Up until about 1973, My Grandparents and my Aunt & Uncle jointly raised a pig every year. They’d go in together, buy it, and Becky & Jr. would house the thing on their farm up in Woodstock. Come late fall, they would kill it and the family would share in the pork bounty through the winter.

Now – there’s something you need to know about my Aunt –  she collected broken animals. Whenever you’d go to the farm, you could ride the blind mule, chase the one-eyed chickens, tease the tailless cat (it had gotten caught in somebody’s tractor) and as always, play fetch with one of the “five” three-legged dogs.
I remember sitting on the front stoop with Becky one summer watching one of the tripods trying to scratch itself and maintain its balance. Becky just looked over at us and casually commented, “You know, sometimes it just takes all the fun out of having a pet.”

So, knowing my aunt’s disposition towards animals, you know she would have to name the pigs. They always had names like Elmer, Porky…Bob – and getting close to killin’ time, she would always become sad because she had grown attached to  the very large grunting beast down in the pen. So that last year, back in ’73, when they got their last pig, Becky was confident that she wasn’t going to get sucked into feeling sorry for the pig this time.

… they named the pig “Sausage and Ham”.

But standing outside and calling Sausage & Ham at meal times just got to be too ridiculous, so she shortened the name to something more manageable.

We slaughtered “S & H” that Thanksgiving, and Becky was once again maudlin at the loss of a friend.

Now – I’ve butchered a lot of meat over the years, and killed my share of live things to eat. But nothing…. nothing can describe the carnage and assault on your senses that accompanies the slaughtering of a 500 lb pig. I have no intention of going into that process here. I’ll leave it to say that we cut, cooked, rendered and ground every part of that animal. The old saying is indeed true – “You can eat every part of the pig, except the squeal”.  However – if you are interested in the process – you can read all about slaughtering a pig here.

Brutal butchery aside, pork is one of my favorite meats. It’s versatile, easy to work with, and can be just as lean as chicken – if you prepare it correctly.

I thought today I’d give you a trio of pork dishes: a Childhood memory, a Thai comfort food, and just a damn good stuffed pork chop.

Mom’s Savory Sausage Pinwheels

Makes about 3 Dozen
Whenever I make these I still think about heading out before morning on family vacations. A couple of thermos of coffee and a Tupperware packed full of Mom’s savory sausage pinwheels.

Ingredients
2 Cups White Lily Self Rising Flour
1/4 Cup Shortening
2/3 Cup Buttermilk
1 Pound Bulk Pork Sausage – (I still think Jimmy Dean(C) (Hot), or Tennessee Pride(C) (Mild) do the best)
1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 Baking Pans
1 Large Mixing Bowl

  • In a large bowl, combine the flour and shortening.
  • Cut the flour into the shortening with a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.
  • Add Buttermilk and stir well until blended.
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly 3 or 4 times.( This isn’t exactly like biscuits, you want to knead it a little to toughen up the dough so that it will hold the sausage and not deteriorate when you try to  bite into it.)
  • Roll dough into an 18″x12″ rectangle.
  • Spread the room temperature sausage covering the dough, leaving a 1/2″ margin on sides.
  • Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the dough.
  • Roll dough lengthwise, jellyroll fashion, pinch the seams and ends to seal.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  •  Preheat oven to 350
  • Slice into 1/4″ slices.
  • Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until brown.
Thai Pork Ball Soup

I had a good friend in Atlanta that was Thai/Chinese. Whenever he got homesick, he always made a big pot of Pork Ball Soup and invited me over.
Serves 4

Ingredients
For the Meatballs
1 Pound Minced Pork
1 Teaspoon Asian Fish Sauce
1/2 Teaspoon Lemongrass, Minced
2 Cloves of Garlic, Finely Chopped
1 Bunch Coriander Leaves, Finely Chopped
1/4 Teaspoon Red Pepper flakes (Optional)

For the Soup
4 Cups Chicken Stock
3 Tablespoons Asian Fish Sauce
1 Bunch Coriander Leaves
1 Tablespoon Fresh Grated Ginger
1 Jalapeno Pepper, Sliced into 1/4″ rings
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/4 Head Savoy Cabbage, Thinly Sliced
2 Spring (Green) Onions, Chopped for Garnish
1 Medium Stock Pot

  • Place all the meatball ingredients in a bowl
  • Use your hands and mix well.
  • Cover and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  • Heat the  chicken stock, Fish Sauce and Ginger until Boiling
  • Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  • Remove the meat from the fridge and form into meatballs (about the size of a golf ball).
  • Carefully drop the meat balls into the simmering stock and cook for 4 minutes
  • Add the Cabbage, and black pepper and continue to simmer just until the cabbage wilts.
  • Add the chopped coriander.
  • Remove from the heat and ladle up into bowls
  • Top with the chopped green onions and Jalapeno rings
  • Serve with fresh steamed rice.

My Best Stuffed Pork Chops
 Serves 4
The recipe calls for Hickory nuts.  They have a sweetness and earthiness that other mass harvested nuts just can’t provide. You can buy them online here. However, if you just cannot bring yourself to spending $20 for nuts, you can substitute 1/2 Cup of Pecans and a 1/2 Cup of Pine Nuts for the Hickory nuts. The pine nuts will give you some of the depth that pecans alone are missing.

Ingredients
4 – 1″ Thick Center Cut / Bone-In Pork Chops (Ask your Butcher to butterfly them for you if you aren’t adept with a knife.)
1 Cup Hickory Nut Meats – Chopped
1/2 Cup Celery – Chopped
1 Clove Garlic – Minced
1 Tablespoon Butter
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon  Fresh Thyme – Chopped
1/4 Teaspoon Fresh Sage – Chopped
1/2 Cup Stale Bread Crumbs
1/2 Cup Crumbled Cornbread
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon Flour
1 Cup Chicken Stock
1 Large Mixing Bowl
2 Large Frying Pans

1 Medium Saute Pan

  • Over medium heat, melt the butter and sweat the celery and garlic  – about 3 minutes
  • Add the hickory nut meats and heat for another minute.
  • Remove from heat and place in the mixing bowl
  • Add the thyme, sage, bread and cornbread crumbs
  • Mix thoroughly with  your hands
  • Add the chicken stock, salt and pepper
  • Mix thoroughly and set aside
  • Open each of the chops and place 2 heaping tablespoons of stuffing mixture on one side of the chop
  • Fold the chop over and place on a large plate
  • When all chops are filled, place in the fridge for 30 minutes (or up until 30 minutes before serving)
  • Heat the 2 frying pans over medium high heat 
  • Add 1 Tablespoon olive oil to each pan
  • Add the pork chops and cook uncovered for 8 minutes on each side. Check about 4 minutes into cooking to make sure they are not browning too quickly – if they are, adjust the heat down a little.
  •  Scrape the drippings and excess oil from one of the pans into the other
  • Add the flour and cook a bit – until the flour sizzles
  • Add the cup of chicken stock and cook until it thickens slightly
  • Pour  the gravy up into a gravy boat
  • Serve Immediately
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