But it’s what’s for dinner

img_0517Family portrait in the smoker’s lid

I have a bit of a confession to make.  Actually, it’s not much of a confession to anyone who knows me, but…meat ain’t really my thing.

This is said with somewhat clenched lips, with a slight sucking-in of breath:  meat, after all, is what we are told to crave.  It’s what’s for dinner if you believed the hype, and if you grew up in 50s-80s America, its nightly presence normally took up most of your plate.   THIS household became omnivorous only recently: Oct. of 2007, to be exact.  I put meat back in the diet when we began to find humane sources nearby and then last year to raise our own.  The girl wanted it, the husband wanted it, and, in reality, it’s a fairly low-impact source of nutrition if you live a locavore’s life in a snowy place like Michigan.

img_0508Molasses-glazed bone-in pork shoulder, a-smoking over our apple wood

I am much more in love with meat when it remains off the center/majority of the plate.  As a condiment, as a flavoring, it’s really quite exemplary, and really ridiculously easy too.  (Frankly I think my ho-hum reaction to that full freezer is that the preparation of meat requires very little of me.  Not quite heat-and-serve, it’s still not much of a challenge to cook if you’ve been used to the alchemy required of vegetarian cookery.)  So when I saw a recipe recently for “bacon” made with smoked pork shoulder, I told Tom to get out the smoker and let’s get cooking.  I can use the “bacon” in many meals, bean-y, vegetable-y meals, for the whole week.  And after a little skillet frying, it makes this weeknight’s serving of breakfast-for-dinner a little more smokily special.

12 responses to “But it’s what’s for dinner

  1. That sounds really yummy, El. My porkophile husband would really like that. I love smoky foods too.

  2. It really does seem to just be a matter of balance, doesn’t it? It fills a perceived (or real) bodily need and gives a certain satisfaction but levies a heavy burden of guilt over waste and inhumane conditions. Being humane and locally sourced is certainly the way to get the fulfillment and lessen the load!

    Looks delicious by the way. How do you make bacon out of that?

  3. That looks fantastic. We also eat local pastured delicious meat (and venison).

    I would love to have a smoker. I keep wanting to build my own, there’s just something so wonderful about smoked meats.

  4. I don’t feel bad about eating meat at all. After all, we evolved as (part) meat-eaters. But I stopped eating factory meat a year or so ago. And we eat it mainly as a condiment now.

    Our meat comes locally for the most part – local bison, local beef, occasionally local chicken. On Saturday there was a farmers’ market in town (a very small one, under cover at a local eating spot) where we bought some stew meat from a local farmer. Wife prepared it last night for our meal tonight – when our son comes over to join us – and she said it really was the best stew meat she had ever worked with.

    I’ll have to pass that on to the farmer. I think they have some new, long-term customers.

  5. I’ve come to this way of thinking too. Meat more on the side. But I have to admit, I’m one of those people who gravitate more toward protein, and seem less enthused by carbs. (And I feel the same way, like I’m in a confessional when I say that.)

  6. We’ve also been eating a lot less meat for the past few years. I can hardly stand to go out to eat anymore where you get a huge chunk-o-meat and a few sides. Yuck. We also got our own smoker and LOVE IT.

  7. I’m with you 100% on treating meat more as a condiment. And what a condiment you’ve described here! I can’t wait to try it with the pork I buy from a local farmer. Thanks!

  8. “… the preparation of meat requires very little of me. Not quite heat-and-serve, it’s still not much of a challenge to cook if you’ve been used to the alchemy required of vegetarian cookery …”

    Unfortunately, the “alchemy” exhibited in most cases seems to be “making fake meat out of vegetables.” Tofurkey, Quorn, Boca Burgers, Tofu Pups, etc. It always seemed a tad hypocritical to me.

    If someone is going vegetarian, shouldn’t the meat metaphor — as well as meat itself — be given up entirely?

    Otherwise, it’s like relying on nicotine gum to “quit” smoking.

    When I was in my 20s I ate a vegetarian diet for a while to maintain a weight loss. Unfortunately I over-relied on corn-based things and wound up with a whopping case of eczema (digesting corn takes B vitamins out of your system, and a niacin deficiency can result in eczema and pellagra).

