Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Shoulder to Cry For


We were planning a Mother's Day gathering at Mary's mom's house, around a dozen people, and we were in charge of the meat and potatoes.  A nice long-cooked pork shoulder came immediately to mind, but when I started looking at the offerings in the meat case at the excellent Seward Co-op all I was seeing were smallish shoulder roasts.  I went to the counter and asked the friendly Seward butcher--I'm pretty sure it was Karl, with whom I've chatted a few times, though we haven't been formally introduced [yes, it's Karl Gerstenberger; see his comment below]--I asked Karl if they had a whole pork shoulder in the back.  He said, yeah, he thought they did, but it was...big.  How big?  Well, let's see, said Karl. 

He went in the back and returned with a piece of meat of truly Flintstonian proportions (Pastures A'Plenty pork, I assume).  Once he took the shank out, I think it was still around 15 pounds.  I said:

"I'll take it.  I'm cooking for a crowd on Mother's Day."
"You're good to your mother," said Karl.
"Mother-in-law," said I.
"You're really good to your mother-in-law."

Well, I have a pretty great mother-in-law (I have a great mother, too, but she lives too far away: Hi, Mom!  Wish you could have been there...).  Karl asked what I was going to do with it, and I said I thought I'd just cook it a really long time, basting with cider.  We discussed the question of smoke, so good with this cut of meat, and I said I might do that.  The initial thought was more of a braise, but the meat itself dictated the final method:  I simply did not have a  pan large enough to braise a hunk of porcine exquisiteness that large.  Karl said he wanted to see pictures, and I said I could do that.  Hence, pictures:



Cooking the pork shoulder turned out to be an interstate affair--started Saturday evening at Bide-A-Wee in the Wisconsin countryside with a liberal salt and peppering, that's all.  We don't have a fridge there, but it dropped off to refrigerator temperature as evening came on, so the pork spent the night in the car.

In the morning, bright and early, I started a fire of oak and apple wood.  I browned the meat on the grill:



Then transferred it into this makeshift oven/smoker constructed of cinder blocks and pieces of some old farm implement we found in our woods:



After about four hours in the smoke the meat was not nearly done, but it had absorbed lots of smoke flavor. 


We packed up and headed back to Saint Paul, where the pork went into a 350 oven for another four hours.  I basted frequently throughout the cooking with some of our hard apple cider sweetened just a tad with maple syrup.  Only in the last hour of cooking did it really start to give up juices which, mixed with the cider baste, made a superb pan jus.

Mary made some biscuits.  I put together a potato gratin with a wild touch of sautéed ramps and blanched nettles mixed in--less rich that a gratin dauphinoise, the liquid was whole milk and chicken stock, and I tossed a bit of flour with the sliced potatoes and flavorings.



As we were getting ready to pack up and head over to Willie and Don's, I looked over the food waiting on the stove and said to Mary:

"Hey, look:  We made ham and scalloped potatoes!"



The meat was beyond, the potatoes, too, and the rest of the potluck was wonderful, as well.  A Mother's Day to remember.

Be good to your mother every day, and be good to yourselves, too.

Cheers, all~ Brett

11 comments:

Karl Gerstenberger said...

Thanks for posting photos. Generosity on the 15 pound scale is fun to help facilitate!

Karl the Butcher

Sharon Parker said...

Well, I called my mother. But I refused to cook. Craig and Martin broiled hamburgers, originally intended for the grill, but the weather didn't cooperate. I did buy the ground beef, though—the least lean I could get at Mississippi Market. Hey: you live in St. Paul and shop at Seward in Minneapolis, and I live in Minneapolis and shop at Mississippi Market in St. Paul What gives? (Actually, we frequent, and belong to, both co-ops. Why choose?)

Charles Leck said...

A truly wonderful, helpful and inspiring blog. I'm gonna try it.
Chas

Trout Caviar said...

