So here’s the thing: apparently there isn’t really any such thing as Italian-style pork broth. It strains the imagination to think that the land of prosciutto and salami doesn’t boil the bones for stock, but Marcella Hazan says that this is in fact the case.
I found this interesting blog post where this dude says essentially, “come on, Marcella, of course they boiled the bones, because can you imagine not doing it?” And she replied in the comments, “No, I was right the first time, Michael, they really don’t.” The whole exchange is worth a look, if you have a moment.
And while I’m tempted to think that yes, there surely must be an Italian tradition of pork stock, because how obvious is it to boil bones, when you start looking around, there really aren’t any pork stock recipes/instructions in any of the authoritative sources.
If Professor Google is to be believed, the culinary traditions that use pork broth are Japanese (noodle soups), Korean (also noodle soups), Mexican (posole) and southern USA (pork and beans). I already have plans to make David Chang’s ramen broth with some of the bones, and that left Mexican and USA traditions to choose from for the rest. And truth be told, I don’t particularly enjoy pork and beans or split pea soup, and I don’t know enough about Mexican food to want to make a Mexican style stock (although I plan to eventually get this book and finally really learn it). When I considered what I wanted to actually do with the stock – make killer butternut squash soup with bacon crumbled on top, or make up a nice risotto also with bacon – it seemed to call for an Italian treatment, which doesn’t really exist.
I did find a pork stock recipe from the Zuni Café. Like Chang’s it is a compound stock, using both pork and chicken. I briefly considered making the Zuni version, but honestly, I was already at the limits of my energy making two versions of stock, and I didn’t want to buy another whole chicken. Lazy, I know. But I figured that if it was truly awful with just the pork, I could always go back and boil a chicken in it later.
I realized that I was running the risk of culinary disaster – I mean, if Italian pork stock doesn’t exist, there must be a reason, and surely it’s not because Italians didn’t have enough access to meaty pork bones. There must have been some deliberate choice not to make it. And yet, it was hard to imagine how exactly it could go too horribly wrong. I opted to keep the flavors clean and only use pork and aromatics so that it could be versatile in case my plans for the stock really didn’t work, and I followed David Chang’s instructions in so far as they applied.
Stock has always been a pretty loose deal with me, rather than a detailed recipe. I tried to be more specific here so that I could share, but I ended up course correcting a few times, so this is really just a best guess as to what I would do if I were to do it again. Still, I hope it is helpful.
Preheat oven to 400. Arrange 3.5 lbs of meaty pork bones in roasting pan and roast for one hour, turning them over after 30 minutes to ensure even browning.
Bring 6 quarts of water to a lazy simmer. Add bones. Simmer for at least 4 hours. Then, in a separate pan, add a whole chopped onion, two or three large carrots, chopped, and 4 or 5 stalks celery chopped. Swirl in some EVOO and cook the veggies over medium-low heat stirring very occasionally until they are a nice light brown, about 30 minutes. Add 6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped, and sauté for another couple minutes. Dump all the veggies in with the pork bones, then deglaze the pan with a generous cup (or two) of white wine, and dump all the wine into the pot with the veggies and bones. Add 1 tsp peppercorns to your pot. Simmer another hour.
Remove all bones and veggies from the stock and then taste it. If the flavor is strong enough for your purposes, you can salt it (if you want to) and then cool. Alternately, this is the time to concentrate it by boiling it down.
Cool the stock. Alton Brown recommends doing this with plastic bottles that you have cleaned, filled with water, closed, then frozen. You can also manage this by placing the whole pot in an ice bath. Once cool, I skimmed the surface and then froze in in 2 and 4 cup containers.