Smothered Pork {In the Kitchen}

 As you may have surmised, from all the semi-recent pig photos, we love pigs and like to raise our own pork. Since we butcher the pigs ourselves we get the WHOLE hog. There’s a lot of meat there, especially in the form of hams.  My preferred way to deal with all that ham is to cut some of the ham up into ham steaks.

DSCN8344So, what to do with all those ham steaks? We like them best prepared like smothered pork chops (except I often substitute ham steaks for the pork chops, those we like best breaded with parmesan and sage).
Smothered pork is simple to make. Basically, cover your pork with sliced onions, add a touch of herbs and surround with broth to add moisture and flavor while baking. It sounds too simple to be true but the resulting meal is tender, flavorful and there’s gravy!

The Recipe In Detail

  • 4 pork chops or equivalent in ham steaks
  • 4 slices bacon, optional but recommended
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups broth
  • salt and pepper

Using a stove top/oven proof pan, large enough to hold the ham slices (or pork chops) in one layer, brown the pork slices. Feel free to cook a couple of slices of bacon first, reserving bacon to crumble and serve on top of the finished dish and use the rendered fat to brown the pork on both sides.

Add enough sliced onions to cover the pork and saute till they start to brown (remove pork from the pan if there’s not enough room, when you return them to the pan place the onions on top of the pork).

Add a sprinkle of thyme, perhaps a bay leaf, salt and pepper. Add enough broth to cover the pork and onions (we’ll cook this down later to make a delicious gravy). Cover and bake till fork tender, add liquid if the broth dries up during this time. This is the most important step. If you don’t cook the pork long enough to be fork tender, and it can take a while, then you won’t get tender, delicious, eat it with just a fork results.

Now, uncover and allow the broth to condense. The onions and meat will develop a deep golden color. Make sure you will have enough liquids to make a gravy, add broth if needed.

Make the gravy. Transfer broth/pan juices to a stove top saucepan and thicken to make a gravy. I use arrowroot powder but cornstarch or flour is commonly used.

Serve with gravy and crumbled bacon on top. I often serve with mashed potatoes (with some of that gravy on top) and veggies.  Since the oven is on anyways, I like to braise pot of collar greens in chicken broth for my vegetable. Peas are common too.

Adding apples in along with the onions is also super delicious. Here’s a photo of that:



Pig Butchering

Another 10 inches of snow. So much for thinking spring was on the way.

DSCN0055Despite the snow it was time to butcher and process one of the pigs.  I helped to separate the girl pigs then Struggling_along did the deed and hoisted her up.  DSCN0072

The kids were happy it was snowing and that my brother and his girlfriend were showing up soon so they danced around.

DSCN0070 DSCN0091 DSCN0092 Struggling_along tended to the gutting and hair removal as we headed inside to start supper. Plus, I needed to sharpen all the knives for breaking down the pig into chops, roasts etc. the next day.



The few photos I took while we were cutting up the meat were too blurry. Besides, most of the time my hands were too busy breaking down the hams into more manageable sized roasts and ham steaks or wrapping the meat for the freezer. Ezra decided to help label the bags.Now we have cute bags with H A M scrawled across; a few even have smiley faces.

I did snap these as I finished up grinding the sausage.

DSCN0148 DSCN0149Then we (and when I say we I mean Struggling_along and my brother) moved Mercedes in with Chevy. Hopefully he will indeed “make good things happen” and we’ll have an early fall litter of pigs.



Breakfast Bacon

I love pigs. They’re smart, friendly, and they can be a great resource to any homestead – turning unusable food scraps into food and they are great at turning up soil and removing tree stumps. Admittedly, they can also present a challenge. They can eat a lot, they’re smart, persistent, and strong (that can add up to escape). So what makes it all worth while?


Or more specifically pork tenderloin, chops, roasts and….bacon.


Bacon comes from the belly of the pig. I wish I had a decent photo of Mercedes. She is growing into such a bacon pig! Long and well-built. What makes bacon bacon is the curing process. The curing process adds flavor and can help preserve the meat too. Most store brought bacon is cured using sodium nitrates. The way I do it does not.

Here is the way I make it most often:

Place a side of bacon in a bag or dish large enough to hold the bacon. Mix together 1/3 cup maple syrup, 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup kosher salt. Coat the side of bacon with this wet cure; seal bag or cover dish and refrigerate.

DSCN8387The next day flip the side of bacon and return to the fridge. My bacon is skin on. You can cure bacon with or without the skin. I prefer to leave the skin on until right before slicing.

DSCN8400Everyday, once a day, turn the bacon. You’ll notice the meat firming up.

