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.
Pork Hock and Cabbage Stew
1.5 lb pork hock
1/2 head cabbage
2-3 stalks celery (~1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp thyme
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/4 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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