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Some health professionals believe that pork is a particularly inflammatory food. There is some evidence to suggest that this is true.
However, most Americans do not eat pasture-raised pork, nor do they prepare it using the traditional methods that we have used for thousands of years, and I believe this makes a big difference.
How to Buy Pork
When I buy pork, how the pig was raised is most important to me. While I think that all factory farming is heinous, commercial pig farms are arguably among the worst of all the concentrated animal operations, from both a health and an environmental perspective.
The conditions in factory pig farms are so disgusting that commercial pigs must be given multiple antibiotics, steroids and other pharmaceuticals just so they can make it to your table. It is common for hog manure lagoons to pollute the air for miles, destroying quality of life for everyone living nearby, and to even explode and catch fire as methane builds up.
It is also thought that methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA, the highly virulent, flesh-eating staph infection that is resistant to antibiotics, originated on factory pig farms. Swine flu as well.
But not all pork is created equal. Industrial meat simply can’t hold a candle to traditionally produced meat for quality, accountability, safety and taste. Fortunately, it is becoming easier and easier to find pork from pigs raised on pasture and forest—the way our ancestors raised pigs for thousands of years.
Make sure you choose pasture-raised pork every time.
Related: Learn how to select healthy pork here.
Preparing Fresh Pork
In China, it is thought that pork is bad for you unless it is cut into small pieces and marinated in vinegar before cooking in pork fat. Pork and pork fat together form the number one single source of calories in the traditional Chinese diet. Owning pigs is considered wealth, and a crucial component of sustainable rural subsistence even today.
In Argentina and the Philippines, pork is traditionally marinated in vinegar. In India, pork is soaked in yogurt before seasoning and cooking. In Mexico and Central America, it is typical to marinate pork in orange or lime juice. And here in America, we have a long tradition of pickled pigs’ feet and vinegar-marinated barbecue.
The key to properly preparing fresh pork lies in using an acid to marinate the meat prior to cooking. Vinegar, citrus, or yogurt provides the acid that breaks down the meat so that it remains tender and succulent—even after you cook it thoroughly for safety.
Like brining and drying your nuts and seeds, or soaking your grains in whey, marinating pork may also have the added benefit of improving its digestibility and reducing its inflammatory properties. This does not surprise me; our ancestors were pretty smart, after all.
Whether cooking ground, chops, ribs, loins or roasts, you should always prepare an acid marinade for your fresh pork. This could be as simple as a 12–24 hour soak in vinegar and water (2:1), plus some sea salt, or it could be a more elaborate marinade with seasonings and spices to make dinner extra special. If you have a thick piece of meat or a roast, be sure to score it so the marinade can penetrate deep within.
Based on what I now know about traditionally marinating fresh pork, I made the following slow cooker pork shoulder recipe the other night, and even my super-picky kid came back for more. It was hands down the best roast I had ever made or tasted, and I think you will enjoy it too!
Traditionally Brined Crockpot Pulled Pork Shoulder
- 1 3–4 pound pasture-raised pork shoulder
- 2 cups filtered water, or more as needed
- 4 cups apple cider vinegar, or white vinegar (or more as needed)
- 1/4 cup sea salt
- 1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges
- 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp. ground mustard
- 1 Tbsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, or raw cacao powder
- 1/2 cup raw cane sugar, or coconut sugar
- Score your shoulder roast with a skewer or sharp knife to allow the marinade to penetrate deeper.
- Place the scored pork shoulder into the ceramic bowl of your slow cooker. In a 2-to-1 ratio of vinegar and water, pour enough vinegar and water into the slow cooker to assure the pork is completely covered. Add the sea salt.
- Put the ceramic bowl in the refrigerator and allow the pork to marinate 12–24 hours.
- After marinating, pour out enough of the liquid from the ceramic bowl to expose about 1/2-inch of pork.
- Add the onion wedges to the remaining liquid.
- Season the exposed surface of the pork shoulder with the cumin, mustard, chili powder, cocoa and sugar.
- Place the bowl into the base of the slow cooker and cook on High until the pork is tender and falls apart easily, 6 to 8 hours.
- Carefully remove the pork to a cutting board and, using a pair of forks, shred the meat. Remove and discard any excess marinade or fat.
- Enjoy alone or with your favorite sauce.