I'm not alone. I can't be. If that were true, why would there be so many choices at the market? Choices of what? Well, lower-cut (cheap) meats. Walk past the steaks, fat-removed chops, skinless chicken breasts, tenderloins, roasts, and, lo!, you find meaty necks, bones for marrow, organs, etc., just waiting for you to discover their delectable tastes, versatility, and savings. A $2.15 package of pork neck bones will give you enough meat to feed a family of 10 in a soup so thick it borders on being a stew -- but, believe me, no one leaves the table hungry. Do you use a slow cooker? Is there sun or partial sun, today? No difference. That's my 2012 approach to solar cooking for all of you. If you use a slow cooker to its fullest extent, you're a step (outside) away from solar cooking. The biggest difference (aside from the sun being FREE) is that you have even more recipe choices with a solar oven. Today's solar-baked Pork Neck Soup is no exception. This is best when treated as a two-day process to get the full benefit of slow cooking the meat and beans. It would be the same for conventional cooking, so you're not really doing anything not normally done for a really good stock.
Pork Neck Soup
1 lb. pork neck bones
2 cups mixed cooked beans, or see below for dried beans
2 medium carrots, chopped medium
2 stalks celery, chopped medium
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup purslane* (greens), chopped
1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 tspsns fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tspn fresh spearmint, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh stevia, finely chopped
1 Tbspn corn starch
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
*If using dried beans and not leftovers or canned beans: The night before, soak dried beans under triple the water to allow full expansion. The next morning, drain water, put beans in pot, cover with boiling water to an inch above beans; add 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 chopped onion; cover, bake in preheated solar oven until tender. (They will continue to cook in soup.)
1. Over medium-high heat, brown pork pieces in heavy skillet; remove to stock pot. Add enough boiling water to reach 1/2 inch above meat; add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cover and cook in solar oven until meat is falling off bone, approximately 3-1/2 to 4 hours. (Can be done at same time as beans are baking.)
2. Prepare and chop vegetables and herbs; place in large mixing bowl and add corn starch, salt and pepper; mix thoroughly.
3. When meat is done, remove from oven, drain liquid into large bowl; set aside. Let pork necks cool until you can separate the meat from the bones with your fingers (or, use a knife and fork -- my favorite method). Discard bones and cartilage.
4. Return liquid to stock pot, add shredded pork and rest of ingredients. Bring to boil on top of stove. Place pot in solar oven and let cook for approximately 2 to 3 hours, until veggies are soft and soup has thickened.
Serve to well-behaved guests who are not elbowing others out of the way. Make sure there's plenty of bread for sopping and cleaning the plate, too!
*A word about purslane (portulaca oleracea).
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