Oliver and Jodi at North Woods Ranch surprised me with these smoked pork cheeks they just received back from the smokehouse. I've had smoked jowls, but never just the cheek muscle.
Looking them over, the cheeks were a beautiful mahogany color, striped with lighter bands of intramuscular fat. The blend of meat and fat reminded me of smoked pork necks, my favorite cut for making stewed collards or beans. The cheeks were dense and meaty and seemed to call out for a warming dish like split pea soup.
lard first, then pour in a pint of pork stock. Add the smoked cheeks and gently simmer for an hour until the jowls are beginning to become tender.
2 Smoked Pork Cheeks
1 lb Dried Split Peas
1 Pint Pork Stock
1 Large Onion, Chopped
Plenty of Black Pepper
1 Tbsp Lard
In a soup pot, heat the lard to medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and saute for 6-8 minutes, until the onion is softened and beginning to brown.
Pour in the stock and scrape up the bottom of the pan to deglaze it. Add the pork cheeks and cover the pot. Keep the liquid at a gentle simmer for one hour. After an hour, stir in the split peas and give the stock several generous grinds of black pepper. Simmer for another hour. The soup is done when the peas are soft and creamy and the meat is falling apart. Taste the soup and add additional salt if needed.
For a richer dish, top each bowl with a hard boiled egg and more pepper.