    Now I do eat meat, and enjoy it very much. Due to my food allergies, dairy and many gluten-filled (high protein) grains are off limits, and I fear I would be living entirely alone if I undertook an all-bean diet 😉

    Interestingly, I still eat corn, but the eczema never returned after I balanced my diet.

  9. We love to smoke, meat and veggies. Even some grains. Do you have advice on how to make bacon out of pork? I would feel better about using my own even if it isn’t quite the same, to go with our beans and other dishes.

  10. I don’t want to jump into the meat eaters camp, but I wish my few carnivorous children would follow your example to buy humanely raised meat.

  11. Hi All: I am telling you the recipe was LAME but, well, the basic concept is this: 2-3 lb shoulder gets a 36 hour wet brine, dry it off/marinade, smoke for 8 hours, slice, fry. The bone ended up in our baked home-grown cranberry beans last night (local sorghum molasses too) and I’ve made a hash with some of it for breakfast this a.m. So yeah, I am using it like you’d use rough bacon: as a flavoring, not as a dish itself. Tonight it will probably zest up some collards. Monday night’s “bacon” and eggs, though, was yummy.

    Kate, you’re the girl who rigged up her home-made smoker, right? We’ve been pretty pleased with the smoker I (sigh) purchased for Tom for the holidays. It’s gotten a lot of use, and I can’t wait to smoke some tomatoes on it next summer.

    Christy, you’re right; balance in one’s food is pretty danged important. We do try very hard to eat our ideals but hey the kid brought home a bag of Hershey’s Kisses last Friday from her grandma and I *had* to help her eat them 😉 But really, if we *want* to eat it, I would rather our dollars go to reward someone local who treats his/her animals well.

    Mrs Chiot, the one I bought for Tom is a combo smoker/grill thing so I didn’t feel bad about buying a single-use thing. It also has a propane attachment “to deep-fry a turkey” but I might just use my canner on top of it during the heat of summer. But venison! I see enough deer around here I tend to wonder about how they’d taste.

    Dennis, the secret IS in the taste I think. I remember tasting an industrial chicken and it was like gum, old, flavorless gum! Stew is some wonderful stuff, so I am glad you found that farmer. And he is quite glad you found him too: with the rising prices of grain and fuel and with folks tightening their belts, many marginal meat-growers will probably go out of business this year. I know mine probably will and it makes me really sad!

    Angie, hah! Welcome to the confessional! I remember how tough it was for you to find local goodies like meat and milk…but now you’d never go back. It’s okay, certainly, that you’re not much of a carbophile!

    Judy, yeah, I never could quite wrap my head around the tiny-sides, big-flesh thing at restaurants (especially chain ones). And even as a veg they just substituted cheese for where the meat would go: no thanks, really. (Can’t I have four servings of broccoli instead?) YAY, though, another meat-smoker! It’s very satisfying, isn’t it.

    Deborah, hah! I simply didn’t want to do another braise, and the stuff in the freezer usually spans a couple of meals so the smoking was a great solution. Have fun with it.

    Firefly, UGH, I know. Squeezing commodity corn and especially soya into things like riblets? PLEASE. Yeah, as a beginning veg I lived in a city so I would simply eat a ton of ethnic foods because they aren’t meat-focused. I never really felt the urge to go fake; the vegetable/grain/milk/egg world was plenty big in my book. The story you tell about your eczema is a cautionary one, and I thank you. Eating real, whole, non-processed foods in all their myriad forms is still the best diet, and this includes meat. I think it will be another 10-12,000 years before our bodies can properly process HFCS. In the meantime, diabetes and obesity are the result of cheap, readily-available processed food.

    Bobbi, it isn’t quite the same as bacon but it’s got that nice smoky flavor. (Shoulder isn’t nearly as fatty as belly so it won’t have that crunch.) Give it a try!

    Pamela, hi, you snuck in there when I was typing this up. Yes well I am nothing if not riddled by guilt by all I do to trash the world so giving back in the smallest way I can like eating grass-fed meats is one way I assuage it. I don’t know if that’ll help your kids, though, guilt not quite easily being transferrable….

  12. This sounds suspiciously like barbecue to me.

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