What the Hell is Porchetta-Style Pork

Porchetta-style pork

It doesn’t mean car, apparently.

That’s not a question. That’s what I thought when I first saw this recipe in Women’s Health magazine, so that’s what I call the recipe. And I’ll straight away that I used the wrong cut of pork but loved the marinade. I also was not a fan of the beans/lemon juice/rosemary thing, so I’m not going to post that recipe. You can follow the link and get it if you need, but consider yourself warned, OK?

1 Tbs fennel seeds

3 cloves minced garlic or 1 1/2 tsp jarred stuff

1 Tbsp rosemary

2 oranges worth of zest*

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 pork roast

salt and pepper, to taste (I always use fresh-ground pepper)

1. Preheat oven to 450º (My awesome new oven takes forever to preheat, so I set it to preheat the same time I take the pork out the of the fridge and let it come down to room temp.)

2. On a cutting board, mix the garlic, fennel, zest, and rosemary together and start chopping. The mixture will get clumpy (the magazine calls it “pasty” but they’re fancy and I am not). That’s when you should put it in a bowl and add the olive oil.
3. Marinate the pork with this. I always find it helpful to stab the pork with a knife a few times to let the marinade seep in, and this is especially helpful with the “pasty” marinade that doesn’t run down the meat in drizzles. This is almost a dry rub except, well, it’s oily.

4. After sufficient time has passed – and this is wholly and completely up to you, because I didn’t wait but five minutes and the recipe says you can let it sit for four hours (although really, you can let it sit for a few days, who the hell are you to decide, Women’s Health? You don’t know me and my pork proclivities!) – put the pork in a roasting pan and roast it for about 35 minutes, depending on your oven and whether or not you, like me, don’t insist on well-done pork.

5. Once the pork has a minimum internal temp of 155º, remove it from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes. This is NOT the part where you make that godawful bean recipe. This is the part where you heat a nice can of black beans or pour yourself an indulgent glass of montepulciano d’abruzzo.

6. Eat.

Oh, and “porchetta” means – loosely translated – savory, fatty pork. This doesn’t taste fatty at all. It tastes like oranges and pepper, which I love.

*Do yourself a favor and peel and section the oranges after you zest them, then save for later. If you forget, odds are in your favor to find two green moldy lumps in your fridge next week. #PersonalExperience

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Florida Drinks – The Sour Orange Margarita

Behold: The Sour Orange.

One of my passions is Florida (as evidenced by, well, everything I do, but if you need more proof, check out my Florida-only blog, Finding My Florida.) I love Florida so much I have a master’s degree in it. Seriously. I went through the Florida Studies program at USF St. Petersburg. This involved more work than most people think. One of the classes I took, Florida Foodways, made people chuckle and say, “Yeah, right. That sounds hard.”

I received an A-minus in that class, y’all. The classes people thought sounded more respectable? A or A-plus. My teacher was tough. Perhaps because I dumped itching powder down his shirt when we attended high school together and then didn’t remember him or it when he showed up as my professor 20 years later. Karma, man. It’s a bitch.

ANYWAY, for that class, for my semester research project I decided to research the history of the Florida cocktail. For those of you who think this may mean I spent four months boozing it up, sorry to disappoint, but no. I spent four months digging for scraps of cocktail history. Which is totally a thing, because haven’t you ever wondered who got to decide the name of the margarita, or why we even call it a cocktail? Also, isn’t that sort of history infinitely more interesting than memorizing a list of names and dates?

Muddle key limes with brown sugar and Tupelo honey.

Despite the proliferation of what I like to call “get-‘er-done” cocktails (and I think, if you’ve ever seen those determined spring breakers in a bar, that requires no further explanation), Florida doesn’t have as rich of a cocktail history as I’d hoped. In 1961, a bartender in Fort Lauderdale did invent the Florida Derby, which is another blog post for another day, but beyond that, we can claim precious few cocktails.

A few months after that class ended, a Florida Studies field trip led me to some privately-held wilderness just north of Lake Okeechobee, along Fisheating Creek. Kids love Disney; Florida Studies students feel the same way about Florida wilderness. Let me bounce around a swampy forest for a few days and I’m happy as a Cedar Key clam. On this trip I discovered sour oranges. They looked like bumpy orange lemons on steroids (not all sour oranges are bumpy.)

Sour oranges, also called Seville oranges, come from southeast Asia, by way of Arabia to Sicily to Seville, Spain. That was in the twelfth century. If I say the word “orange” to you today, you think of the juicy Valencias used for orange juice, the seedless navels you can eat without picking out seeds, or the sweet honeybells available for a narrow window every year. However, for 500 years, the bitter Seville orange was the only orange in Europe. It was also the first orange to make it to America, and today some orange groves still grow it. In south Florida, where I found it in 2008, it grows wild in places, thought to be old Seminole settlements.

Now, how did I get from that stand of trees to margaritas? Well, I came home from Fisheating Creek with a pile of these oranges, and I needed to do something with them. There are exactly three things you can do with sour oranges (although I’m open to finding more): Marinade pork, make sour orange pie, or poke cloves in them and use them for decoration at Christmas.

Now, although we have that Florida Derby drink, it doesn’t make me think of Florida when I drink it. Margaritas, however, do, and not because of Jimmy Buffet. No, margaritas should be the official Florida drink is because of the mixers. You see, everything in a margarita – except the tequila – is citrus. As a bartender, I learned to make a margarita with a five-four-three-two count: Five counts tequila, four counts triple sec, three counts sour mix, and one count sweetened lime juice. Triple sec is a thrice-distilled orange-flavored liqueur. The chief difference between liquor and liqueur, incidentally, is the addition of sugar.

