If you follow us on Instragram (@theelliotthome), you know that we've been baking Walnut and Parmesan Puffs AND that we've been in “Porklandia” for the past week and a half. Last weekend we said goodbye to three of “my girls” and hello to over 900 pounds of pork. Those beautiful sows were born on our farm last year, right about this time, and have grown alongside their litter mates in the good old sunshine and fresh mountain air for the past twelve months.
Our day began long before daybreak, as I began to prepare the equipment and Stuart methodically and intentionally sharpened knives. It was quiet as we sipped our coffee and we savored the moments of dark, melacholy calm before the intense work that soon followed. This is our third pig harvest after learning how-to from the Farmestead Meatsmith (Brandon Sheard) years ago and as I prepared for the day at hand, I began to hear Brandon's words come to pass in my mind. I've seen pigs harvested a variety of ways and I am ever grateful for having learned it a good way from Brandon when we first began raising pigs. I say a good way, because besides Stuart, I've yet to see anyone take more time and care with an animal than Brandon. He taught us to give thanks on an entirely new level, to appreciate the process of death as much as we appreciate the process of life, and how to treat the carcass and the meat accordingly.
I'm also forever grateful that Brandon is a foodie because much of what he taught us was culinarily-driven which, so it happens, is a pretty big thing in this home.
I'll spare the bloody details (because you can read all about those here), but as the story goes, come Monday morning – we were staring down a mountain of pork. This go round, we gathered a new resource of information in The River Cottage Curing & Smoking Handbook and tackled the pork with newly energized ferocity.
Loins were cured for Canadian Bacon. Belly was cured for bacon. Liver was mixed with additional belly and gently cooked into pate. Cheeks were cured in Guanciale. Shoulder was ground, mixed with backfat, and formed into salamis, chorizo, and cotechinno. Neck was cured in coppa. Additional shoulder was cured into spalla. Fat was cured into lardo. And belly was cured into pancetta. A variety of hocks, trotters, roasts, and sausages were put into the freezer and additional fat was rendered down into snow-white lard. Don't worry – there's more on that to come.
But in the meanwhile…
To say it was a success would be an understatement to the surge of thanks and gratitude I felt towards our pigs, our family who helped us, and to the accomplishment of a harvest well cared for. After all that work, I was on top of the world.
Until five seconds later when I realized my entire right shoulder and arm were full of pins and needles from all the chopping and grinding and as a result, I would fail to sleep well for the days ahead. Oh well. Still totally worth it.
In the midst of the harvest, surprise!, everyone was still hungry. ‘Round these parts, that means two adults and four children need to be fed thrice daily if all are to survive. And while I wish we were the type who could just grab a handful of almonds and be fine until supper, that just isn't the way it goes for us. Mama needs FOOD. All of us need meals, primarily hot meals, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Maybe it's the farm work… maybe it's because we know we get to sit down and rest… or maybe it's just because we enjoy eating that much. Regardless, that's where we're at.
Guess it's time to get into the kitchen.
I managed to sneak these Walnut & Parmesan Puffs into the mix. They're full of good fats, protein, and enough carbs to keep the hangry at bay.
Lord knows we don't want Mama getting hangry.
Bonus: They paired perfectly with the champagne I had chilled to celebrate Porklandia. What do I always say, my friends? It's the every, ordinary, celebrations that make this life magical.
And 900 pounds of pork is plenty of reason to celebrate.
Walnut & Parmesan Puffs
You will need:
- 1 cup water
- 7 tablespoons butter
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose einkorn flour or flour of choice
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- Small pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
- Pinch of sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven the 350 degrees.
- In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the water and butter over medium heat. Allow the butter to melt and stir to combine.
- Add the flour into the water and butter mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Continue to stir as the mixture morphs into a small ball of dough. Cook the dough for 1 minute, continuing to stir the entire time, as it begins to smooth out.
- Remove the dough from the heat. Add one egg into the dough and stir to combine, until the dough becomes creamy once again. Repeat with the remaining three eggs, adding one at a time, and incorporating it completely before adding the next.
- Add in the cheese, nutmeg, and walnuts. Stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Scoop the dough into a large plastic baggie and cut a small bit off of one of the corners to create a make-shift piping bag.
- On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, squeeze out walnut-sized dollops of the dough. They'll puff when they cook, so give them a bit of elbow room. If you don't want to go to the bother of piping the puffs, just use two spoons to scoop the dough out onto the parchment paper – much like you would scoop cookie dough.
- Bake the puffs for 20-25 minutes, until golden.
You can try to keep their little hands off of the warm Walnut and Parmesan Puffs, but you won't be able to. It's an unwritten rule that anytime a freshly baked goodie comes out of the oven, children will emerge from near and far to have a taste.
I don't mind. They're pretty cute. Most of the time.
As we round out the work at hand, I'm thankful for the small little ways we get to celebrate daily. Sometimes it's an extra sweet honey latte. Sometimes it's an extra long detox bath. And other times, it's Walnut and Parmesan Puffs. They may be small things, but they're good things.
Really, really good things.
And for that – I am thankful. And full. And Amen.