Y’all know that the meat you buy at the grocery store has been all trimmed up for you nice and pretty, don’t you? It looks invitingly succulent in its cellophane packaging with its little meat maxi discreetly wicking away anything unsightly. When you have your meat butchered (We are SO NOT to the farm level of butchering our own), it doesn’t come with, pardon the pun, all the trimmings.
I decided to roast a pork butt earlier this week, mainly because we just bought a beef quarter and I needed to make some room in my chest freezer, at least enough so that I can organize my beef collection. So, I pulled out package after package of beef and a loaf of French bread that somehow got lost in the depths to dig down to the bottom for the pork butt. After heaving that joker out of the freezer, I lugged the butt to the kitchen to thaw.
Now, this was no little butt like you get at the grocery store. Unless you’ve been fortunate enough to take out a mortgage with Le Creuset for their Jonathan Swift Commemorative Crock, this butt called for a planned cookware approach. I rested it, still wrapped in its white butcher paper with the words butt not for sale on it, on my largest jellyroll pan in the fridge for a couple of days until it thawed enough to cut the fat.
I can testify that we raised one well-fed pig! I used the butcher knife to trim a good 2 inch layer of solid fat off the butt while the oven preheated to 425º. Then, I massaged that butt all over with a spice rub, salted it down good, and put it on the big broiler pan with that jellyroll pan running interference beneath it just in case the fat dripping off it became more than the broiler could handle.
I covered it up in aluminum foil despite the recent outcry against aluminum poisoning…both my grandmas used aluminum foil as a baking staple and both lived into their mid eighties. So did my great-grandmas. I’ll take my chances. Besides, it’s the silicon and melamine you need to worry about. Anyhow, I baked it at 425º for 90 minutes, then turned the oven down to 300º for the rest of the afternoon.
Talk about a house smelling GOOD! By suppertime, I’d done smelled about 10,000 calories worth of pork, so I just let it cool down and sent Russ for some pizza! By the time we ate the pizza, I was too tired out to face pulling the pork, so back into the fridge that butt went.
Pulling pork is time-consuming and borderline disgusting. If it didn’t taste so good, it wouldn’t be worth the work. Not for the weak-stomached, you need to keep a pair of pans handy as you pull: one for the good stuff and one for the dogs. Even though I trimmed off A LOT of fat on the front end, there was still a bunch of inedible parts. I prefer to pick the meat by hand so that the pulls come out in bite-sized strips. Fat and gristle turns my stomach, so I’m real careful as I render the yumminess.
In the olden days, real farm wives would use all that fat to cook up some soap or something like that. No part of a hog went to waste. It had to be a tremendous amount of work judging by the effort necessary for just one butt. I can’t even imagine what this would’ve been like before electricity and refrigeration! By the way, if you like reading about the olden days (and pigs), I recommend Robert Newton Peck’s A Day No Pigs Would Die. It’s a beautifully written story that depicts many details surrounding farm life in the early 20th century.
It just so happened that our church had a Pentecost Picnic, so I took a big batch of butt for sharing. That’s some mighty fine eating!
PS. I really REALLY wanted to work in a reference to “Baby Got Back” in this post, but I restrained myself…well, almost. 🙂