Hey, Karl: My pleasure. You and the rest of the Seward meat crew are doing just a fantastic job. This grateful carnivore salutes you. I like your blog, too. I will link it here.

Well, Sharon, of course you shouldn't have to cook on Mother's Day, you should be catered to, slavishly! MS Market used to be our co-op, but they moved away.... Anyway, I'm afraid nothing really compares to the new Seward.

Hi Charlie, great to hear from you. I'll bet a Sheepy Hollow lamb shoulder would benefit from a preparation like this. We'll miss seeing you and Anne at the market this year. Hope all's well.

Thanks for writing, everyone~ Brett

ed said...

Seward is actually closer to St. Paul than Mississippi Market?

angie said...

Hi Brett,

We have a pork shoulder in our freezer from a hog I helped my friend butcher last year. We are having family up to the farm soon and were planning on making it them. We will try your method.
Thanks!!

Trout Caviar said...

Hello Ed: Well, the MS Market stores are in St Paul, and you can't get closer than that, but for some St Paulites, like us, Seward is closer/more convenient.

Go for it, Angie. Do you have apple trees or access to some apple wood for the smoking? I highly recommend it. The other thing to note is that if you have the whole big honking shoulder, 15-pound range, with a lot of bone, it takes a very long time to cook. Let me know how yours works out.

Cheers~ Brett

Amy said...

NICE! I loved watching this pork roast get the spa treatment, but there is lots of inspiring spring stuff here. Makes me think I should be out gathering spring tonic greens--though I think we are probably 2 weeks behind you guys up here. The grass is just starting to grow.
amy

Trout Caviar said...

Hey, Karl: My pleasure. You and the rest of the Seward meat crew are doing just a fantastic job. This grateful carnivore salutes you. I like your blog, too. I will link it here.

Well, Sharon, of course you shouldn't have to cook on Mother's Day, you should be catered to, slavishly! MS Market used to be our co-op, but they moved away.... Anyway, I'm afraid nothing really compares to the new Seward.

Hi Charlie, great to hear from you. I'll bet a Sheepy Hollow lamb shoulder would benefit from a preparation like this. We'll miss seeing you and Anne at the market this year. Hope all's well.

Thanks for writing, everyone~ Brett

Trout Caviar said...

There was a Blogger snafu last week that resulted in some comments being deleted. I'm reposting them here from email.

angie has left a new comment on your post "A Shoulder to Cry For":

Hi Brett,

We have a pork shoulder in our freezer from a hog I helped my friend butcher last year. We are having family up to the farm soon and were planning on making it them. We will try your method.
Thanks!!



Posted by angie to Trout Caviar at May 12, 2011 6:29 AM



ed has left a new comment on your post "A Shoulder to Cry For":

Seward is actually closer to St. Paul than Mississippi Market?



Posted by ed to Trout Caviar at May 11, 2011 4:43 PM


Amy has left a new comment on your post "A Shoulder to Cry For":

NICE! I loved watching this pork roast get the spa treatment, but there is lots of inspiring spring stuff here. Makes me think I should be out gathering spring tonic greens--though I think we are probably 2 weeks behind you guys up here. The grass is just starting to grow.
amy



Posted by Amy to Trout Caviar at May 12, 2011 9:23 AM

Trout Caviar said...

Hello Ed: Well, the MS Market stores are in St Paul, and you can't get closer than that, but for some St Paulites, like us, Seward is closer/more convenient.

Go for it, Angie. Do you have apple trees or access to some apple wood for the smoking? I highly recommend it. The other thing to note is that if you have the whole big honking shoulder, 15-pound range, with a lot of bone, it takes a very long time to cook. Let me know how yours works out.

Amy, I thought of you and your Amish hog when I was working with my shoulder! Lilacs are blooming here, and I've found some wild asparagus, wood nettle, and a few morels--but it's cool and breezy today. We're definitely not charging into summer, but hopefully spring, at least, is coming to the north woods.

Cheers~ Brett