It all started with a mysterious paper-wrapped package from my CSA. Simply labeled “Pork Hock.”
And it ended with this delicious bowl of stew.
Last month my CSA bag had lots of basics – ground beef, steaks, pork chops … and then something new to me. The label said “Pork Hock.” I didn’t even know what part of the pig that was, let alone have a recipe for it. So, naturally, I googled it (FYI it’s the ankle/shin area). Anyway, I got roughly 8,452 variations of pork and bean recipes. Oh, and there were also hundreds of split pea soup recipes. Hmm … neither sounded particularly exciting since I just had ham and bean soup as part of our lunch share. Plus, we have a legume allergy in our house.
Undeterred, I did a bit more research. My frequent babysitters (both Eastern European) are quite familiar with this cut of meat, “Golonka,” which is a national dish of Poland. Now we’re getting somewhere. When I took that approach, I saw much more variety. They usually cook Golonka in a stew. Sometimes with cabbage.
I knew I wanted to utilize my slow cooker so I could throw everything in and leave for work (plus, it’s a tough, sinewy meat). Thank God for the current Paleo craze (Paleo = no beans = handy timing for our allergy). I came across this inspiration from Nourish Paleo. I now had a bean-free place to start. I looked up a few more recipes and decided thyme and cayenne would compliment it well. And I decided I would use my homemade chicken stock instead of beef broth and add some celery.
- 1.5 lb pork hock
- ½ head cabbage
- 2 carrots
- 2-3 stalks celery (~1 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ tsp thyme
- ⅛ tsp cayenne
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 2 TB apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups broth (homemade recommended)
- Salt to taste (you may not need any, particularly if pork or broth is salted)
- Combine all ingredients in crock pot.
- Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
- Remove bones and enjoy!
This was one of those meals that caught me off guard. Sort of like a twist on the pork and sauerkraut my friend’s mom used to make frequently growing up (and I happily ate, always with a side of mashed potatoes). The recipe is very healthy (cabbage is one of those “super foods”), extremely easy, and the flavor profile was such a change of pace from a typical stew. And it’s a bargain – the pork hock is one of the ugliest, cheapest cuts out there (while my CSA meat is naturally a bit more since it’s uncured and pastured meat, the regular grocery store has them for $2.99/lb).
The result? The whole house smelled like New Year’s day. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth. The cabbage and celery played nicely with the saltiness of the ham. I told my husband I thought the broth tasted like French Onion soup even though there’s not a single onion in the recipe. He thought I was crazy, but I’m sticking to it.
I am sad to report one pitfall. It didn’t make as much as I would have liked. So, next time I’m doubling the recipe for leftovers.
Complete cost? It runs ~$5.50 for the 1.75 lb of pork hock, plus $1 for cabbage, and let’s say ~$0.50 for a few stalks of celery and 2-3 carrots. Add some broth and that gets you to ~$8.50 if you bought everything individually. That’s $2.13/person for a satisfying meal. But, in this case I had made my own broth (free bonus after cooking with bone-in chicken thighs), and I buy carrots and celery in bulk (always in my pantry). So mine was a bit cheaper.
Now, run and find yourself a butcher who will sell you an ugly but delicious pork hock for cheap. And grab a head of cabbage while you’re out. Then let me know what you think.
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