Asparagus season

One of the things I like most about spring is harvesting asparagus. Having passed the ‘leave it for two years for the plants to grow before you can harvest’ phase, we are now rewarded with plump spears pushing their way rapidly out of the ground.

New season's asparagus leaping out of the ground.
New season’s asparagus leaping out of the ground.

Like ‘they’ say when it’s this fresh you need only to quickly cook the spears for the best flavour.

My hot tip is to leave picking your asparagus until immediately before you are about to cook. This is because some of the sweetest flavours quickly disappear the longer the asparagus is out of the ground.

 

On the cutting board and ready to go.
On the cutting board and ready to go.

For our first asparagus lunch of the year we quickly sauteed the sliced asparagus along with some of TB’s home-cured prosciutto …

Sauteeing the asparagus and prosciutto.
Sauteeing the asparagus and prosciutto.

We then stirred this through some cooked orichette pasta and served with some parmesan cheese. Simple and really sweet to taste.

A tasty lunch that was quick to prepare.
A tasty lunch that was quick to prepare.

 

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Pig Out!

This week TB finally bought home a pig. Well almost all of one, minus the head and front trotters, and yes it had already gone to the great paddock in the sky. This was a relatively small, about 50kg free range female porker, which TB ordered through Jordo’s Chop Shop at Waniassa.

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A trolley full of pig

It’s long been TB’s goal to break down and prepare a whole pig for a range of pork products and winter is the best time to do so. Traditionally you killed your pig so you didn’t have to feed the it through the harshest season of the year. Winter was also the perfect time for making cured products where you had the cold dry air to help preserve your meat.

There is a large upfront cost to buy the pig, although at just over $8 per kilo it is quite cost effective when you consider what you would pay in-store for the finished products. The next biggest input is your labour. The other ingredients used for curing, such as salt and sugar are quite cheap.

The pig came cut up into the two back legs, the belly cut into two loins and two streaky’s and the forequarters cut into the hand (that is the front leg) and the shoulder and some sundry bones. All the bones were ‘in’ so one of the first jobs was to trim and take the top bone out of the leg to make a prosciutto.

TrimmingbacklegSaltprosciuttoSalted

Having taken most of the bone out, the meat was salted inside the cavity, then placed in a box surrounded by salt and then weighed down. The meat will be left to cure in the salt for approximately 18 days. After this the salt will be washed off and the leg will be hung to air dry.

Next up came the loins which were variously cut for roasts and chops.

Roasts

The chops on the right ended up very tastily on our dinner plate that night, along with our homegrown potatoes, carrots and garlic.

Loinchop

I was very impressed by the tender, succulent meat which had been lightly brined before cooking.

Of course there was still plenty of pig to process. Quite a few pieces made it into a wet brine. Some of these will become hams. Most of the ‘sundry bones’ ended up in the brine, but were subsequently hot smoked in the BBQ kettle.

BrinedbonesSmokingbonesHotsmokedbones

These will be used primarily for soup stocks. However we did sneak a piece of pork belly in the mix so we would have some tasty bacon in the not too distant future.

A loin fillet was placed in brine for only 20 minutes and was pan-fried along with mushrooms and homegrown pumpkin and potato for dinner the next night.

Loinfillet

In all it took TB two days to do the basic cutting up of the pig. There is still plenty of work to be done. Sausage and salami making awaits.!