My current book crush is Beyond Bacon: Paleo Recipes That Respect The Whole Hog by Stacey Toth and Matthew McCurry. I have read a LOT of cookbooks. Tons of them. Seriously. I especially love digging up traditional real food recipes from a variety of cultures. I have even written one myself so I know how hard it is to compile a book of nutrient-dense dishes that are delicious and satisfying.
This book definitely delivers on several levels. First of all, Joel Salatin wrote the foreword. My hero! If you don’t know who is he – then you must head over to his website for Polyface Farm to read all about him (but after you read my review please).
Pork has been given a bad rap over the last 20 years or so. And some of that is warranted. Poorly-raised, factory-confined-feedlot-pork is not good for pigs or for us as eaters. But, humanely-raised, pastured pork is a whole different story.
The authors’ goal with Beyond Bacon is to inspire us to consider using the whole hog and not just follow the current fad of wrapping everything in bacon. (Not that there is anything wrong with wrapping things in bacon) There’s a whole lot more to a pig then bacon, pork chops and ham. This is what led the authors to write this ode to pork.
The history of pig cultivation, the science (relating to health) of pork and saturated fat, quality, sourcing and affordability are all covered in depth in the first section. One interesting factoid is that pastured lard is high in vitamin D.
This book covers a lot of techniques, recipes and surprisingly a lot of vegetable-based dishes too. Here’s how the Recipe Section is laid out:
- The Basics, Lard, Stock, Sausage and Cured Meats
- Play with Fire: Grilled and Smoked Recipes
- Soups and Stews
- Braised and Roasted Pork
- Conventional Preparations
- Fried Lard Goodness
- Veggies and Sides
- Sauces and Dressings
- Sweet Thanks
I always test at least 3 recipes for each review I post on the site. I try to choose something that is a bit different from our “normal” (and this can be challenging since I LOVE experimenting and cooking).
I really wanted to try a few of the smoked recipes or one that is fried in lard. But alas, local pastured lard is a bit pricey and you need a lot to fry in…plus I don’t have a fryer (which is really the way to go to control the temperature). I also don’t have a smoker although there is a nifty DIY version included in this book. But if someone near me wants to do the smoking, I can supply the pork belly!
So here’s what I made.
First up, was Citrus Infused Pork Burgers. This is an interesting combination of lemon and orange zest as well as small bit of juice from both, plus garlic, mint, salt and pepper. Super simple and really good. The recipes calls for two pounds of ground pork and just one clove of garlic. So although I try not to tinker too much with the recipes I test, this ain’t gonna cut it in my house. We are in California for goodness sakes…nothing gets made without several cloves. So I added three smallish cloves (about 4 or 5 cloves would be typical for us). I was skeptical that such a small amount of zest and juice would be detectable after grilling, but I was pleasantly surprised. Everyone loved them – We ate our burgers san buns, with tomatoes, sliced red onions, avocado, cultured mayo and perhaps a bit of bacon was ingested. (Sorry no picture – the burgers were being camera shy.)
The next recipe I tried was the Grilled Cubed Pork Kabobs. This dish is visually pretty with the alternating pieces of pork shoulder, pineapple, red pepper, onions and shitake mushrooms (that we subbed in for green peppers). You can’t go wrong with grilled pineapple. Our kids were especially thrilled with this sweet warm treat with their main course. Pineapple does provide the enzyme, Bromelain, which does help with protein digestion. So don’t feel guilty, grilled pineapple is healthy! Too bad there weren’t any leftovers, I bet they would taste great the next day.
I was intrigued with the thought of baking with lard. I’m not sure why this hadn’t occurred to me before. I tried out two recipes from Sweet Thangs. I made the Yellow Lard Cake (as cupcakes) with a few chocolate chips and raspberries on top.
The first time I made this recipe, it was a bit dry. Next round I added another 1/4 cup of lard, and it made all the difference. Moist and delicious. I ran into the same issue with the Best Brownies. Perhaps my pastured lard is not as dense as the lard the Paleo Parents receive from their hog share, or perhaps it’s just harder to measure it by volume rather then weight. So my advice is not to skimp on the lard, pack it in tight for measuring and error on the side of heaping over the top. This is pretty sound advice for almost any recipe. Fat gives us that luscious mouth feel and provides us with stable blood sugar. Good fat is our friend.
I’m really looking forward to cooking more from this lovely book. I’ve been pestering my local farmers to save some pork sweetbreads for me. I want to try them out on the grill (see my recipe here). And if course, I still need to try the liver gravy. I’m such a sucker for offal.
I know you are going to LOVE this book. Grab a copy now or enter my giveaway!
If you want to win the Beyond Bacon: Paleo Recipes That Respect The Whole Hog giveaway, please use the Rafflecopter entry form below.
Giveaway opens August 18, 2013 and closes on August 24, 2013 at 12:00am. One winner will be contacted via email and will have 48 hours to respond. Sorry this giveaway is limited to Domestic U.S. residents.
Note: I didn’t receive payment or compensation other than a review copy of Beyond Bacon.
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