Posts tagged fall
Posts tagged fall
To make up for the fact that the Ham Hock Soup recipe doesn’t have a photo, here’s a photo of some trees in our backyard. It’s been gloomy and rainy quite a bit lately, but today is gorgeous, the kind of day that convinces me that fall is my favorite season.
First, a request:
I would like magazines and cookbooks to stop telling me to “just ask the butcher”* if they have bones or offal or sundry excess animal parts lying around in back that they’d be happy to part with for free! or next to nothing!
I have asked. The butcher does not have extra ham bones sitting in back. Maybe your butcher in Park Slope does, and bully for you. I have also never met a butcher who has parted with anything for free. The whole idea feels vaguely un-American to me. And Christ, that animal died for you. If my time comes and I am slaughtered for food, and someone wanted some random section of my shin, I hope that my butcher would have the good sense to charge them for it. Have some respect.
What I’m saying is that the meat counter at Whole Foods was able to dig up a bag of ham hocks, but they did not have ham bones. And that’s how I ended up making Ham Hock Soup instead of Ham Bone Soup.
There are no pictures because there is nothing photogenic about ham hock soup. It’s a cabbage/vegetable soup with a big chunk of pig leg in the middle of the pot.
It’s very good, though, and I am quickly becoming a convert to the practice of seasoning dishes with a bit of vinegar.
BEFORE YOU COOK: The recipe is not hard, but it does take some time, in part because it’s made with dried beans and in part because it’s not made with stock, so you want to cook the ham bone long enough for all the boney goodness to leach out. Give yourself an extra hour or two to soak the beans (or soak them overnight) and count on an hour and a half or so of cooking. On the upside, the soup is even better the next day, and I imagine it would freeze really well.
Ham Hock Soup
(Recipe loosely based on Melissa Clark’s Ham Bone, Greens, and Bean Soup recipe from Cook This Now)
1. Either soak the beans in cold water overnight (I have never done this), OR bring the beans a plenty of cold water to boil. Boil for a minute, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let the beans sit for at least an hour. Drain the beans and proceed.
2. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate and reserve. Add the carrots, celery, and onion to the bacon fat in the pan. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes (this step took me longer). Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so.
3. Add the ham hock and bay leaf to the pot and add 8 cups of water and 2 1/2 teaspoons salt (I ended up needing to add a bit more water at the end). Bring the mixture to boil over high heat; add the beans, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the cabbage and simmer for 45 minutes (if you have kale, stir it in after the cabbage has been cooking for 30 minutes and simmer for another 15 minutes).
4. Remove the ham hock, chop up the meaty bits, and stir them back into the soup. Season with pepper, a bit of the vinegar, and more salt (I thought the vinegar sounded weird, so I didn’t add it at first, and it felt like the soup was missing something. Then I added the vinegar and it was perfect. Don’t skip the vinegar!). Crumble the reserved bacon on top.
* “If you don’t see ham bones in your butcher’s case, just ask; they will most likely have them stashed in the back.”
** I almost never eat a whole package of bacon at once, so when I make something that involves bacon, I wrap the rest up in tin foil in sets of 3 - 4 strips and freeze it. I chop it up while it’s still frozen and it thaws as it cooks.
Maine is beautiful in the summer. I am certainly not going to argue with that. But really, fall is my favorite season here. The nights are cool, you can break out warmer sweaters without having to bundle up in winter boots and coats and hats and gloves every time you leave the house, the trees turn beautiful colors, and it’s apple season.
I can’t wait.
I signed up for the Out on a Limb apple CSA again this year, so I’m looking forward to a wide variety of unusual apples. For those of you further afield, or not excited about quite so many apples, New England farmer’s markets are full of apples come fall.* And apple picking is probably the most wonderful of all pick-your-own experiences, what with the shade, cooler weather, ease of picking, and mulled cider and/or cider donuts (always and, never or).
We got our first Out on a Limb newsletter today, in advance of our first pickup tomorrow. I find the newsletter fascinating, although I now accept that some people do not (“Don’t eat those first! They save well. Didn’t you read the newsletter?” “No.” “It’s half the fun of the CSA!” “…”). In any case, this newsletter had a whole section on some of the common blemishes that you might find on non-grocery-store apples that I thought would be of wider interest to people buying local apples:
What are those spots on my apples?!
The apples you receive from OOAL CSA will probably never be as “perfect” as the ones you can buy in the grocery store. (Of course, we think that they are all perfect in their own way.) So, what are those various spots and blemishes that you’ll see from time to time on the fruit? Do they taste bad? Are they bad for you or your family?
Round blackish spots about the size of a small thumb tack are probably “scab”. Scab is the most common fungal defect found on apples in Maine. In extreme cases, it can completely cover the fruit, making it inedible, and it can even defoliate a tree. The most susceptible variety to scab is McIntosh. Most of the heirlooms and other varieties we provide are resistant to scab. While you may find a small scab spot here and there, it won’t negatively affect the fruit.
Sometimes you might see a light tan bump on the skin. Usually these are bug bites that have healed over. Cut them out if you like, but they rarely damage the fruit or cause any off-taste.
Tiny black dots in clusters of a dozen or so are called “fly speck”. They usually show up in conjunction with a smoky film called “sooty blotch”. Both are fungal defects. Neither is harmful in any way, nor do they have any taste.
None of these dings or spots or blemishes is bad for you or your family. Feel free to cut them out – or leave them!
I can confirm from experience that sooty blotch and fly speck are not noticeable when you’re eating apples. They also offer the unique pleasure of being able to use the phrase “sooty blotch” in conversation.
* It’s actually not been a great year for apples, unfortunately, but I’d still be really surprised if you didn’t see apples at farmer’s markets.