A note about sour mix: The prepackaged stuff is way overpriced, has too many non-food things in it, and way high in sugar. You can make your own for almost no money and just as little effort. Read this post to learn how.

My margaritas are tequila, triple sec, sour oranges, key limes, Tupelo honey and brown Florida sugar. EVERYTHING about this (except the tequila) screams “Florida.”

Here’s how I make my sour orange margaritas:

Ingredients:

Four key limes
1-2 tsp. brown sugar
1-2 tsp. Tupelo or other Florida honey
Tequila
Triple sec
Sour orange juice
Key lime juice

Directions:

1. Take four key limes, cut in half, and put in a cocktail shaker. Muddle with one teaspoon brown sugar and one teaspoon Florida honey (I use Tupelo when I have it, but you can also use orange blossom or other local honey.) You can adjust the amount of sugar to work for you, and also dependent on exactly how bitter an orange you have.

2. Squirt a two count of key lime juice into the mixture. I have a tree, so I squeeze my own juice when I can and keep it refrigerated in a reused lemon juice squeeze bottle. If you can’t get fresh Florida key limes (off season the ones in the stores come from Mexico) you can almost always find the juice. Swirl around. This is because that honey will need some help mixing.

3. Shake like hell. Seriously, otherwise you won’t get any sweet in the bitter and you’ll think I’m a nutbar for talking up this margarita.

Shake. Seriously, people.

4. Add ice and pour a 10 count of tequila over the ice.

5. Shake again. I can’t stress this enough.

6. Add an eight count of triple sec and a six count of sour orange juice. (Note that I do not use sour mix; the sugars I add with the key limes and the sour orange juice replace it.).

7. Shake like hell.

8. If you’re the sort who likes your margaritas with salt, rim a glass with key lime juice and roll the edge in brown sugar. Trust me.

9. Pack the glass with ice and strain the perfect Florida cocktail through the shaker.

10. There you have it: the Sour Orange Margarita.

Sour oranges are in season right now, so if you have a local orange shop near you, call and ask if they have sour oranges. If they do, go grab some and try it. You won’t be sorry.

Sour Mix, the Not-So-Hard Way

I’ve done just about everything legal for money that doesn’t involve pasties or board certification. One of those things included bartending. Behind the bar, I learned the proper way to make a martini (easiest thing ever, more so if you Hitchcock it), the secret to giving beer a good head of foam (hint: it involves straws), and that sour mix is simultaneously the ubiquitous mixer and the most vile thing you will ever drink.

Do you have a bottle of sour mix in your house? No? Good for you. You’ll never need one again after this post. If you do, though, go get it. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Got it? Good. Look at the ingredients.

Sour Mix IngredientsHigh fructose corn syrup (sugar), citric acid (I’m hoping lemons and limes, but when it’s listed this way it always seems odd), sodium citrate, sodium hexametaphosphate, acacia gum, potassium sorb ate, polysorbate 60, “natural flavors” (that’s a legally useless term and hysterical in a depressing way), ester gum, sodium metabisulfite, calcium disodium EDTA (to protect flavor, although god knows why), yellow 5, and yellow 6.

Yum.

Now, look, I’m not about to climb onto my soap box about how unhealthy some of those things might be, because, really, we’re about to add it to tequila, whiskey, or whatever, which are not exactly health foods. However, I will make the argument that sour mix is one of the simplest things in the world to make, doesn’t cost much more to make (depending on the season and where you live), and tastes tons better when you do. Why ruin a good bottle of tequila with crap?

So here’s what you do: go buy lemons (eight should do it) and limes (six should suffice) and juice them. You want juice in a two-to-one ratio; shoot for one cup of lemon juice and a half-cup of lime juice.

At the same time, boil your sugar of choice with the same amount of water. Because El Cap uses sour mix in his margaritas and that’s the only way it gets used in this house, I chose agave nectar. If you intend to use your sour mix in other types of drinks, start with plain sugar, (although if you could get it grown somewhere other than Florida, you’d be making this Florida girl very, very happy.)  To keep the proportions in line with the juices, boil one cup of sweetener with one cup of water. Let it cool.

Note: This is how you make simple syrup, a fancy way of saying you dissolved sugar in water and kept it dissolved. I could get into the chemistry (colloidal suspension, I think), but for now, let’s just say you’re going to boil equal parts sugar with water.

After the simple syrup cools, mix it with the juices, shake, and serve. That’s it.

I produced a bottle of my own sour mix, using agave nectar, for under $5, but citrus isn’t in season in Florida right now, and, even considering that, I overpaid for the lemons because I wanted to do this RIGHT NOW. Is it cheaper than sour mix in a bottle? Not necessarily, but it’s not sufficiently more to stop you. Also, El Cap liked it better, and he is not the sort of man who lies to me about what I cook. If he didn’t like it, I would know.

Thanks to Serious Eats for the recipe, although the sanctimonious crap is all me. You’re welcome.

Simple Sour Mix

1 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup lime juice
1 cup sweetener of your choice (honey, agave nectar, sugar)
1 cup water

Boil water and sweetener together for five minutes or so (this is simple syrup).
Juice the limes and lemons.
Let simple syrup cool. Mix with juice.
Shake and serve.

Refrigerate.