Growing Roots and Braised Pork Roast

September 28, 2011

This is the seventh in a series of weekly farm reports from our own Tom Hirschfeld, complete with recipes, cooking and gardening tips, and wisdom dispensed.

Today: Tom turns his thoughts to fall.

Braised Pork Roast

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- Tom

The thick dusty light of late summer has cleared and the blues are setting in. You see, fall light is different. Fall fills the afternoons with bright white light, causing deep blue skies, which brings things into focus. Somehow the tilt of the earth, the refraction of the sun’s rays makes fall afternoons clearer, even crisp, with clean sharp edges.

As much as the afternoons bring clarity, the mornings become vague murky affairs where the first light of a sleepy dawn raises more questions than answers. The garden doesn’t grow as fast, the chickens lay fewer eggs, all as darkness tightens like a noose constricting the life from the remaining daylight hours.

It is the blue light of fall that makes me appreciate the smell of long-braised aromatic dishes and the warmth of the back burner radiating its heat into a room that is not yet cold enough to need the furnace, but reaps the benefits of the soft glow of a flame and a warm Dutch oven lazily bubbling away.

Harvesting potatoes  Pear tree

The teapot hisses. The Sunday Times you are finishing on Monday crumples and the ink print fingertips on the teacup are the tell-tale sign you are committing the crime of enjoying tea time. You turn off the burner and pour a second cup. The second brew is always better anyway. You need no more justification than that.

It seems as if this is the first time in months you have had time to sit and catch a breath. Holding the teacup with both hands thinking, elbows resting on the table and the newspaper now folded and off to the side, and you know a week or two of this kind of behavior will only lead to trouble. You are the kind of person who, when left to their own devices (root word there vice), will find trouble. Things like wanting to build a wood-fired oven, a still from a pressure canner, tinkering with the idea of a Native American sweat lodge replete with lava stones that won’t explode like the river stone did last year, or pumpkin catapults and, as always, good bourbon. Then this little voice in the back of your mind that sounds like Vivian, and she does this often, “Aah Dad, a little focus here,” snapping her fingers and snapping me out of a serious tangent.

No, really what happens now is I get all Mr. French, and I don’t mean the one that took care of Jody and Buffy in the 1970s TV show Family Affair, but rather I want to cook everything French. I want to move to the south of France, I want to listen to Edith Piaf I want, I want, I want, to have three hour lunches at a roadside winery and then amazing dinners in tiny little restaurants with twenty servers, which is five more than there are seats for patrons, and I want to go to the open air markets and look at sexy things, like, like, well, pork roasts.

Pork Butt Roast  Pork Roast

But I won’t. Instead I will pretend, well not really, I will make wonderful French food and enjoy it right here in the beautiful heartland and I will rediscover what a joy it is to cook slow food, the feel of a fire in the fireplace and how there are still many wonderful things growing and how wonderful it is to walk from the orchard to the garden and pick pears or dig fresh turnips and potatoes for dinner, but mostly I will realize that the Billy goat I see when driving down the road with his head stuck through the fence, reaching out as far as he possibly can, eating the exact same grass that is on the inside side of the fence is telling me exactly what I already know.

Tom's Tips for Growing Fall Vegetables

1. Plant things in July and August for September and October harvest. Things like kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts all can take a light frost and will thrive until the first freeze and even then you can cover them if needed. I used to always try to grow a crop of broccoli in the spring, only to have the soil temperature get too high and the broccoli bolt (meaning go to seed).

2. Carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes and turnips are great root vegetable choices to put in for fall too.

3. Here in Indiana I can leave root veggies in the ground and I cover them with hay and a tarp which keeps in the earth's heat, preventing the ground from freezing. This is a easy and good way to store veggies until you need them. It is fun to scrape back the snow, pull back the tarp and the hay, and dig veggies up mid-winter.

Braised Pork with Pear, Turnip, Onion Jus

Braised Pork Roast with Onion Jus, Pears, Turnips and Potatoes

Serves 4

This recipe is based on dish that was on the series Great Chefs. I have gone back and tried to find the episode but have never been able to locate it or an actual recipe. Either way, it is a wonderful dish that can be a nice Sunday dinner and is also elegant enough that I would serve it to guests for a great gourmet dinner.

