Libbie Summers loves pigs. So much so that she has called her new book, The Whole Hog Cookbook, an “ode to the pig.” And she wants to share her passion for pigs with all of you. That’s why she promises, “if there’s anything this book will teach you, it’s not to be afraid.”
In fact, she’ll teach you dozens of things about pork such as the difference between country-style ribs and back ribs, how the heck to use a hock, and how to make a pie crust so flaky, it’ll change your life. (She guarantees it.)
Summers and I talked pork recently, and here’s what she had to say:
Q: What sparked your love affair with pigs?
Straight up green eyed monster jealousy! I saw all the attention the hogs were getting from my Grandma, Lula Mae, on their boutique farm and I was jealous. I was grade school schoolyard wild to learn what was so great about these big animals that Grandma wouldn’t even let me ride. Well, jealousy coupled with the taste of my first pork tenderloin sandwich!
Q: In the introduction to the book, you say, “the best way to honor an animal is to appreciate every part, wasting nothing.” What tips do you have for average pork consumers who may feel intimidated about eating the less popular, “odd bits and parts” of the pig?
Like coming up on a big ‘ole hog from behind, you have got to approach slowly. Ease into the offal by saving the bones and roasting them for your own stock. I give you the recipe in the book and let me tell you, you and your heart will like every dish you use it in better. You control the sodium when you make your own stock. Like I said in the book, I haven’t used store bought stock since Clinton was in the White house.
Q: What are your top three favorite recipes in the book?
I’m obsessed with the Bacon Beignets with Lemon Thyme Curd, The King’s Belly Sandwich, Best Ever Family Reunion Chocolate Sheet Cake w/warm bacon pecan icing…I am salivating right now thinking about all of them.
Q: OK, so you’ve gotta tell us: Why is your basic pie dough life-changing?
GUUURL, you just have to make it to really understand. Now, I can make a pie, but the first time I rendered my own leaf lard…angels sang. Seriously, I fell down in the kitchen and had to be taken to the emergency room. No worries, they said it was just a “slight concussion” (I don’t really know what kind of doctor speak that is, but I’m banking on no long term damage). Leaf lard makes for the flakiest crust. Using leaf lard that you render yourself…that is bragging rights good!
Pumpkin Pie Pancakes with Molasses Bacon Butter
Q: If you could eat only one cut of pork, what would it be, and how would you prepare it?
Definitely the belly…what’s not to love! I’d cook it slow and low. Simple seasonings, seared first in a smokin’ hot cast iron skillet, whisk up a little honey, soy sauce, bay leaf and garlic and pour over the seared belly. Pop the skillet in an oven preheated to 225ºF for about 2 ½ hours (basting occasionally with the pan liquids and turning only once during the baking time). I like to slice it and put it on a soft bun…CRAZY GOOD!
Q: You mention in your video that you cooked for President Carter and Rosalynn. What was that like?
When I think about it, I have to catch my breath. Susan, it was one of the best nights of my life. Just an intimate dinner for a dozen people eating food I’d prepared from The Whole Hog Cookbook. President Carter and Rosalynn were so engaging AND hungry! He ate two helpings of dessert (The Best Ever Family Reunion Chocolate Sheet Cake with Hand Churned Vanilla Bean Ice cream) and Mrs. Carter asked for a jar of my Old No. 7 Paté to take home! The cook in me was on cloud nine.
Politics aside, this was a dinner with a statesman of our country…dinner with two people who are a true love story. I looked across the table at President Carter and Rosalynn, each waiting for the other to finish speaking before they started, and then looked at my own husband who sat next to me and smiled. I hope we grow up to be just like them. Pork dinner or no pork dinner.
The King’s Belly Sandwich
Q: It seems bacon in desserts and porchetta have been riding a long wave. Do you see any other pork trends on the culinary horizon?
My trend wish would be to continue on with my fun subtle sermon in The Whole Hog Cookbook and find uses for every part of the pig. Letting nothing on the beast go to waste. As my Grandma Lula Mae always said…eat everything, from snout to shitter!
Q: You’ve worked with many celebrity chefs, but we’d really love to know this: What’s it like to work with Paula Deen?
Miss Paula Ann Deen has a wicked sense of humor and she can cook! Two things that have made my time working with her so pleasurable. I’ve been lucky enough to not only work for Paula professionally, but help her whenever she asked with personal Deen family projects like bridal showers, weddings, a 45th high school reunion, Christmas parties and baby showers. Those are the times I’ve enjoyed the most. When we get to spend some one on one time cooking together in her kitchen –without a camera rolling. Very, very special memories that I’ll have in my heart forever.
Now for the give-away!
5 lucky readers will each receive a copy of The Whole Hog Cookbook! Simply leave a comment below saying why you’d like to receive the book. Want more chances to win? Tweet about this post and mention @porkandknife! Want even more chances? Take a moment to “Like” the Pork Be Inspired Facebook page, and let me know. The winners will be announced on Thursday, September 29th.