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Friday, March 28, 2014

Meat Month: Smoked Picnic

As part of meat month, I wrote a post about the smoked ham. It provided an overview of the farming practices and processing practices Acorn Acres Farm (formerly Welcome to My Garden) uses for their pork. The smoked picnic was a not as common cut of pork I got from the farm store. You can find fresh picnic in the store sometimes, but I generally have to special order it around the holidays. I was eager to try a smoked version of this flavorful meat.

Puerto Ricans know the value of a good picnic (or pernil) cut of meat. It's prepared with garlic, olives, and assorted seasonings and roasted for the Christmas holiday (for more info see this recipe from El Boricua's site).

Picnic a more flavorful cut of pork that is from a little lower on the shoulder than your traditional shoulder roast. This cut includes the arm bone, shank bone, and a portion of blade bone. It has a nice layer of skin and fat that, when roasted properly, produces a crunchy treat that's like a baked chicharrĂ³n (pork rinds). For the past couple of years, my sister has been using this cut of pork to make an all-day roasted pulled pork. Though it sacrifices that crunchy treat, it's a rich, juicy, and flavorful cut to use for a mouth-watering, slow-roasted pulled pork.

I opened the thick butcher's paper and pulled the thick, tightly-wrapped plastic from the meat. I found a perfectly-smoked picnic with the bone still in there. It had a mellow smoked aroma. It had a rich brownish-red smoked crust surrounding a light tan meat. It had a thin layer of fat under the skin, but was dry and not greasy at all. It was a smaller roast, which was perfect for two with plenty of leftovers.

I felt that a long, slow roast was the best way to prepare this meat. I mixed it with a little barbecue sauce and served it over rice with a couple of pickled okra.
  1. Preheat
    Preheat the oven to 170° (that's as low as my oven would go). 
  2. Prepare
    Add a 1/4 c of water to help it steam. You could easily use a dark ale or a smoked lager, but I wanted to get all of the flavors of this meat on its own. I didn't add any seasonings. All the flavors came from Stahly's (their processor) smoking formulation. 
  3. Cover & Roast
    Cover it tight with foil (or a tight-fitting lid), and let it roast for 6 hours. (I just threw it in and went about my day.)
  4. Uncover
    Remove the covered pan from the oven and carefully remove the foil/lid (there is lots of steam trapped under that cover). 
  5. Remove Liquid, Shred, & Serve
    Pour off the liquid from the pan and reserve. Between the liquid you added and the liquid from the juicy meat, you'll have quite a bit in there. At this point it's so tender you can just pull out the bone and shred it. You can pour some of the reserved liquid over the top to absorb into the shredded meat, or you can add your favorite sauce. I added some spicy barbecue sauce.

This pork had such good, mellow flavors. I found it to be very salty, but I'm not one to use much salt in my recipes. Since the processor doesn't use nitrates in the curing process, I'll accept the extra salt to help preserve the meat. Because of the saltiness, I preferred serving with vegetables (mixed with spinach or kale) or over rice to help balance it out. You can even stew it with heartier greens as part of the cooking process. A salt-free barbecue sauce (like my Carolina BBQ sauce without the salt) might do the trick. It makes great recipe meat. I added the leftovers to chili the next day and it was one of the best chili recipes I had ever made.

Keep in mind the following points when handling raw meat:
  • Always wash your hands and your preparation surface thoroughly before and after touching the meat.
  • Cured meat should be cooked throughout (to an internal temperature of at least 160°). In this case, it was 170° because of the oven temperature and cooking time.

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