A head to tail winter prairie potluck in the depths of Winter!
Yes, the Winter Solstice is December 21, but we celebrate it after Christmas when we have more time. This is the second of what I hope to be many more yearly gatherings with the Edmonton Slow Food Convivium members at our home. And, it was the worst winter snowstorm in twenty years.
We are a winter city and are used to driving in what others may find scary and precarious conditions, but we also have amazing road crews usually out all night long cleaning the streets: major arteries that is. For the first time in years, many people were snowbound and had no way to get out of their neighbourhoods. I didn’t take my mini to the Farmer’s Market early in the morning and I was fine, but it was a rare experience driving on the side streets! The cancellation calls started coming in before noon.
We had about 40 people booked into the party. By party time, we had 24 cancellations. Of course, I was crushed. But, what could we do? We had picked up the pig from Alan at Irvine’s Farm Fresh, delivered it to Vanja’s buddy for brining and roasting, and had everything else prepped and ready to go. I teach for Edmonton Public Schools and in over 100 years, they have never closed a school due to the weather, so I kept that Northern “Yes we can!” attitude, and hoped for the best.
There was no parking available on the streets. The snow was so high, that was impossible. We made arrangements for cars at some neighbours, then did pick ups at the 7-11 two blocks away. Our third guest (and a new member) got stuck at the corner, so Kevin and Jeff were out without a second thought to help Brian out of a very deep drift at the corner. That was the theme of the day… and the evening.
Look at what would be arriving soon! Ooooooh, my! This is Vanja’s celebratory food, so I like doing this so close to his Orthadox Christmas, though he doesn’t “practice” the religion, like so many, he enjoys the traditions that accompany the holidays. This is a nice way to get pig into our home during the winter. This year we charged five dollars a person as we went for a Berkshire piggy and got one a fraction under 40 pounds cleaned weight. YUM.
The fellow that roasts these (and has for years) for people from his home country during celebration season, was dumbfounded that little Berkie, below, was completely done in two hours. He is a little darker than last year’s pig! Very little fat under the skin, too… it was woven throughout the meat. This was the most moist, succulent roast pig I have ever tasted! The colouring here is not distorted. He did have a “surreal” glow!
As people arrived, there were drinks and appetizers. This is always my favourite time of the evening: meeting and greeting! Below, left, is Kevin’s amazingly delicious homemade apple wine. To the right is Xina’s generous array of tastings she provided from her fruit wine business: en SantéWinery.
Katherine is dipping into the non-alcoholic fruit punch that is my standard: with or without vodka. I love it.
Brian and Adele visit waiting for Vanja to arrive with the hot pig!
Jerry was on a role and the conversation around the charcuterie and cheese was very focused and animated for awhile. Darn! I missed it! Kevin and Maria were definitely focused.
William was focused as well… on the food! Yes!
The pig arrived just before 7 am as planned. There is something novel and primal all at once seeing a whole beast roasted in it’s entirely. I get a little thrill of curiosity and excitement. I don’t even eat meat. But, I do taste it! The ears and the tail of a roasted pig are coveted, and this one came with them broken off!
There was no shortage of volunteers to “carve” the beast: Vanja, Jeff and Corey.
I think that smile on Corey’s face, below, is due to the perfectly extracted pig cheek he has either already eaten, or has hidden to eat with his meal.
I was tickled pink that we had sixteen guests! Two even came that we were not expecting which was a bonus under the specific conditions of the evening.
Everyone was definitely hungry.
Ginetta and Ron were filling their plates followed by Katherine and her brother, William.
Jerry and Lisa dig in.
The Parade of Potluck Dishes
Below is a collection of Sylvan Star specialty cheeses for Christmas (the yellow mini Gouda and the red mini Edam) with their delicious Feta. Holly’s special Tome (not for sale but to enjoy at this potluck) made iwith unpasteurized milk was particularly special. They all were, actually: PiavÃª Vecchio and (Kevin will remind me) from the Italian Center Shop with Jerry Kitt’s yummy Bison Pepperoni (from his farm: First Nature Farms). The salami is an Iberico chirozo specialty that is incredibly delicious and Jerry informed us that Slow Food International was instrumental in saving the Spanish Iberico pig. The shunka is a traditional smoked prosciutto type meat from Vanja’s country bought at the Budapest Deli.
Below, Irvine’s Farm Fresh Berkshire boar baby.
Basic white bread made by moi when the cancellations started to come in. I decided to make a big loaf at 4pm. I am happy with it as it was a last minute quickie!
As I had made Sarma (sour cabbage rolls cooked with smoked ribs and bacon) for Christmas and New Years as that is a traditional celebratory dish from Vanja’s country, I put out a casserole full of it. To me, you cannot have pig without sarma! Maybe I have become a “former Yugoslavian”, too! Bless-Wold Dairy Sour Cream was the perfect accompaniment for this!
