Winter in my vegetable garden has been delivering a steady stream of fresh fennel. Our meat delivery for the month arrived recently and included a beautiful leg of free range pork so of course the two were destined to meet. We (or maybe it is just me) have become concerned about how the meat we are eating has been raised. Since we began ordering our meat from a local farm and talking with them directly about our orders it has reinforced my desire to eat meat only from animals ethically raised. You can read my thoughts and experience with cooking with grass fed beef here. I like to be able to ask questions about how (and where) our food has been grown or raised. I understand and appreciate that not everyone is as passionate about this but it is important to me and influences the food choices that I make for my family. This passion has grown since we began growing more and more vegetables and herbs in our backyard.
We recently had a “free range” butcher open in our local strip of shops. When they first opened I was excited and eagerly went in to look at the range. I quickly noted that the “free range” pork was not actually free range but rather it was bred free range. This simply means that the animals were born outside instead of inside in stalls. The pigs are then moved indoors after weaning. This is opposed to the animals living outdoors with access to shelter but allowed to roam and wallow as they wish – free range. Read the RSPCA definition here. It annoys me that a butcher is misleading the customers trusting that they know the product they are selling. Determining free range vs bred free range product is an easy oversight for the consumer as the labeling is confusing at best. My brief experience at this butchers has resulted in me disregarding all of the stock in that store. I have never shopped there and am unlikely to do so. I do not trust their knowledge or quality assurance. Maybe they just need to change the name of the store so that it does not indicate that they specialise in free range meat??
Free range pork is a treat for our family. It is not a cheap meal thus it has become a treat we enjoy once in a while. The flavor difference between pork we have eaten in the past and free range pork is marked. This is true not just of pork. Since we have been growing our own vegetables and herbs organically it is difficult to enjoy produce that is not of the same quality. While we have become more educated about our food choices and decisions we have also become very specific about what we find acceptable and not. You live and learn and make your own choices…
Ok, so I will get off my soap box now, and tell you about my recipe. I know that you will love it. The sweetness of the fennel with the pork and celery is glorious. This family friendly meal is simple to create, add the ingredients to a pot and set it to cook for a couple of hours. When the meat has almost cooked, prepare the rice and sides of your choice. If you are not serving this meal with sides of vegetables use some crusty bread to mop up the gorgeous juices.
- 1.2 kg boneless pork leg (free range)
- drizzle of oil
- 2 fennel bulbs - sliced
- 1 stick celery - chopped
- 3 garlic cloves - sliced
- 1 capsicum - sliced
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- pinch salt
- rice to serve
- Heat the oven to 130 degrees celcius
- Add the oil to a pot that can be transferred from the stove to the oven
- Brown the pork on each side to render excess fat
- Add the fennel, celery, garlic and capsicum and reduce the heat to allow the vegetables to begin to soften
- Add the red wine vinegar and then the stock and salt
- Cover and place into the preheated oven for 2 hours
- Serve with rice, topped with fresh parsley and sides of choice
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