2 1/2 lb. bone-in pork butt roast, with good marbleization
4 onions, trimmed, peeled and julienned
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5-7 bay leaves, depending on their size
6 sprigs thyme, tied with kitchen twine
6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
2 cups white wine
Salt and pepper
2 or 3 Bosc pears, ripe but a firm ripe
2 or 3 turnips
2 or 3 russet potatoes
Canola oil

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.


Want more life on the farm? See Tom's initiation to beekeeping (Part II): Beekeeping and Fried Chicken with Honey Ginger Sauce.



Oui, C. October 18, 2011
I rarely cook a whole butt roast and its a shame. It seems I'm normally cubing them to put in a braise, but I love the heft and presence of the big old slab you've plated here. Nice! - S
testkitchenette October 5, 2011
Thank you again, Tom...please write a book soon! <br />
Green C. October 5, 2011
Tom, which variety of Brussels sprouts do you recommend for July/August planting? They have such a lengthy maturity that even with row covers, I have been unable to beat the winter here in zone 4/5. And yes, while frost improves their taste, snow and ice stop their growth.
Author Comment
thirschfeld October 5, 2011
These are about the shortest maturity sprouts I have found. You may just need to start them sooner being tin the zone you are in.
mcs3000 September 30, 2011
Love fall. Gorgeous piece.
monkeymom September 29, 2011
Pork roast is my favorite! Looking forward to chillier weather here in NoCal to enjoy this.
Author Comment
thirschfeld September 29, 2011
I don't fall far from the familial tree when it comes to pork that is for sure. It is one of my favs too.
boulangere September 28, 2011
In the sort of front yard of my restaurant in Northern CA was a pear tree which grew right on the bank of the neighboring creek. One summer evening I was sitting on "my" rock alongside, gathering strength to get through another wild summer dinner service. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a movement. I sat as still as I could and let my eyes gather the motion of a beaver floating downstream. I digress. Of an early late summer-early fall morning, I would typically see a sibling group of deer, two males and a female, working their way across the field out back and gradually along the creek. The small female would hold me in the corner of her eye (I was the one with the camera) as they meandered alongside the lower dining room windows to the pear tree. All the while she seemed to be saying, oh no!, they weren't remotely interested in my pears. Late at night, after we'd closed after dinner service, and the front parking lights had been turned off, I'd often find a car pulled into a space adjacent to the pear tree, and spy a person or two furtively stuffing fallen pears into bags to take away for who knows what. And there were always plenty for our stratas, our autumn olive oil cakes, our bread puddings. Our tree was extremely generous.
Author Comment
thirschfeld September 29, 2011
pear trees are generous. It is nice that you can talk about all the wildlife at the restaurant. The resto I worked at generally only got raccoons in the dumpsters.
boulangere September 29, 2011
More than once I rode into the back parking lot to find the last night's garbage strewn generously around. We shared an old re-done house with an art gallery. They were prone to throwing out long stuff that propped the lid open. Drove me nuts.
boulangere September 28, 2011
You're hitting your writing stride beautifully. The maple in front of my house is just beginning to turn, and I'm thinking fire pit out under the big ash trees this weekend. Maybe with some good bourbon. And if you ever get to that wood-burning oven, I'm in.
Author Comment
thirschfeld September 29, 2011
it is always good to have a bonfire on a good crisp night.
Lizthechef September 28, 2011
I'm homesick for "real" fall. Lovely post, Tom.
Author Comment
thirschfeld September 29, 2011
I hear ya, and thanks
Kelly C. September 28, 2011
Oh my, this is really beautifully written. I love the list of ideas you are tinkering with. And I love that you will actually do them! Can't wait to read about it all! Please keep writing...and cooking and etc...
Author Comment
thirschfeld September 29, 2011
thanks Kelly
nannydeb September 28, 2011
Sitting here at my desk wearing a shawl and reading this it actually made me think it was fall. Then I snapped out of it and realized we'll hit 100 degrees here again today. Thanks for the brief fantasy.
Author Comment
thirschfeld September 29, 2011
I know that Austin weather well.
wssmom September 28, 2011
The loveliest essay yet ... this column keeps getting better and better!
Author Comment
thirschfeld September 29, 2011
thanks so much wssmom