Pork shoulder accounts for nearly 30% of the pig, so how come it’s so hard to find any at the farmers markets? There’s always plenty of shoulder in Seattle’s International District, and that’s because Asian and Mexican cooks will braise it with every sort of grain and legume known to man. The fact is that pork shoulder — aka picnic ham or Boston butt — tastes really freakin’ good if you can just leave it alone for three hours or more in low, moist heat.

My guess is that most farmers market pork shoulder gets ground up into sausage. Yes, sausage is great food. But so is chile verde — chunks of pork braised with tomatillos, pickled jalapenos, white beans, and cilantro. And so is pozole, pork stewed with hominy and chiles, and achiote pork tacos that fall off the bone. We use pork shoulder to beef up pinto beans, to flavor a savory, meaty rice with poblanos, carrots and peas, and for a Shanghainese dish with star anise, for celebrations. And then there’s the entity known as the pulled pork sandwich.

So once we use up our present pork stash, we’ll be on the hunt for local growers who raise pigs sustainably but then turn cutting decisions over to the end user. Who knew that a little local Wagyu beef would lead to this?

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