Wednesday, January 2, 2013

pig meat, etc. #1

what it is: pig meat, etc.
where i found it: virginia

I just got back from vacation and boy did I eat a lot of pig meat. My family is from old Virginia stock, where ham is a really, really big deal. In fact there's even a DIY cookbook my seven great aunts self published that details their love of and methods of preparing (mostly) swine based cuisine.

Historically, Virginia's two biggest crops are tobacco and peanuts. Peanuts were usually grown where the soil was too crummy to grow tobacco and hogs were often left to graze the peanut fields, giving Virginia ham a distinctive taste. English people seemed to think there was nothing like a peanut fed pig and lots of this stuff was exported, but to make it across the Atlantic the meat had to be heavily salted, smoked or both. To avoid giving themselves an immediate salt induced blood pressure attack, the ham came to be sliced so thin you can almost see through it. Here's a plate of the stuff:

Not only is it delicious on its own, but it's even better in the middle of a home-made biscuit:

You can also use it to flavor incomparably delicious lima ("butter") beans. Also great for flavoring stewed greens like collards, kale and such, though it's also not uncommon to use some of the less prestigious parts of the pig for this:

Here we also have Brunswick stew, though this is traditionally made with squirrel meat (usually replaced with chicken). While it doesn't usually include pig meat, it's just as much a part of Virginia eating and I ate about ten bowls of it over the holidays. It's kind of a catch all stew, but often includes potatoes, tomatoes, corn, lima beans, etc.There was a great brand called Mrs. Fearnows, but they just stopped making it, so I guess I'll be out in the yard soon catching some squirrel.  

Here are a couple of shots of the self published family cookbook. The second picture includes a photo of the house in which my grandmother and all of her million siblings grew up eating this stuff. Don't write the address, the woman listed there (my great aunt) died a number of years ago so your $4 + 60 cents postage would just go to whoever lives in the house now.

Happy New Year.