plateful of grease, please.

December 22, 2009

look how it glistens gently!

It was three in the morning and there was nothing* in the fridge except for a slab of Edam and some olives from the local deli. I was craving my daily shot of animal fats and the last enchilada had my brother’s name on it, so rather than resorting to backstabbing and betrayal over a weakly seasoned chicken in a tasteless supermarket wrap, I grilled up a masterpiece of grease: the plate of cheese with olives and black pepper. Behold:

scoopin' up the grease
It doesn’t get much worse than that. In my defense, I was on a food rampage and the last of my pulled pork had vanished this afternoon, and vanished very tastily too with a knob of butter on top to mitigate the extreme herbiness of it. The smell of the lard I was attempting to render still lingered in the kitchen air, so of course I was peckish. Behold thus:

rendering lard attempt no.1

and of course you get a proper look inside. Please notice how there are little bits of detritus floating about there- pork skin, black peppercorns, very-boiled onions and disguised garlic. And there’s that enormous layer of oil floating on the top of it all, in case you can’t see it.

unrendered fat

See, a couple months ago I found this on the SomethingAwful.com forums, aptly entitled ‘After all, the tortoise won- the Slow Cooking thread’ and was plunged into a dizzying, mouth-watering world of very-good-sounding foods that took ridiculously little amounts of time to make and didn’t require constant supervision but still ended up delicious. Reading the posts, I envisioned plonking food into my cooker before I went to bed and waking up to amazing-smelling lunch** that I could just scoop out of the pot and consume, or preparing something before I ran off to class and coming back to monstrous edibleness with which I could feed the masses.

Also, soups. I have a thing for soups. I’m Chinese and I grew up in Hong Kong on as many variations of soup as there are stars on the ceiling of a five-year-old’s bedroom. Moving to New Zealand and experiencing Wellington winters only exposed me further to soup, Western-style, particularly the kind in tins that one chucked into the microwave and ate with lots of bread after stumbling home from school in the bleak midwinter. So- slowcookers and soup? Slowcookers and soup stock? Glory be.

Much Googling ensued. And then I found this amazing blog by Stephanie O’Dea, The Woman of Total Awesomeness, who decided to cook her family meals in a slow cooker for an entire year. Do you know what this means? No seriously, do you? It means an entire year’s worth of recipes for cheese, pork, chicken, rice, duck, bacon, beef, vegetables, desserts, cakes, cheesecakes, candles, soups, soaps, foot spas, better mouse traps, intelligent alien communication devices and cures for cancer, in a slow cooker. The lady now has a book out and I’m just about addicted to her blog. Go check it out.

Both sites had an easy starter that sounded good: pulled pork. There are a million recipes out there but most involve variations on BBQ sauce, brown sugar and enormous amounts of Worcestershire. Following this, I made Mummeh buy me 10kg of shoulder roast and hacked it in half with one half going into the freezer and the other going into the ancient crockpot with two thirds of a bag of brown sugar and way too much apple cider vinegar.

Result? Deliciousness. I wish I had photos, but the camera was out of order a month ago when this occurred. I ate pork for lunch. I ate pork for dinner. I snacked on pork after dinner and also at three a.m. when I was peckish and awake and at five p.m. when I woke up again. I ate pork for two weeks in little bits and it tasted like candied pig in rapturous porcine heaven. It was so good.*** This experiment was repeated with the other half of the shoulder roast but with a different braising liquid, resulting in a much more herby flavour that needed muting with butter whenever I pulled some off.

And this meant there was leftover braising liquid. Much, much leftover braising liquid, with much, much floaty oil-on-top. It was all consigned to the freezer.

yay ice?

Today, feeling brave, I took it all out, cut off the white gunk at the top, boiled it all up and down until it reducedreducedreduced, and made myself two thingies of sauce, both visible in the photo. The white gunk I chucked into the slow cooker to wet-render, courtesy of these lovely sites (mamma mia, will you look at that photo of lard, sitting neat and clean as you please like three scoops of perfectly white sorbet!) and this nice one, which told me the values of eating lard. Turns out it’s not as unhealthy as everyone screams it is. Just Google to check ;P.

This leaves me now with a plastic container of fat-and-jelly in my fridge, which I’ll be skimmin’ off tomorrow and boilin’ down once more until I get myself some pure white fat, dammit. I refuse to not use all the bits of my food. Waste is bad, particularly when there’s so much useful fat lying around on sides of pork and chicken and beef and so forth. Who knew you could just boil it all down and use it for relatively healthy cookin’?

.

* By nothing, our intrepid heroine means to say there was no meat. Usually there is leftover pulled pork from the slowcook experiment of the week before, but it was finished this afternoon. And a delicious finish it was, too.

** I’m a student. We sleep late and wake later.

***I consumed the whole thing by myself. Mummeh is notoriously Chinese in her tastes and refuses to eat too-sweet things, and alas! The recipes I found were American, and those Americans have mouthfuls of saccharine-flavoured teeth. Woe to them and their cavities.

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