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I formally thought slow cooker meats always translated into a shredded product. And while I adore low-cooked dishes yielding tender, fall apart meat, it doesn’t have to end that way.

It’s my opinion the original idea of the slow cooker was a solution to a busy day – – throw it in the cooker, and go out for the day.  If you are around my age, you will know from experience today’s slow cookers aren’t so slow compared to our mothers’ “Crock-pots.” Many recipes can’t go for longer than 5 hours (some less) on low without compromising the integrity of the dish. Even my slow cooker lasagna with uncooked noodles can’t go for more than 4 hours on low. Of course, it all depends on what you are making. Raw beans in the slow cooker will go all day, as will a big hunk of meat. When using older slow cooker recipes, you need to take into consideration, the times for those dishes were based on slow cookers of yesteryear.

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Red Beans and Rice

After a big ham dinner, there is always the dreaded task of what to do with the ham bone. In the past, I have watched my hostess trying to saw off every last bit of meat, wondering aloud what she should do with this clunky holiday has-been. Once the star of the show, it’s now a nuisance. I offer suggestions for its use, and she lifts her eyebrows to the possibilities. But after quietly realizing the ham bone will just end up taking up space in her fridge,  finally with  a sigh, she offers it to me. Trying not to get too excited, I accept and wrap it up. Upon leaving her home, I greedily tuck the treasure under my arm, as I promise this ham bone it will produce great things. This is a star that will shine again.

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Slow Roasted Pork

Slow Roasted Pork with Dry Rub

I don’t even know if I can call this a recipe, but maybe just a technique. I first discovered slow roasting pork butt when making a Michael Chiarello’s Forever Roasted Pork, which, if you want to knock your very socks off, you must try. Chiarello’s recipe uses a fennel rub you can make, which is out of this world. I, however, was short on fennel, so I used this technique with a different rub. During Super Doubles, I got a smoked applewood maple rub for free, so that’s what I used. Delicious.

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pork_and_sauerkraut

Some of my best memories are from my Aunt Gloria and Uncle John’s house – – truly the old-fashioned kind. I remember riding my big wheel at the side of their house, near wide green cellar doors, passing by the tire swing where my cousins and I played. Uncle John built us a tree house in the back, and a see-saw. In the summer, my aunt would grow corn and tomatoes, and she always had red geraniums. But what really brings back warm childhood memories is the smell of Aunt Gloria’s pork and sauerkraut. It’s what my Aunt Gloria is known for the best. When it’s cooking, I feel like I’m back in her cozy house, with her wood stove cracking away, and Jenny and I playing Barbies.

I can’t say this is her exact recipe, because I don’t think she ever measured it out. I am making pork and sauerkraut for dinner tonight, and took notes while I put it together so I can share the recipe with you. It looks homely, and when I’ve put it on a platter, I’ve had guests actually scrunch their faces and say, “oh, looks good,” in not a very convincing manner. But when they [click to continue…]

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