This is just what it sounds like… a meal created out of leftovers, from the pantry and the freezer. I thought it came out pretty tasty for a meal inspired by the fact that I didn’t want to let leftovers go to waste.
Seared Pork Chops
I thawed two thick-cut, bone-in pork chops from our pig in the freezer. Pat the pork chops dry and season with salt and pepper. Add about 1 Tbsp butter or vegetable oil to a cast-iron pan over medium-high to high heat. Sear the pork chops on one side for about 3 minutes, sear on the fatty side by holding the chop in tongs for 1 minute, then flip and place in a preheated 350° oven for about 10 minutes. This can get pretty smokey, so make sure to have the hood fan running or the window open (preferably not in winter!).
Mashed Potato Cakes
Mix about 2 cups of leftover mashed potatoes with 1 egg. Melt a few Tbsp butter in a skillet over medium heat, then drop in the potatoes in big spoonfuls. Flatten the potatoes into cakes and brown on both sides, then season with salt. My aunt always makes these for dinner on holidays, transforming the mashed potatoes leftover from lunch. They’re better than the originals!
Easy! I made creamed spinach for Christmas dinner, and just warmed it in the oven while I made the pork chops and potato cakes.
Also easy! Just open up a jar of home-canned applesauce.
*Warning: Graphic photos follow!*
This barn was the scene of some serious work today.
Ed’s family slaughtered their pigs yesterday, removed the hair, cut them in half and let them bleed out in the cooler overnight.
Ed’s Uncle Dan was visiting, and he and Ed’s dad (not pictured) taught Ed and his brother how to cut up the meat, what to save, and what to toss.
Family friend Putney holds the pig while Uncle Dan removes the meat. Uncle Dan, Rich, Chris and Kate would then get to work on cutting the hams, bacon, and saving scraps for sausage.
Ed took the chops to the meat saw and started slicing pork chops.
We got about 50 chops from each pig.
Look how big that chop is! The girls packaged and labeled the meat using the vacuum sealer.
Ed’s mom Marie using the vacuum sealer.
The finished product!
Turkeys, you’re scheduled for Tuesday! I’ll be at work, but will send my camera along with Ed so hopefully I’ll have some of those pictures to share as well.
Ed’s family got the pigs that we will raise for meat this year. We have four, up one from last year. They’re all Yorkshires this year, and they’re all brothers from the same litter. They seem to like their new home.
Don’t you just love their tails? When we left tonight they were piled up together in the little barn, drifting off to sleep.
Bonus turkey update! Here is their home, which Rich drags around to different spots in the field. At night, they go into the coop to sleep.
For more information about our choices to raise and eat animals, read my post Ethical Omnivores.
I started writing this post as a means of explaining what I’ve learned about cooking with sustainably-raised meats since November, when we butchered the pigs and also purchased 1/4 of a cow. However, this post turned into a discussion of our food choices, and I’ll write about the changes I’ve made to my cooking in a future post.
A few years back, I started realizing that there were major problems with the meat industry. I remember watching news reports about E. coli outbreaks and seeing the disgusting conditions in the processing plants. I felt like my only choices were to buy the conventional meat at the grocery store or become a vegetarian. However, I now understand that becoming a vegetarian is not the only answer to solving the environmental and ethical problems associated with eating meat. In fact, I prefer to vote with my dollars by buying meat that is produced according to my values.
As a life-long animal lover, I absolutely believe that the animals we choose to eat should be treated humanely, even loved by their owners, and I know that is not the case with industrially raised animals. Therefore, we choose to eat animals that we know have lived under humane conditions. We trust the labels at the grocery store less and less, and instead prefer to trust people we know.
I’ve developed a set of ethics for our meat choices, based on our own values. This isn’t so much a heirarchy, but more a set of guidelines that I like to follow.
- Raised, caught, or hunted by family or friends.
- Locally and sustainably raised.
- Raised without hormones or antibiotics.
- Use the whole animals, since that will translate into fewer animals overall.
