|Vibrant & tasty wood nettles|
What I like about European peasant fare, or Southern Soul Food, or Western frontier food, or any number of others, is that you make do with what you have, use what is cheap, what is in season, and you make a lot out of a little. You don't waste, and you don't take anything for granted.
|Eastern box turtle among the may apples. |
They are listed as threatened, mostly due to habitat loss.
The taste was really unbeatable. The stock is slowly brought to maximum flavor, full of the richness you can only get from the collagen of bone and pork fat, but with an earthiness of the sweet potato and carrot. The fresh nettles add a brightness that is unmistakably spring. Finally the tang of sour cream brings everything together and adds creaminess.
Peasant-Style Foraged Nettle & Ham Bone StewServes 4 as a main course, can be doubled.
The meal is slow-cooked, and start to finish takes just over 2 hours.
|The skins on the right are saved to make the stock|
4 cups of packed nettle leaves and young shoots
3 medium carrots
2 medium sweet potatoes, or 3 regular potatoes
1/2 of an onion, roughly chopped
8 cups of water, or more
1 bay leaf
1 tbs garlic powder
1/2 cup sour cream, plus more to serve
salt and freshly ground black pepper
|Good sized, meaty ham-bone|
- In a large stock pot, bring 4 cups of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pork bone and let simmer for 30 minutes. Add more water, if needed, to completely submerge the joint.
- While the ham bone is simmering, skin and chop your potatoes and carrots into bite size--save the skins!
- After the meat has simmered, skim off the "scum" that will have risen to the top.
- Place your potato and carrot skins, plus the chopped onion, and the bay leaf onto a piece of cheesecloth. Gather up the sides, and tie with a bit of twine, into a little pouch. Alternatively, you can put them into a tea-infuser, or, use a steamer basket that will fit inside your stockpot. Worst case scenario--you can just dump them loose into the stockpot, and fish them out later.
- Add the garlic powder and veggie scraps to the stockpot, adding more water if necessary to cover, and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer for one hour.
- After the stock has simmered for an hour, remove the veggie scraps and discard or compost. Add the chopped carrots and potatoes to the stock pot, and cook for another 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
- While everything is cooking, bring another 4 cups of water to a boil, in a second pot. Roughly chop your nettles, and add them to this boiling water. Boil for a full 5 minutes, then strain.
- Remove the pork and root veggies from the stock pot. Measure out 3 cups (freeze the rest for another dish).
- Working in batches, if needed, add the 3 cups of stock and blanched nettles to the food processor. Alternatively, you could use an immersion blender. Process everything until reasonably smooth.
- Strip the meat away from the pork bone and chop into bite-sized pieces.
- Return the nettles and stock, carrots, potatoes, and pork to the pot. Bring everything back up to temperature and taste. Adjust for salt and pepper.
- Add the sour cream and bring everything back up to temperature, stirring constantly, but do not boil. Taste once more for salt and pepper, and adjust as needed.
- Serve immediately, with a dollop of sour cream on top.