DSCN8413After 7 days remove the bacon from the wet cure and allow to dry on a cooling rack in the fridge for a day. Now if you have a smoker I’d smoke it. However, I do not so I go the liquid smoke route.

DSCN8531First I brush on a thin coating of liquid smoke. A little goes a long ways. A quick once over starting at one end working towards the other as to not miss a spot does the trick. Then place in a low oven. My oven (a gas range) doesn’t actually have any markers under 260F so I have to guesstimate, with the help of an oven thermometer, to get 180F.  Leave the bacon in the low oven for several hours – until the bacon registers 150F.


Cool and slice. A meat slicer will give the thinnest most even slices but with a little patience and practice hand slicing can do a fair job. Fry up a few slices and refrigerate or freeze the rest.

DSCN8562I have to admit that home made bacon is a bit different than store bacon. It looks a little different and it’s a bit chewier. Not using sodium nitrates mean the pork is a little less pink and tastes a tad more porky. I find it helps to fry the bacon over a little lower heat than you might normally fry up bacon as to avoid burning it. That said, it’s still delicious!


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{In the Kitchen}


Apple Jelly- No pectin required!

It’s been a while since we last peeked into the kitchen. Plenty has been happening but it’s usually gone before I get around to finding my camera and/or it’s so dark out the photos are dark and dreary. Thus, the few things I did manage to snap a pic of are frequent kitchen repeats that gave me ample opportunity.

Above: Apple Jelly, without pectin; this one is a money saver too as it uses up apple scraps. I found this recipe in Preserving in Today’s Kitchen but instead of using crabapples I use cores, peels etc. And I don’t use a microwave. Here’s my revised instructions.

Cover fruit scraps in enough water to cover well and simmer at least 10 minutes. I like to go longer- till the apple pieces are soft and can go through a food mill. Exact amounts don’t matter but as a guideline use 1 1/2 cups of water for 3 cups of scraps.

Strain the juice and measure. For every cup of juice use one cup of sugar and one Tablespoon lemon juice. Bring this mixture to a rapid boil until it thickens and gels. Then you can can it or just pour it in a jar and use out of the fridge. Apple jelly is great on toast, sandwiches and pork roasts to name a few. I run the rest of the scraps through the food mill and bake with the resulting applesauce – unless I give it to the chickens or pigs.


Chicken broth

Chicken  broth : the crock pot makes a low mess 24 hr bone broth easy. It also works on the stove top or wood stove. We’ve been going through a lot of it these days with all the soup I’ve been fixing for the winter colds going around. I also use a lot of chicken broth cooking other meals. When a dish only calls for a little bit of chicken broth I use some chicken broth “ice cubes”. These store well in the freezer and there’s no worrying if you can actually use up all that broth.


These grain free pumpkin whoopie pies from Deliciously Organic where great too. Very filling with all the protein from the nut flour. Next time I’ll process it in my food processor. I find that blending the nut flours in with the other ingredients (especially eggs) gives the finished baked good a much smoother texture. I’d also cut back on the salt.


And another way to use up apple scraps: fruit scrap apple cider vinegar. I use Sandor Katz’s fruit scrap vinegar recipe found in Wild Fermentation. Essentially 1/4 cup sugar to one quart water plus scraps. Let ferment a few weeks then strain out apples. I add a mother and let it age.


DSCN8073We’ve also been enjoying various versions of venison and/or pork sausage. Homemade sausage from our own pigs seasoned with herbs I grew and dried served with eggs from our chickens and fresh milk from our goats takes breakfast to a whole new level! I’ve been trying out different types of sausage: breakfast, Italian, andouille. When I use just venison I add a little bacon dripping too. It keeps the meat moist and adds flavor. I usually form patties, although hand rolled sausage “links” don’t work out too bad either. I have to get some casings one of these days! I’d also like to try some dry curing. Mmm salami!


Melt In Your Mouth Ribs

 I LOVE my pressure cooker. It’s incredibly fast and oh so effective.

(Bear with me here with the crappy photos)

I had a couple pounds of ribs left from last years pig (we raise and butcher our own) so I adapted this recipe from Cuisinart’s User Guide/Recipe Booklet to use them up.

Barbecued Pork

Brown 4 pounds of ribs. Add 1 large chopped onion, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 Tlb brown sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper. Cook under high pressure 45 min, allow pressure to release naturally.

When pork is cool enough to handle remove bones ( this is so easy- they fall right out). Strain the cooking liquid reserving 1/2 cup.

Put the pork with 2 cups barbecue sauce and the reserved 1/2 cup cooking liquid back in the pressure cooker and cook 3 mins. Use quick release to release pressure and serve.

Everyone loved these! I made more a few nights later. The ribs are so tender they fall right apart. I served these with baked potatoes, buttered corn and apple crumble.


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