Sunday, October 24, 2010

Meat Hoarding

This time of year, I feel just like Indiana Jones in that scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark where he's running for his life behind a giant boulder, trying to escape the sacred temple from which no one has ever left alive. In my case, the boulder represents the 2011 half-pig and half-lamb slated to arrive any day now, in the wake of an already well stocked larder. It's the odds and ends like ham hocks and lamb necks, and even the really choice cuts like spare ribs I'm now desperate to cook, share, and consume as the inevitable day approaches that Laura Ohm calls to tell me our 2011 supply of meat is ready for pickup.

Hi, my name is Robin and I am a meat hoarder. I believe in conscious consumption of meat, and supporting sustainable farming, and value, so I purchase my animals in bulk. Aside from chicken, I rarely by meat at the grocery store, and I love the indulgence of walking into my garage, reaching into my deep freezer and playing Russian Roulette with a dinner party menu. But in committing to buying a half lamb, half pig and 1/8 of a cow every year, I'm biting off more than I can chew, literally speaking (as well as figuratively). Yet, I can't stop. The thought of not having an endless supply of ground beef for impromptu sloppy joes, or pork chops to marinate in kim chi and sear in a cast iron skillet gives me anxiety. But, in an ironic twist, so does the reality of having to buy a supplemental freezer this year because I have too many quarts of frozen lard from 2009 to make room for the new supply.

Yesterday, I pulled out a pig jowl and started the 5-8 week long process that will result in guanciale, Today, I decided to conquer the pork belly, or at least start a management plan for it. Last year, I opted out of having my belly turned into bacon at the butcher's in lieu of taking a whole, uncured slab--my naked canvas, if you will. Well for all of my excitement to make my own bacon, Chinese red-cooked pork and rillettes, a 7lb pork belly stayed in my freezer for 11.5 months. So a cold, rainy Sunday gave me the excuse I needed to consult some cookbooks for ideas.
Then, I made a list of the pork belly recipes I was interested in and the corresponding weight of pork belly I would need.

I disrobed the belly. Leaner than I was expecting. There goes the homemade salt pork.

And then, I took out the old Foodsaver, weighed and labeled my pieces, and voila, several manageably-sized slabs of belly, ready for braising or curing or larding.

And then they went back in the freezer, because I'm still working on a defrosted hock and a pound of sausage in the fridge. But now, I have it all at the ready, as soon as I want them, whenever that may be. It's progress.