Most factory crate pork is raised on GMO corn feed, junk food and often other animals. Pigs are fat, and fat holds excess toxins. Pigs don't sweat. So where does all the toxins from their food go? It doesn't go anywhere...it stays right in the pig then goes into our bodies when we eat it. Sorry, but that alone has kept me from consuming pork and most recipes that call for it I substitute with local, grass fed beef.
So we've established why I don't eat it...but my husband has not joined my anti pork bandwagon. And he goes without it at home because I don't buy it. I believe part of my responsibility as a wife and mother is to research the food I buy and what I feed my family, so I've cut out a lot of products over the years and sometimes feel bad about it, I really do. So yes, you'll find his stash of real bacon bits, occasional local Italian sausage and two months ago I made his favorite pork chop dinner. Not too long ago I also made a batch of beans with smoked beef bacon. Everyone but the big man liked it. He wasn't easily fooled and said it was sacrilegious to make beans with anything but a ham hock. A meal not eaten is a meal (and money) wasted. So I vowed to never do that again (nitrate free beef bacon runs $7 per pound!).
Over the weekend the temperature drastically dropped here in Middle TN, so a bonfire sounded nice and what goes better with that than a bowl of beans and cornbread? So I just went for it and picked up a ham hock from Peaceful Pastures at the farmer's market Saturday morning. I figured if I was going to get a hock it might as well be local, pastured and grass fed. And I really couldn't beat the price ($5) or the size (see the photo below, it was HUGE!). Here is what their website has to say: "Did you know that pigs are also grazing animals? It's true! We use Tamworth hogs, a rare heritage breed brought over by the first settlers. They achieve excellent weight gains on grass without confinement or commercial feeds. The meat is tender and moist but without excessive fat. Our hogs are also treated to produce from our own garden as well as all the leftover pumpkins (their favorite!) at the end of the growing season from a local farm."
And without further ado here is an extremely easy crock pot bean recipe and the best skillet cornbread I've ever made. The big man was well pleased and said it was the best he's ever had. So thanks to Peaceful Pastures and Azure Standard for making this possible with the best ingredients I could get my hands on.
Crock pot Beans
Feeds A LOT and takes about 8 hours from start to finish
2 cups dried pinto beans
2 cups dried navy beans
1 large yellow onion
1 large ham hock
approximately 6 cups of water
(Beans and onions are organic from Azure standard, Anytime you see water listed in any post it's spring water. Distilled will work just fine, just whenever possible try to not use tap water as it can alter the flavors of any recipe. We are fortunate that our city stopped adding fluoride to our water over a year ago but chlorine and God knows what else is still in there...thus the obsession with filtered water).
Sift the beans and look for any pebbles, remove them and discard. Rinse the beans (no need to pre soak overnight) and place in a large crock pot. Dice one large yellow onion. Mix it in with the beans.
Place the ham hock in the middle of the pot, cover with water and top with the lid. Turn on high for one hour. Turn the heat down to low after one hour and simmer 6-7 more. Just watch the beans and when you see them rise to the top and see their plump it's done. Turn off the crock pot and remove the ham hock to a plate. (If you do not eat pork here is an option. Ladle out some beans before adding the meat back in). Shred the meat off of the bone and add the it back to the pot.
First step, melt one stick of butter in a saucepan on low heat while you mix together the following dry and wet ingredients. Watch it closely so it doesn't burn.
Second step, place a 12 inch skillet into a cold oven and then turn it on, preheating it to 425 degrees.
Dry Ingredients: Mix the following in a medium size bowl
1 1/4 cup non gmo organic cornmeal (always use non gmo organic corn products if you have access)
3/4 cup all purpose unbleached flour (I use Montana Wheat organic, non gmo)
1/4 cup organic cane sugar
1 tsp salt (kosher or Celtic gray is good)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Wet Ingredients: Mix the following in small bowl
1 cup heavy cream (I use raw cow's milk, buttermilk would be fine but heavy cream makes this so good!)
1/3 cup whole milk
Whisk the wet ingredients to break up the eggs and evenly distribute them into the milk.
Once the oven has reached 425 degrees, remove the cast iron skillet with an oven mit. Measure 2 TBLS of the melted butter into the skillet. Quickly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry, adding the remaining melted butter from the saucepan. Mix well and pour into the prepared skillet, scraping the sides of the bowl to remove all of the batter. Using a pot holder, place the skillet back into the oven and bake about 15 - 20 minutes (longer if you use a smaller skillet) until the top is golden and the batter pulls away from the edges. Using an oven mit remove the skillet from the oven and allow it to cool 15 minutes before serving.