Wrapping up 2015, my 12-year-old son asked me for one word to describe my year. The one I chose is slow-food. I’m using the URL address spelling to fit into the “one word” rule.
Since moving to Idaho in 2014, I began connecting with local food and farmers and started gleaning essential gardening tips for our short growing season in the Idaho Panhandle from savvy natives. I met some interesting and wise characters at farmers markets and roadside stands whose wealth of know how filled holes in my local knowledge. Participating in the “Food for Thought” book club sponsored by the Inland Northwest Food Network and our public library has become my favorite meeting of the month, and our discussions open my eyes to food-related topics that had rarely crossed my mind.
In our first Idaho garden, we harvested over 100 lbs. of organic produce mostly grown from seeds, (yes, we had an abundant potato crop), saved seeds from an heirloom tomato plant following instructions from a farmer who also sold us dehydrated llama poo fertilizer. In our kitchen, we adapted modern technology for old-time techniques and mastered a few “advanced” cooking skills.
Our biggest adventure was purchasing our first half-hog from Cable Creek Farm. Bob the Butcher, helped us decide on meat cuts from the 90 lbs. hanging weight, and away we went with several boxes of cut and wrapped Berkshire pork. Allow me to share how we are slowly honoring this pig’s life.
- Slow Pork Pie – My husband, Tony, who hails from Leicestershire, England, home of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie, began perfecting his from-scratch recipe in our Coeur d’Alene kitchen. Surrounded by a hot water pastry and filled with pork seasoned with herbs from our garden, he injects gelatin made from home-made pork bone broth. The finished product takes two days but is well worth the effort. This pork pie is savory and eaten cold which made it an ideal contribution to our gourmet picnic lunch at the bottom of the Trail of Hiawatha bike ride last August.
Slow British Bangers – Next came ground pork shoulder sausages. Perfecting the traditional banger recipe by experimenting with different cuts and grind settings and taste testing herb and spice combinations was a party in our bellies. We eat bangers with a “full English” breakfast and bangers and mash for dinner. There are never any leftovers.
- Slow Bone Broth – I owe my bone broth success to simmering browned bones in a slow cooker with veggies, herbs and spices and apple cider vinegar for three to five days creating a clear, deeply flavored, savory hot beverage or a base for soup, stew, chowder, Phở, etc. My kitchen smells satisfyingly medieval when chicken, beef, pork or lamb bones are simmering 24 hours a day for days on end.
- Slow Pulled Pork Tamales – I understand that preparing tamales from scratch is usually a multi-person hands-on project. But after becoming inspired by a cooking class at The Culinary Stone by Chef Colomba from Cafe Carambola, I undertook a tamale cooking project in my kitchen. Using a beautiful, creamy white lard from Sunny Springs Garden Farm’s Berkshire pigs, I whipped the lard in my KitchenAid for 15 minutes, according to the chef’s instructions, until it became the consistency of a butter cream icing. My first tamales, which took a few hours to prepare on my own, were filled with pulled pork (simmered for a day in the slow cooker) and chipotle salsa. While they look rustic on the outside, I achieved a light and airy masa.Slow food is a team effort. In our family we back away from industrialized “food” and understand that a home-cooked dinner takes at least an hour to prepare, but nourishing our bodies and souls with good food at the dinner table and knowing where our food came from makes our meals all the more satisfying.
Here’s wishing you and yours Auld Lang Syne, love, kindness and friendship, at your kitchen table every day in 2016!