A big pet peeve of mine is how wasteful people in this country can be when it comes to making use of a whole animal— many great parts of the animal are simply overlooked or, worse, thrown out.  I purchased a pig a few months ago for my Eat the Pig project and when I talked to the farmer and butcher, I requested the internal organs, head and leaf lard.  The farmer was kind of shocked and ended up offering them all to me (she was taking 16 hogs to be slaughtered) for free.  I jumped at all of it, with the exception of the heads as I only had room for 6, and ran home feeling like I just made out like a bandit. Livers, hearts and heads are some of the best parts of the animal, and when you’re talking cow, even the tail and tongue are fantastic. Both Kate and I were going to be out all day, and I wanted to make something in the slow cooker so that when we came home there was something delicious and easy to eat waiting.  I decided to go with a ragu with pig heart.  I knew I could bust through the prep while the meat was browning in about 35 minutes and still get out of the house by a little after 8 to meet a friend in Boulder.

The friend was Butterpoweredbike [Butter for short], author of Hunger and Thirst for Life, who Kate was going foraging with.  They were heading out to look for generally whatever they could find, but had a specific interest in plums and black walnuts.  They ended up finding both in abundance as well as some ponderosa pine bark, cow parsnips and pineapple weed that may end up as components of future recipes.  However, the surprise ingredient of wild grapes would end up being one of the stars of the night.  Kate juiced the grapes and used the the juice with some Dry Fly Gin, as well as some tonic for a beautiful refreshing fall cocktail.

Pork Heart Ragu

  • 4 Pork Hearts
  • 2 Cans San Marzano Tomatoes Seeded and Crushed
  • 3 Sprigs Rosemary
  • 5 Cloves Garlic Minced
  • 4 Bay Leaves
  • 4 Carrots Diced
  • 4 Celery Stalks Diced
  • 2 Onions Diced
  • 1 Cup Red Wine (Chianti or similar Italian red)
  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  1. Place olive oil in a hot pan and brown the pork heart till they have good color.  When done, remove pork heart and place into slow cooker
  2. Add in carrots, celery and onion into pan and saute for approximately 4 – 5 minutes.  You may need to add another Tbsp of oil depending on how dry the pan is.
  3. After 5 minutes, add in the garlic and stir until garlic is fragrant but not burned
  4. Pour in wine and deglaze pan to ensure all good bits are off the bottom and captured in the liquid.  Remove from heat
  5. Pour tomatoes into slow cooker, and then add in the vegetable and wine mixture, bay leaves and rosemary.
  6. Set timer for 8 hours on high and enjoy the smells.
  7. After timer has gone off, remove pork heart and either chop finely or grind through meat grinder.  Add into a large stock pot.
  8. Remove rosemary twigs and bay leaves from slow cooker mixture
  9. Use a stick blender or food processor to blend the remaining mixture.  When done add into stock pot with the ground heart and stir well
  10. Bring to a simmer for 20 – 30 minutes and season with salt and pepper to taste

Wild Grape Tonic

  • 1 3/4 oz of Grape Juice (2 bunches of grapes.  White concord grapes are closest grocery store grapes)
  • 1 3/4 oz of Dry Fly Gin
  • 1 oz Tonic

Combine all ingredients in a glass over ice and stir.  The grape is a perfect fall accompaniment to this very refreshing drink.  Kate does it again …