“When daily life is directly tied to the ebbs and flows of nature, as they are in agriculture, one cannot help but observe that life and death are forever in service to one another. We nurture the newborn livestock, and we process the ones that are ready for market. We harvest one crop, we plant seeds for another.”
– Shannon Hayes (from Long Way on a Little: An Earth Lover’s Companion for Enjoying Meat, Pinching Pennies and Living Deliciously)
Meat consumption can be a confusing- and polarizing- topic in the health community: many people seem to avoid meat because they believe it to be “bad” for them/”bad” for the environment/”bad” for animal welfare. I personally do not believe meat is “bad” (nor do I believe it needs to be avoided if you enjoy it) and I talk extensively about why in my book. To sum up, meat has a very rich nutritional profile (animal foods are a wonderful source of protein, but also contain additional nutrients that simply cannot be found elsewhere), especially when it comes from animals raised on ample pasture. In addition, I believe traditional animal husbandry is a humane and sustainable practice; I want to support farmers outside of the industrial factory farming system…farmers who truly care for/don’t confine their animals and who allow them to graze as nature intended.
I feel very fortunate that here in NY’s Hudson Valley where I live, I am surrounded by a number of farms where the animals and land are managed in a holistic way. These farms don’t confine the animals, nor feed them a grain-based diet, nor give them antibiotics or hormones. They allow the animals to roam freely in the sunshine and fresh air, grazing on nutrient-dense pasture.
One such farm is Full Moon Farm, and when the folks from the farm asked me if I’d be willing to develop some recipes with their products, I was really excited. Though I don’t post recipes for meat here on the blog all that often, meat is definitely a part of my diet, a diet that I consider to be quite health-promoting and balanced. So of course I said “yes”. This means that in the future, you can expect to see a few more meaty recipes!
Today, I want to share one of them with you: a roasted fresh ham that’s a really nice option for family dinner such as Easter.
About pastured pork/ham:
Unlike cows, pigs are omnivores. Pigs raised on pasture farms do graze, but they eat many other things, too (their diet is often supplemented with grain). Pastured pork is generally much more flavorful-and healthier-than commercial pork because they pigs have access to the outdoors and eat a much more diverse diet.
“Ham” refers to the hind leg of the pork. A roasted pastured fresh ham is very different from the cured/salty/overly sweet hams many of us are accustomed to, but it’s quite delicious in its own right. Keep in mind that a fresh uncured ham will have been frozen by the farmer, a step that is necessary to prevent food-borne pathogens in pork. A well-sealed/air-tight package of fresh ham should keep for 6 months before cooking.
A fresh ham may come in various sizes and may be cured, smoked, or roasted. This recipe calls for a boneless fresh ham that is approximately 4 pounds.