and for maintaining healthy skin and eyes. It also provides iron and zinc for building hemoglobin in blood and protecting bones. These nutrients are also important for helping the body release energy from carbohydrates.

Pork is popular in many cultures around the world.

These recipes have their roots in the southern United States, Mexico and Italy.

Slow-roasted pork butt

Pork butt or Boston butt, despite the name, is a cut that comes from the upper part of the shoulder of the pig.

Dry Rub:

  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder 15 mL
  • 1/2 tbsp. onion powder 7 mL
  • 1 tbsp. dry mustard 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin 15 mL
  • 3 tbsp. coarse salt 45 mL
  • 5 to 7 lb. pork roast, preferably shoulder or Boston butt 2-3 kg

Cider vinegar barbecue sauce:

  • 1 c. cider vinegar 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. grainy German mustard 125 mL
  • 1 c. ketchup 250 mL
  • 1/3 c. packed brown sugar 75 mL
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tsp. salt 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. cayenne 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 2 mL

Heat the oven to 450 F (230 C).
Remove the netting from the pork.

Mix the dry rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Rub the spice blend all over the pork and marinate for one hour or up to overnight, covered, in the refrigerator.
Heat a heavy skillet over high heat and sear the roast on all sides.
If using a cast iron or heavy oven-safe skillet, leave the pork in the skillet. Or, transfer the pork to a roasting or baking pan.
Cover with foil.
Put the roast in the oven, reduce the temperature to 300 F (150 C), and roast for three hours. Uncover and continue roasting for another hour, or until the roast is pull-apart tender.
Combine the barbecue sauce ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan. Simmer gently, stirring, for 10 minutes until the sugar dissolves.
Remove the pork roast from the oven and transfer to a large platter.
Allow the meat to rest for about 10 minutes. While still warm, take two forks and shred the pork by steadying the meat with one fork and pulling it away with the other to form shreds. Put the shredded pork in a bowl.
Pour half of the sauce on the shredded pork and mix well to coat.
Serve on buns topped with spicy coleslaw and the extra sauce on the side.

Porchetta

Roasting skin-on pork belly that’s been wrapped around a pork loin gives you the best of both worlds: crackling mahogany crust and juicy meat. Start at least 24 hours ahead. Ask your butcher for a skin-on pork belly that’s just long and wide enough to wrap around a trimmed, centre-cut pork loin. It is easiest if you ask the butcher to roll it and tie it. You can untie it at home but you will not have to cut to the right size.

  • 5-6 lb. piece fresh pork belly, skin on 2-3 kg
  • 2-3 lb. boneless, centre-cut pork loin, trimmed 1-1 1/2 kg
  • 3 tbsp. fennel seeds 45 mL
  • 2 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes 30 mL
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh sage 30 mL
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh rosemary 15 mL
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 orange, seeded, thinly sliced

If the butcher didn’t trim and roll the cuts for you, then place belly skin-side down and arrange loin in centre. Roll belly around loin so the short ends of the belly meet. If any of the belly or loin overhangs, trim meat. Unroll and set loin aside.

Toast fennel seeds and red pepper flakes in a small dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about one minute. Finely grind spices and transfer to a small bowl, along with the sage, rosemary and garlic and set aside.
Set belly skin-side down. Using a knife, score the belly flesh in a checkerboard pattern 1/3 inch (eight millimetres) deep so roast will cook evenly.
Flip belly skin side up. Using a paring knife, poke dozens of 1/8 inch (three mm) deep holes through skin all over belly.
Using the jagged edge of a meat mallet, pound skin all over for three minutes to tenderize, which will help make skin crispy when roasted.
Turn belly and generously salt both it and loin. Rub both with fennel mixture. Arrange loin down middle of belly. Top with orange slices.
Roll belly around loin and tie crosswise with kitchen twine at 1/2 inch (1.25 centimetre) intervals. Trim twine. Transfer roast to a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet.
Refrigerate roast, uncovered, for one to two days to allow skin to air-dry.
Let porchetta sit at room temperature for two hours before roasting.
Preheat oven to 500 F (260 C).
Season porchetta with salt.
Roast on rack on baking sheet, turning once, for 40 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 F (150 C) and continue roasting, rotating the pan and turning porchetta occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into centre of meat registers 145 F (63 C). It should take about 1 1/2 to two hours more. It will continue to cook as it sits out of the oven. If skin is not yet deep brown and crisp, increase heat to 500 F (260 C) and roast for 10 minutes more.
Let rest for 30 minutes.
Using a serrated knife, slice into 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) rounds.

Chicharrones

This is a popular snack in Mexico and although it takes some effort, it can be made at home.

  • 1 large piece of pork skin, trimmed of fat, about 2 lb. 1 kg
  • 4 c. pork lard or neutral oil for frying 1 L
  • 1 lime
  • 2 tsp. salt 10 mL
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. chili powder 1-2 mL

The skin from the belly is ideal for this. If your skin still has a large cap of white fat on it, use a sharp knife to remove as much as you can. Place the skin in a stockpot and cover it with about four inches (10 cm) of water, then place a plate on top of the skin to keep it below the water. Cover the pot and bring the water to a rapid boil. Lower the heat slightly, and gently boil the skin for two hours, checking occasionally to make sure there is still water in the pot.
After two hours, remove the skin and allow it to cool until you’re able to handle it. Gently remove any white fat that’s left.
Pat the skin dry, and place it on a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet.
Set oven to the lowest setting and dehydrate the skin for eight to 10 hours. The skin is done when it’s brittle enough to crack cleanly into pieces. Once the skin is at this point, fill a pot with about four inches of melted lard or frying oil and heat it 400 F (200 C).
Crack the skin into small pieces, about one-inch (2.5 cm) squares, and fry them one or two at a time, poking them until they puff up and turn golden brown.
Transfer to a paper towel to drain, and once they’ve cooled slightly, squeeze the juice of one lime over them and sprinkle with salt and chili powder.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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