I’ve been having a cooking dry spell lately. I’ve been busy. I went to Lake Placid and ran a half marathon. I’m taking a course on Food Policy which is more studying than I’ve done in eons and also requires writing, so it’s sapping much of my creative inspiration. We’re between CSAs – the summer one we’ve signed up with doesn’t start for another week or so, and the farmer’s markets are still fairly barren of local vegetables and fruit. All those things are true. But really, those are just excuses and I’ve been feeling entirely uninspired in both the kitchen and writing departments.
I took last week off work to recover from the half marathon and relax and recharge, something I often do this time of year. I think I finally snapped my cooking dry spell by making pulled pork and coleslaw. It was the first time I made pulled pork and it was delicious. This meal was made even more special because it was my first time cooking with pork from Upper Canada Heritage Meat.
There is a really important story behind this meat that I’ve been wanting to share for a while. I first heard of Barbara Shaefer and her Large Black pigs (capitalization fully intentional – that’s really the name of the breed!) on CBC last summer. We’ve all heard of heirloom vegetables, but this was the first time I had heard there were heritage breed animals. These pigs are particularly well-suited to Canada – they are hardy and stay outdoors year round. In fact, they don’t do well in the close indoor quarters of factory farms, which is why they’re not raised on a large scale. Due to last summer’s drought and soaring feed prices, Barbara was having a difficult time feeding her herd and was facing having to sell off part of this endangered breed that she had worked so hard to built up. Barbara launched a campaign for customers to “sponsor” a pig to help pay for its feed, which she would then give back in credits towards meat purchases. I thought this idea was genius, and essentially not much different from many CSAs where you pay up front to help support the farmer as s/he raises the crops from seed to your table. So we bought some coupons.
Fast forward to now, after recently acquiring a freezer and picking up our order of pork, this pork shoulder was the first cut I cooked. Although you can’t go wrong with slow cooking pork, this meat was noticeably juicy, tender and dark, and had much more flavour than traditional breeds. I highly recommend it! You can find Upper Canada Heritage Meat at the Westboro and Brewer Park farmer’s markets here in Ottawa. They also ship through Foodiepages throughout the winter months.
3 lb pork shoulder
freshly ground salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground coriander
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 can tomato sauce
2 tbsp Demerara brown sugar
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. In large heavy bottomed pot, heat oil over medium-high heat; brown pork all over. Transfer to slow cooker.
2. Add onions, garlic, chili powder, coriander and bay leaves to pot. Cook, stirring often, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes.
3. Add tomato past and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add tomato sauce, sugar, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir to combine. Pour into slow cooker over pork. Cover and cook on low until pork is tender and cooked to desired temperature, about 8 hours.
4. Transfer pork to cutting board and cover with foil; let stand for 10 minutes. With 2 forks, shred or “pull” pork.
5. While pork is standing, skim fat off remaining liquid in slow cooker, then pour liquid into a large pan. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil vigorously until reduced to desired consistency, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove bay leaves.
6. Add pork to sauce, stir to coat and warm through. Serve on buns with coleslaw on top or on the side.
An important note about this coleslaw: The cabbage I used was one I had received from near the end of our summer CSA last year, and it had been in our fridge since October. That’s eight months. Isn’t that crazy? I had no idea cabbage kept for so long, but I have a new found respect for this humble vegetable!
[Note: I made a few tweaks and updated the recipe – added an apple and parsley, split half the mayo with Greek yogurt, reduced the cabbage and upped the vinegar… I think it’s now perfect!]
1/3 large cabbage, finely chopped (I used Napa, or Chinese cabbage, but any type would work)
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1/2 large green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 large carrot, grated
1 apple, finely chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
freshly ground salt and pepper
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp honey
1. Combine cabbage, onion, carrot, apple and green pepper in a large bowl and season generously with salt and pepper.
2. Whisk mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar and honey. Add to vegetable mixture and stir until well mixed. Chill, covered, at least 1 hour.
Both of these dishes taste even better the next day!