COUNTRY NOTES: SLOW COOKING FOR LONG WORKING DAYS

We have lived in various country locations within Australia since 1991.  I would never consider moving back to the city, no matter how appealing the variety of shopping or other activities on offer.  We have sold a few country properties over the years; all to people who envisioned a dream of enjoying country living.  Invariably these nice folks all had a dream of sitting on the verandah and sipping a wine, all the while enjoying the scenery/abundant vegetable and flower garden/orchard/fresh, clean air/bird life.  A pleasant yet delusional reality.

Living on acreage means having loads of outdoor and seasonal chores to get through.  The seasons roll from one to the other, each of which is replete with certain annual tasks; especially with the doer uppers we seem to buy.  Manic spring weather sees me planting summer crops in the vegetable garden and generally dealing with rampant weed growth all over the place.  The grass at the back of the house needs to be mowed down every three days in this lovely dairy country as the growth is phenomenal to say the least.  Summer time sees us preparing our wood supply for the coming winter and generally working the vegetable garden, harvesting an incredible abundance and renovating the house.  Our heating does not occur with the magic pressing of a button but hard work outside, getting the woodpile ready.  No time for sipping anything on the verandah at all; letting along sitting down during daylight hours.  Late summer into autumn is a busy time in the kitchen as I preserve excess garden and orchard produce; both with the Fowler’s Vacola home bottling outfit and with our freezers.  All these activities must be fitted around my work as a bead embroidery artist with my works selling online and in art galleries.  Winter time sees us slow down after pruning the orchard and pulling back on the renovation schedule due to inclement weather and strong winds blowing through.  Country life.

I am slowly developing some slow cooked recipes that enable us to fulfill our busy working day outside and with the pressing house renovation schedule with the reward at the end of the day of a nutritious and hot slow cooked meal.  The other day I made up a slow cooked shoulder of pork and it was a delicious meal indeed.  I started off with a rolled shoulder of pork and undid the mesh it comes in to spread the joint right out.  I removed all the fat and skin and discarded these and marinated the joint overnight in a combination of garlic, ginger, olive oil and Teriyaki sauce.  I turned the joint over once overnight to ensure the flavours worked their way into all the meat.

I also prepared a variety of vegetables to go underneath the joint.  The “usual suspects” in this case include carrot, onion, leek, celery, thick spring onion stalks and potato; all tossed together with a little extra virgin olive oil and herbs from the garden.  The potato is an important adjunct in this dish as it assists the sauce to thicken towards the end of cooking time.

I added the marinade over the top of the meat and smeared that around.  Here’s a canny trick I use in the kitchen.  I add a layer of baking paper underneath the foil.  The baking paper stops the food sticking to the foil during cooking.  Make sure the shiny side of the foil faces downwards.

I place this into a preheated oven set at 150 degrees Celsius and then walk away for approximately 3 hours; enough time to do chores outside without having to worry about stirring pots and pans.  I cook this recipe for around 8 hours in total.  Every hour after the third hour of cooking, I turn the meat over and ladle over the juices.  The basting and turning is very important.  I baste every 30 minutes during the last two hours of cooking.  I also remove the foil/baking paper during the last hour or so of cooking to enable the meat to caramelise a bit and to assist with the vegetable laced sauce to thicken.  The meat ends up nice and soft.

PORK 7The slow cooked pork is easily sliced off and served up on a paving of some of the vegetables from the pan.  I added some vegetable laced rice here and a dollop of home made red capsicum chutney for good measure.  This pork is just as good when cooked in a tomato based sauce.  The main benefit for us is the slow cooking during a busy working day outside and the enjoyment of a hot, nourishing meal at night.

I know that slow cooking has suddenly gained favour in the past few years.  My family and ancestors have enjoyed slow cooking for centuries in reality though this style of cooking was never really acknowledged as “slow cooking” per se but just “cooking”.  There are some things in life that cannot be hurried and are valued all the more for their relative effort and perceived worth.  I think a slow cooked and nourishing hot meal at the end of a tiring working day is priceless.

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