Monday, 6 May 2013

Wonderful Pork Hocks

I love pork hocks. The first time I bought some, I only bought them because they were one of the cheapest cuts of meat available. Since then, I've learned how wonderful these neglected little bits of meat are.They have many uses, and the meat is rich and fatty and full of porky goodness. Honestly, is there any better meat than pork? Especially if they're heritage Mule Foot and Berkshire Pigs, which have really flavourful, rich, and fatty meat.

Pork hocks are kind of like pig ankles, they're the cut right above the feet (which are also really great). The stuff I get includes meat, bone, skin, and fat. This is great, because I can use them for so many things!

The skin
Soup is the best thing to make with pork hocks, and I'm going to share a recipe for a soup/stew with pork hocks. Soup is best because not only do you get an amazingly delicious pot of soup, but you also get skin for cracklings, fat for cooking with, and if you don't use the meat in the soup, you can use it for other things. Maybe carnitas, cooked in the fat? Mmmm, that would be yummy. But I'm using the meat in the soup... hmm... Nope, I'll stick with the soup. It tastes just as great and it'll last longer.

To make the soup, first I cooked the hocks overnight in the slow cooker on low with some water and apple cider vinegar after letting it sit in the vinegar water for a few hours (pork needs to be marinated in an acidic medium). In the morning, I separated the meat, bones, skin, and fat. The meat gets chopped up and is later tossed into the soup, the bones remain in the soup, the fat can later be rendered and used for cooking, and the skin can be fried for cracklings. Mmmm, those cracklings were just stinkin' DELICIOUS! Crispy, fatty, salty, chewy, yummy, porky goodness. I don't even know how to "properly" make cracklings. I just sprinkled the softened skin with salt and pepper, cut it into chunks, and stuck it in a frying pan. You don't even need any oil because the fat that sticks to the skin is more than enough. Yeah, as delicious as the meat is, I think the skin is definitely the best part. Bonus: the skin spent some hours in the broth, giving it enough time to infuse the soup with lots of that wonderful, healing substance known as gelatin.
Mmmmm... cracklings

Black-Eyed Pea and Pork Hock Soup/Stew

Just a warning, this does take a long time (as in, make it the day before you want it), but most of that time is just waiting. Also, this makes a lot, so you'll have leftovers for later in the week or to freeze. And this is definitely worth the wait!


2 large pork hocks

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 huge onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
optional: 2 bell peppers, chopped
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 tsp each: thyme, oregano, rosemary, smoked paprika
2 bay leaves
8 cups soaked black-eyed peas (more or less, depending on whether you want a soup or stew)
28 oz can of whole tomatoes, chopped, or can of chopped tomatoes
2 bunches kale, thinly sliced or chopped (if you can get collard greens, definitely use them! Superstore has a very limited greens section, so I chose kale) cabbage could be nice, if you want to try something different
salt and pepper, to taste


1. The day before you want some soup/stew, put the pork hocks in a slow cooker with the apple cider vinegar and cover with water. Refrigerate for a few hours, it doesn't really make a huge difference how many; do this either in the morning or afternoon.
2. Turn the slow cooker on to low and let the hocks cook overnight.
3. Separate the skin form the fat, the fat from the meat, and the meat from the bones. Throw the bones back into the broth. Chop the meat into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Keep the fat, render it, and use it for other dishes. Fry the skin with salt and pepper to make cracklings (have it with your breakfast instead of bacon!)
4. Add the black-eyed peas, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, sweet potatoes, spices, bay leaves, tomatoes, and optional bell peppers to the broth with the bones. Cook on low. (You don't really need the amount of time, do you? I just say it's finished when I want dinner. Or, just cook until everything's tender. Most things take about 8 hours on low.) You can add some water if you want it soupier.
5. About 30 minutes before the soup/stew is done, add the kale and meat and cook until the kale's wilted.
6. Add salt and pepper, then taste to adjust for seasonings.
7. Serve with some paleo cornbread muffins, and enjoy!

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