Okay – I felt the time was right to get that piece of pork shoulder out of the freezer and face my fears and cook this sucker to perfection. I carefully and gently defrosted it, washed it and then dried it. I lovingly anointed it with extra virgin olive oil and the best seas salt money could buy. I again laid it upon a bed of meticulously hand cut onion and fennel of the freshest quality and then surrounded it by baby organic carrots and perfectly cut pieces of dutch cream potatoes. It all went into a pre heated oven at 180 degrees. I shut the oven door feeling good about the prep and feeling really good about the outcome – never has a piece of pork been so lovingly cared for!
I kept an eye on it; I wasn’t going to stuff this one up. After 35 minutes I checked the temperature with my newly purchased digital thermometer bought expressly for this one important occasion it read 65 degrees – medium! I took the pork out and set it on a plate to rest. Of course the crackling wasn’t done due to the low temp and the amount of time in the oven so I carefully removed that and placed it under the grill to crisp up. I admit this is not ideal however my focus was on the meat more so than the crackle. I left the veggies to cook a little longer, dare I say it – to cook to perfection which they did – golden brown and caramelised, the onion and fennel mixture soft and luscious.
Having rested the pork I took my favourite and most sharp Japanese knife from its case and respectfully carved the pork like a Samurai warrior carving through a sworn enemy. Steam rose up from the pork ahhhh the sweet smell of success!!
As expected the pork skin refused to crackle up completely so I dissected the crispiest sections from the rest and gave the choice sections to my beautiful wife. Pork and veggies draped lazily over the onion and fennel, steamed beans sitting politely to the side, crackling proudly sitting atop the pork, glass of red wine…..the stage was set for my triumphant return as roast pork master.
My wife rosy and warm in the glow of such a fine meal lifted the crackle to her mouth took a bite, looked me in the eye and then spat it out exclaiming “it tastes like fish”. I am afraid I agreed with her, the crackle did indeed taste like fish or rather it had an odd fishy character or even a linseed oily kind of character that was at once confusing and disturbing. In fact whilst I was handling the crackling I noted with mounting disbelief and an edge of horror my fingers came away with a fishy kind of smell!! I decided not to worry but ignore it as everything would be fine – it wasn’t!
Cutting into the pork one knew immediately all was not well. It was tough, the meat was tight not at all relaxed and it too had a rather strange flavour to it. My wife took two bites, working hard to try and break it down enough so that she could swallow it without choking and then threw in the towel. I gave it a little more of an opportunity to redeem itself hoping that somehow it would become soft, juicy , tender and taste like pork but alas it refused as it also refused my teeth and thus I too threw in the towel and threw the pork in the bin!
The veggies were absolutely terrific.
So the saga of the free range organic point has at last come to its final resting place. I declare that the fault lay not with me – for I am an excellently average home cook – indeed the fault lay with the pork itself. I wonder at the process of its slaughter and think possibly there is something happening to cause the meat to seize and the adrenalin to run rampant and therefore taint the meat? I am reminded that I have also purchased fresh pork sausages from this same market stall, same pig breeder and after cooking them my wife and I had several bites before they too went in the bin.
There is the slightest possibility that my wife and I both share an equally unusual affliction to this particular pig but I think that is grasping at fresh hay. Unfortunately and I hate to say it I think that this pork stoinks!