Oh no! I forgot the pig’s head!
My brother loves pig roasts. He bought a La Caja China Cuban pig roaster a few years ago, and now all he needs is an excuse to roast a pig. Family together at the cottage in the summer? Pig roast. Ohio State-Michigan game? Pig roast. Co-worker having a party? Matt shows up, roaster in tow.
I always grab some leftovers from Matt on my way out, so I can make shredded pork sandwiches. This time, when I was leaving, I remembered Judy Rodgers’ Zuni Cafe’s pig stock.
And her story about the burglar who snuck into the kitchen early one morning and stole the boiling hot head out of the stock pot. Talk about desperate…
Matt packed up the head for me…and I forgot it while wrangling the kids out the door. Matt threw the head in the freezer for me, and gave it to me as part of my Christmas presents.
A frozen pig’s head! Exactly what I wanted…
So it’s the week after Christmas, and I have a pig’s head and a pile of root vegetables left from my winter CSA share. Soup time!
If you can’t get a pig head, don’t worry - 5 pounds of meaty pork bones will work, and, frankly, won’t gross out your family. One glimpse of the pork jaw and my daughter shrieked and ran from the room.
Now, you don’t have to use pork stock - homemade chicken stock is an acceptable substitute. If you’re desperate, you can use store bought chicken broth, preferably low sodium broth in the aseptic packages - but please, at least once, try to make your own stock. With homemade stock, the broth is the highlight of the soup; with store bought broth, the soup is more about what you add into it.
…and that’s why this soup is OK with store bought - we’re adding in shredded pork, leftover from a roast. Leeks, kale, cabbage, potatoes, parsnips, and carrots. You can hide a bland stock behind all that.
No pressure cooker? No worries. See the notes section for stove top pork stock instructions.
6 quart or smaller pressure cooker? Skip the pig head, and use a smaller amount of meaty pork bones. See the notes section for electric pressure cooker instructions.
Recipe: Pressure Cooker Pig Head and Root Vegetable Soup
Adapted From: Judy Rodgers The Zuni Cafe Cookbook
Cooking time: 90 minutes
- 8 quart or larger pressure cooker (I use my massive Kuhn Rikon 12 quart stockpot)
- Large pot for the soup (you can re-use the pressure cooker pot if you wipe it out first)
- 1 (5 pound) pig head, or 5 pounds of meaty pork bones
- 2 quarts chicken stock (or water)
- 3 quarts water (plus more to cover if needed)
- 1 medium onion, peeled and halved
- 2 stalks celery
- green leaves from a leek (optional)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 leek, trimmed, rinsed, and sliced thin
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 2 quarts pork stock (Or chicken stock. Or store bought chicken broth if you’re desperate.)
- 2 cups shredded cooked pork (save some from the roast where you got the head)
- 2 large carrots, peeled, quartered, and diced
- 1 large parsnip, peeled, quartered, tough core removed, and diced
- 8 ounces kale, stemmed, sliced thin
- 8 ounces cabbage, sliced thin
- 1 pound new potatoes, cut into small cubes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Pressure Cook the pork stock
Put all the pork stock ingredients in the pressure cooker pot, and add extra water if needed to just cover the pork. (Don’t go over the pressure cooker’s max fill line). Lock the lid, bring the pressure cooker up to high pressure, and cook for 1 hour at high pressure. Let the pressure come down naturally for 15 minutes, then quick release any remaining pressure. Remove as much of the solids from the pot as possible using a slotted spoon, then strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer. Let the strained stock settle, then spoon off the layer of fat on top. (Or degrease the fat in batches using a gravy separator. Even better, if you have the time: make the stock the night before, refrigerate it, and scrape off the solidified fat cap the next morning.) Use 2 quarts of stock for this recipe, and freeze the rest for a second batch of soup later.
This step can be done weeks in advance - freeze the pork stock in quart containers and thaw out before continuing.
2. Saute the aromatics
In a large (6 quart or larger) pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the leek, sprinkle with ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and saute until the leek softens and starts to brown around the edges, about 5 minutes.
3. Cook the soup
Add the stock to the pan, and scrape loose any browned leeks that are stuck to the pan. Add the shredded pork, carrot, parsnip, kale, cabbage, potatoes, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Cover the pot, increase the heat to high, and bring the pot to a boil. Remove the lid, reduce the heat to a simmer, and simmer for ten minutes, until the vegetables are softened. Stir in the vinegar, then add salt, pepper, and more vinegar to taste.
- Don't have exactly these root vegetables? No worries. Use about 1 pound of shredded dark green leafy vegetables (kale, collards, cabbage, etc...), and about 1 ½ pounds of starchy root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, parsnips, celery root, turnips, etc...)
- No pressure cooker? No worries. Make the stock in the oven. Put all the stock ingredients in a large (8 quart or larger) stock pot, bring to a simmer, then transfer to a 200°F oven for 6 to 8 hours. Strain and continue with the recipe.
- Electric Pressure Cooker or smaller stove top PC: most electric PCs can hold 6 quarts. This is way too small for a pig’s head; it’s going to be a tight fit on an 8 quart PC, and a 10 or 12 quart model is even better. If you have a 6 quart pressure cooker, use 2 pounds of meaty pork bones, 1 quart of chicken stock, and 1 quart of water (plus more to cover, and don’t go over the max fill line on the PC.) Pressure cook on high pressure for 1 hour (1 hour 20 minutes in an electric PC), then let the pressure come down naturally. There should be just enough broth for the soup in step 3.
- This recipe makes a lot of stock - five to six quarts - and you only need two quarts of stock for the soup. (Hey, I had a whole pig’s head to use up.) Freeze the extra stock and use it in a different soup: Vietnamese pho, tortellini en brodo, or tortilla soup are some of my favorites.
What do you think?
Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
I'm hiding the picture of the pig head in the pot down here...be warned...
Here are some more ideas to use up the extra stock. Substitute the word "pork" for "turkey":
Pressure Cooker Turkey Noodle Soup with Vegetables
Turkey Soup with Chickpeas and Vegetables
Turkey Ramen Soup
Click here for my other pressure cooker recipes.
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