Thursday, July 5, 2007

A Couple Things I've Learned Lately

(Warning for Gentle Readers: minor food-related grossness ahead.)

1. A "picnic roast" cut contains the shoulder joint of the pig.

I bought a seven-pound "picnic roast" from Babes in the Wood (who raise delicious pork, by the way) thinking that the arm bone went straight through and I could cleanly divide the hunk of meat down the middle with one cut by a big knife. Hah! I ended up spending a good long while in the kitchen, inexpertly butchering my purchase. It was a much more involved task than I thought I had bargained for, but in the process I gained a food-education dividend. I learned that a "picnic roast" includes the shoulder joint bones going through the roast at a right angle, and I learned a bit about the anatomy of a pig's shoulder joint. I also learned to have some admiration for proper butchers, and some appreciation for the value of a bone saw. (I ended up cutting several smaller hunks of meat off the bones, but I could have made the straight-through cut that I had originally planned if I had had the means to cut through the bone.)

I also added a little bit to my very meager home butchering experience. This is good. I only felt a fleeting bit of light-headedness once, when I made a cut and heard the popping sound of the ball-and-socket joint dislocating. That's not too bad as my squeamishness goes. I would like to be braver and more capable when it comes to breaking down larger cuts of meat.

2A. You can add a spoonful of vinegar to your stock pot to extract more minerals from chicken bones.

2B. But you should be careful not to add too much vinegar.

I was mystified recently when what should have been a lovely, tasty chicken soup, made with a chicken from Double H Farm and vegetables from the farmer's market, turned out instead as this very unappetizing pot full of bland chicken slurry:

It's hard to tell from the picture, but the pieces of chicken became very soft in the broth and broke down into a porridge-like consistency. Yuck. At first I was at a loss trying to figure out what had gone wrong; eventually I remembered adding vinegar to the water at the beginning of the stock-making process, and I think I remember accidentally splashing in more than I had meant to. So, my theory of this disaster is that an overly acidic broth caused the pieces of chicken meat to become mushy, bland, and frankly disgusting.

I haven't decided yet what to do with the ill-fated chicken soup. It's not as easily redeemable as the strawberry rhubarb glop that I created through a similar moment of culinary misjudgment. I don't want to eat the chicken stuff, but it's not strictly speaking inedible, and I would feel guilty dumping the whole mess down the garbage disposal. I already regret having spent something like $15 on that chicken only to mishandle it. For the moment, the soup is resting in my fridge, awaiting sentencing.

Ideas, anyone?

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