- Limit meat to one meal each day on most days.
Ed and I are true omnivores, meaning that we eat a wide variety of foods, including many different kinds of meats. These are the choices we make, based on location and availability of each of the following meats.
Fish and Shellfish
- Clams and Oysters- Ed’s brother’s aquaculture business makes this one easy. They raise clams and oysters, or will dredge for wild clams.
- Scallops and Lobster- We have friends in Maine who are fishermen, and when anyone from Ed’s family visits them they bring home lobsters and scallops. We have some scallops in the freezer, but eat the lobsters fresh a few times each year. I’m allergic to lobster, so that limits how often Ed eats them, but I’m always happy for scallops.
- Fish- Ed and his brother love to go salt water fishing. They’ll catch a surplus in the summer and we fill our freezer with blackfish, porgies, sole, flounder and other fish from the Sound. I’ve cut back on the amount of fish I eat since taking my course on Long Island Sound and learning that women of reproductive age shouldn’t eat too much of these fish due to possible contamination with mercury. I do love fish, however, so we make sure to eat low on the food chain and limit fish to no more than one meal per week, often less.
- Other seafood- We rarely eat other fish or shellfish, since we don’t have a local or sustainable source for them. We will eat wild Alaskan salmon a few times a year when it’s in season, and Ed will eat shrimp (I’m allergic to them, too) around the holidays when shrimp cocktail is at all the parties.
- Turkey- Ed’s family has started raising turkeys this year, and I’m excited to have a local source of turkey that was raised humanely and ethically.
- Chicken- Chicken has been our big problem. We don’t know any local chicken farmers and haven’t seen it at any of the local farmer’s markets. I buy the store brand chicken that is raised without hormones and antibiotics, because this is the best option available to us right now. We eat chicken about once each week. I try to buy the whole bird since the price is much cheaper, or I buy bone-in, skin-on breasts, thighs and legs, and often save the bones for stock.
- Other poultry- We will have cornish hens rarely, maybe once each year when I see them on sale in the grocery store.
- This is an easy one. Ed’s family raises pigs, and we have a bunch of pork in our freezer. The bone-in pork chops are amazing and taste nothing like the bland white ones I used to buy in the grocery store. The big change for me has been learning to cook the different roasts, sausage, bacon and ham. As I write this I think of all the ham in the freezer that I’ll need to use up by next November. Anybody have some ideas for good ham recipes?
- We got 1/4 of a cow from Ed’s cousin and split it with Chris and Melissa. We bought this meat because we know how the cows were raised. Like with the pork, I’ve been learning to cook different cuts of meat that I never made before. Ground beef recipes, since that was what we got the most of, have been staples around here. Stews, roasts and soups have also been weekly regulars. The round eye roast in the slow cooker right now was the inspiration for this post. I’ve realized that the NY Strip Steaks and Rib-Eye steaks Ed loved so much before aren’t the best choice for sustainability, since they represent only a small fraction of the cow.
Dairy and Eggs
- Milk- I buy a brand from a co-op of Connecticut family farmers who do not use hormones or antibiotics. I am most comfortable with pasteurized milk, so that is what I buy.
- Cheese- I love to get cheese from the farmer’s markets. The cheddars, ricottas, and fresh white flavored cheeses are delicious but also expensive, so I’m learning to make my own cheese. So far, I’ve only mastered ricotta, but I’m hoping to learn more as time goes on. I’ll also buy cheese produced throughout New England at the regular grocery store.
- Butter- I choose to buy butter from a New England company.
- Yogurt- Ed loves to take yogurt with his lunch, but I buy a big container of antibiotic and hormone free yogurt instead of the one-serving containers to limit plastic waste.
- Eggs- Ed and I have put our plans for chickens on hold until next year, since his schedule now that clamming season is back in full swing doesn’t allow for a lot of time to build a coop. I buy eggs from the same brand as the milk we get, and they’re from family farms in Connecticut. I love their dark orange yolks, but they fly off the store shelves, so when they’re not available I buy eggs from the traditional farm in the next town over.
