For many families, the Christmas feast is not complete without the Christmas ham. Did you know that the traditional Christmas ham was not originally associated with Christmas at all, but like so many other holiday traditions, grew out of ancient pagan practices?
In ancient times, the boar was considered king of the forest and was both respected and feared. It was an animal considered sacred to the Norse god Freyr who was believed to bring prosperity and happiness. A boar was sacrificed to Freyr during Yuletide, which was around the winter solstice. The name yule derived from the name of an early German month. The boar’s head was then eaten as a symbol of the people’s triumph over the animal, and its sacrifice to Freyr was seen as the hope for an abundant spring.
When Christianity took the place of paganism, the eating of the boar’s head became a symbol of Christ’s triumph over evil. Eventually, the Boar’s Head feast became a staple of Christmas tradition in homes throughout Northern Europe and England and was transported to the New World by the colonists. While not all Americans adopted the entire feast, the eating of pork or ham became common at Christmas.
This holiday season you can enjoy a gourmet version of the traditional roasted boar.
Serve this at your holiday feast and remind your guests that they are celebrating like the ancients!
Slow-Cooked Mustard-Crusted Pork Loin with Demi-glace
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Roasted Pork Ingredients
- 3 pounds boneless pork loin, trimmed
For the fresh-herb marinade:
- ¼ cup chopped sage
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- ¼ cup chopped rosemary
- ¼ cup honey
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons cracked or very coarsely ground black pepper
For the pork loin crust:
- 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard|
- 3 eggs, beaten
- ¼ cup white wine (chardonnay recommended)
- 1 cup toasted or oven-roasted bread crumbs
- ½ teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 clove garlic
- Salt, freshly ground black pepper
- Demi glace (see accompanying recipe)
Roasted Pork Instructions
- Cook’s notes: Allow enough time for the pork to marinate 8 hours, or marinate it the day before.
- Preliminaries: Heat oven to 300 degrees shortly before you’re ready to roast the pork.
- Marinate the pork: Combine chopped herbs with honey, garlic, olive oil and peppercorns. Evenly coat the pork with the mixture, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
- Coat pork with crusting mixture: Combine mustard, beaten eggs and wine. Stir in bread crumbs and mix well. Add parsley, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Place pork on a rack and roast slowly for about 2½ hours, testing for doneness after about 2 hours using an instant-read meat thermometer thrust into the center of the meat. The roast is done when it registers at least 160 degrees. (If meat browns too quickly, tent the roast loosely with aluminum foil.)
- Carve the pork: Remove roast from oven, tent loosely with foil and let stand 10 to 15 minutes. Carve medium-thick slices. Serve with Demi-glace or other favorite sauce.
- Makes enough for 6 to 8 servings
- 2 pounds veal bones (see cook’s notes) roasted (technique follows)
- ½ cup coarsely chopped yellow onions
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped carrots
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped celery
- 5 whole peppercorns
- ¼ cup blended oil (half each canola and olive oils)
- 3 bay leaves
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 gallon cold water
- Butter to taste, to finish the sauce
- Salt, freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Cook’s notes: Because most supermarkets don’t routinely stock veal bones, essential for making Demi-glace, call the store’s meat department at least three days ahead of time to ensure availability.
- Preliminaries: Heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Brown the veal bones: Place the veal bones in a roasting pan and set on middle shelf in preheated oven. Roast the bones until golden brown, about 1 to 1½ hours.
- Caramelize the vegetables: Wash, peel, and chop all vegetables into a rough cut. In a large saucepan, preheat your oil and add the rough-cut vegetables, peppercorns and bay leaves. Cook this mixture until good caramelization of the vegetables is achieved; they should have a roasted appearance. Add the tomato paste and allow to brown in pot with the caramelized vegetables.
- Simmer the Demi-glace: Remove the veal bones from the oven and discard any excess oil.
- Add the veal bones to the saucepan with vegetables and cover with the water.
- Bring the mixture to a slow simmer and allow to cook for approximately 3 to 4 hours over low heat.
- Strain the mixture into a smaller saucepan and allow the liquid to reduce by half before serving.
Source: Adapted recipe from Chef Steven Sterritt, the Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake.
1. Saga Heiðreks konungs ins vitra, H-text of Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks, chapter 10, from Heimskringla.no.
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