I had also recently made an abundance of Ground Turkey Jumbo Pasta Shells, so put out a dish of these, as well (recipe to be posted, soon! If you want it right away, e-mail me, and I will send it to you.) These are definitely a family favourite and I smothered them in Sylvan Star Award Winning Medium Gouda: a favourite of both Vanja and myself!
Corey and Katherine made the most amazing savoury bread pudding at Mary Bailey’s Annual Christmas potluck (yet to be posted) and the most amazingly rich and delicious Mac and Cheese for this potluck. YUM!
They also brought some vibrant and flavourful honey glazed carrots…. and… I suppose I should confess…. some foie gras. Oh, my! It was such a treat yesterday as a reward for cleaning up the very low maintenance party. I said I would share it with those that stayed last, and then I forgot! Really!
Deanne brought the couscous salad which was a nice addition to the hot dishes.
And would you believe that the only dish I do not have a photograph of is Kevin’s gorgeous roasted beets. (I meant to save some for the next day!) He bakes them for hours, very slow in his oven and they smelled like they were fresh from the garden. I was actually startled by how fresh the aroma was. YUM.
Below is Ginetta and Ron’s homemade big batch of homemade potato gnocchi. YUM! Her Nona taught her how to make it!
Xina brought her ethnic wheat dish and I asked her twice what it was called. Xina, please help me again! Poppyseeds, honey, wheat and something else. Sooo good. It reminded me of my youth when I used to eat boiled wheat from breakfast… my University youth!
Adele and Brian brought the potatoes and carrots. They tasted as delicious as they look!
Jeff and Maria brought the most amazing roasted root vegetable smothered with fresh ginger. Delectable. And, enough to feed two armies!
So much food from so few people. We had a feast in the middle of this incredible blizzard! Deanne is selecting some of the succulent piggy!
Xina arrived late after a looooong and busy day at the market, but just in time to dish up her plate! Whew.
Guest eating in the dining room.
Guests in the Living Room.
So much food! This is the prairie tradition. Everyone brings enough for Thrashers as if it was harvest season!
Time for relaxing and visiting.
Lisa brought the most amazing tart Lemon Tart! She lived in France for two years and learned more than a few tricks while she was there! I must say, the crÃ¨me fraiche went perfectly wonderful with this tart!
Anita brought some chocolate cups!
New members to meet means new friendships to be had. What a wonderful group of people!
Lots of laughs!
The glasses remained representing the people we missed.
You can see how treacherous our roads must have been the evening before with the snow blustering all over. Certainly, there was no place to park, and there is still barely a trail to get in and out of the neighbourhood on.
Dissecting and Eating the Pig’s Head: Not for the Faint of Heart!
The skin on this little baby was definitely crispy and yummy! Look at Corey’s perfect dissection of the cheek, below. He had apparently been dreaming about it for days and was polite enough to leave the second one for another cheek lover.
Then, Kevin got his fork in the head and started to extract the eyeball. Apparently that is a very delectable part of the head. Below, he has lifted the skin over the eye, and the cartilage, or the shiny fibres, are evident as he pulled the skin up from the side of the face.
Below, a close up view of the fibres in the eye socket.
You can see the fork under the eye socket lifting the eyeball, below.
There it is.
The black lens needed to be removed and usually pops out, but needed a little coaxing on this young fella.
Below is the meat that was in the eye socket upside down. I had a little strand of the meat extracted from the socket and it was the most flavourful unctuous gorgeous part of the pig I could even imagine. There was nothing gross or unappealing or foreign about it. It was meat. But the most delectable part of the pig imaginable.
Below, is a piece of the meat from the temple. That was also delicious. But, look at it. It looks like meat. It is meat. It is just that it is meat from the head that some find off-putting. More and more are recognizing the importance of valuing and using every part of the animal. If you read Kevin Kossowan’s blog, you will see that he has weighed the meat on the average adult pig head and it is considerable. So considerable, he eats all of them now.
This little piggy was so small he didn’t have a lot of head meat, but what he did have was definitely worth taking a knife and fork to. I am not sure who got the other cheek. I forgot to look at how wide Corey’s smile was before he left!
And, as this pig cost $175 plus $50 dollars to roast, I was careful to save some for Vanja. Apparently far too careful. There was a lot left in the table in the garage and I certainly should have been more generous with the care packages home. I regret that!
Any ideas what to do with the bones? I am not a lover of “pork stock”. What else can I make?
There is still one seat left in the Greek Escapes Class January 22
Register for:BÃ©néGamier’s French Tart Class: Sweet and Savoury SUNDAY, March 6, 2011 at 8:30 am
Watch for Culinary Tour and Trips in June to Niagara on the Lakes Wine Country and in September to Paris!