- Venison and Fowl- We will occasionally eat deer, moose, caribou, or any type of fowl that has been hunted by Ed or a family member or friend. This is a rare occasion now, but in the past Ed used to hunt more often.
- Going Out- When we go out to eat (which is pretty rare!) or to a friend or family member’s house, we tend to drop the rules. I try to eat what’s in season and fresh, but sometimes we just get what we get.
I hope you enjoyed reading about our choices for eating meat in a humane, sustainable way. I am sure that there are plenty of people that don’t agree with my choices. The important thing to me is that we are all able to make our own choices. I understand that this is a controvercial topic, but I hope that we can have a respectful conversation about it. Please share your choices in the comments.
This meal is extra special because it’s food that we’ve worked hard for. The pork comes from the pigs that Ed’s family raised. The maple syrup comes from either my family or Ed’s family, depending on which bottle I grab out of the fridge. I serve applesauce alongside the pork chops, homemade and canned last fall from apples that my mom and I picked on the farm.
- 2 bone-in pork chops (or 1 per person)
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1 Tbsp grainy mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
Season pork chops on each side with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, mix maple syrup and mustard, then spread on to the chops. Bake at 375°F for 30-40 minutes until cooked through. Serve with applesauce.
When we bought a new freezer this fall, I was worried that it was way too big and we’d never fill it, even though the freezer of our refrigerator was full with veggies, homemade stock, and fruit waiting to be baked into pies. In the last two months, we’ve filled it up the new freezer quite a bit.
We have fish that Ed and his brother Chris caught over the summer. We both love blackfish, and that’s mostly what’s in the freezer.
We have 3/4 of a pig. We just got back the smoked hams, bacon and sausage, in addition to the pork chops, roasts, ribs and tenderloin.
We have 1/8 of a cow (we split 1/4 with Chris and Melissa). Lots of ground beef and some roasts and steaks are just waiting to be thawed and cooked. We just got the beef from Ed’s cousin John and his wife Kris. They moved from Ed’s hometown to upstate NY to try to make a go at raising beef. Ed and I are really happy that we got the beef from them because now we know where more of our food is coming from and we’ve gotten away from industrial beef. Not to mention the fact that we’re supporting a small family farm.
In the future, we hope to be able to get even more of our food locally. My family and our garden are able to supply almost all of the produce we need. Ed and I are also planning to plant some fruit trees in the spring. Ed’s family is planning to get more pigs next year and add turkeys into the mix. Ed and I are even discussing getting some laying hens someday when we build our barn. I’m not a big fan of chickens, but I do like eggs. We’d also like to build a small greenhouse off of our barn for me to start seedlings and grow even more fresh veggies all year. We can dream, right?
I’d love to hear about changes you’ve made (or traditions you’ve continued) to eat locally.
Yesterday, Ed’s family began the process of turning pigs into food. I had football practice, so I wasn’t able to make it. Although I didn’t want to be there when the pigs were killed, I did want to see how they began to process them, so I was a little disappointed. The pigs drained of blood overnight and today we processed and packaged them.
The pig halves in the back of the truck, waiting to be cut up.
Ed’s dad Rich give me a quick refresher on pig anatomy.
Uncle Dan, pig-butcher extraordinaire, cuts the ham off the pig.
Ed cuts the foot off of the ham and Chris wires bacon to hang in the smokehouse.
Melissa and I spent a long afternoon vacuum-sealing the meat in Mom Marie’s dining room.
Chris organized and divvied up the 3 pigs for family and for sale.
In our 3/4 of a pig, we got 4 pork roasts from various areas of the pig, 1 rack of spare ribs, 1 pork tenderloin, and 21 bone-in pork chops. We’ll also get ham, bacon and sausage when it comes back from the smokehouse. Tonight, we’re having pork chops and applesauce for supper, and the rest of the pork goes in our freezer.