About 15 months ago my husband and I purchased a large chest freezer and headed out to the Virginia countryside to a local farm where we purchased a grass-fed cow. Actually, we ordered a quarter of a pastured cow. That lasted us for more than 12 months. Now we are considering our next move, and we’ve been seriously thinking about pig. Yep, a whole frickin’ pig.
We love bacon…I mean pork. But my experience with cooking pork is limited to bacon, sausage, bacon-flavored bacon, Canadian bacon, pork chops, and of course bacon.
When it comes to pork, my cooking skills are seriously lacking.
I got excited when I came across Beyond Bacon: Paleo Recipes That Respect The Whole Hog. Written by Stacy Toth and Matthew McCarry, it is without a doubt one of the most beautifully designed cookbooks I’ve come across. As soon as you crack it open you know a lot of love went into its production.
Broken into 3 parts – A love letter to pork, essential kitchen tools, and more than 100 fabulous recipes – Beyond Bacon does a great job of taking the fear out of cooking a pig from snout to tail.
Bringing DIY Back Into The Kitchen
Unlike most cookbooks, Stacy and Matt do a great job educating the reader on the wonders of pastured pig, how to find a trusted farm, and busting a few pork and saturated fat myths along the way.
Thanks to our modern/convenient/unhealthy food chain, there’s a lot of fear and ignorance when it comes to culinary skills (I contend it’s a lost art for most of us Westerners). Sure I can “cook” (i.e., put something in the oven and turn it on). But do I know the differences in the various cuts of meat? Or how to render lard? Make pancetta or sausage?
The answer is a big, fat, No. I’ve given in to convenience, and it took a toll on my health for far too long.
I love the writers’ idea of using the DIY movement to reclaim our kitchens and rediscover the lost art of cooking.
Beyond Bacon goes a long way toward smashing one of my big hurdles with going full Paleo — the cost of pastured meat. When I made the jump to low-carb I knew it would be expensive. Eating fresh produce and meat isn’t cheap compared to all the unhealthy, heavily processed (boxed and canned) food the grocery store offers. But going full Paleo with pastured meat and organic produce? Cha ching!!!!
However, Stacy and Matt make a convincing case for bypassing the grocery store and going straight to the farm. By not eating out and avoiding our grocery store’s weekly rising food prices, we ended up saving money with our cow purchase. So clearly we can save money going straight to the source.
The book offers great tips on finding and affording a farm pig, what questions to ask, and what to consider when ordering. You’ll even find a sample cut sheet (order form) explaining what you’ll be asked when ordering.
I wish I found this book before we ordered our cow. Although their cut sheet is for pork, it sparks a lot of questions I would’ve asked the local farm about cow cuts.
One idea they shared that I wish I’d thought of before ordering the cow — make friends with my local butcher.
Like cooking, butchering is an art form. The good butchers love what they do and respect the animal. To that end, a butcher worth his salt should know the “sources of all meat he sells, including information about the farming technique used. He should also be able to procure the more unusual cuts of pork… If you’re going to have a hard time finding a head or a liver in your state because of local food laws, he’ll know about that, too.”
Going Whole Hog – The Recipes
I haven’t tried the recipes yet, but a few of them are dictating next week’s menu. Each recipe includes a greatly appreciated difficulty level, how long to get the food on the table, yield, equipment needs, and of course ingredients. The instructions are easy to follow and the photography…oh, the photography. The images are absolutely mouth-watering gorgeous.
I do wish the book included a nutritional breakdown of each meal, but that is a minor quibble when you consider it’s total awesomeness.
Two Added Bonus of Beyond Bacon
A huge advantage I didn’t expect from Beyond Bacon is proximity. Like me, the writers live in Northern Virginia. They actually talk about the farms they visit and buy from. Also, they give a shout-out to the organic butcher they frequent. That takes a lot of the research and guesswork out of the equation for me.
But for those of you who don’t live in The Commonwealth, the book offers online resources to get you started.
The biggest plus was the effect it had on the husband. Other than the grilling book I got him for Christmas, this is a man who’s never looked at, touched, or opened a cookbook a day in his life. Pork is one of his favorite food groups (along with beef, lamb, fish, and pie). He devoured this book (figuratively…although I did catch him trying to lick the photographs).
Not only is he a big supporter of us going DIY with our cooking, he wants to start trying organ meats (for the record, I’m not quite there yet). Yep, my honey wants to go full caveman.
While I’m not completely ready to go full primal, Beyond Bacon certainly eases my mind as I move closer to that cave woman within. I learned a lot about pork, but I feel this book will continue to push me into growing my culinary skills. That’s a feat modern cookbooks don’t inspire me to do.