Recipes from Home: Fresh Pork Stew with Hocks, Cheeks & Ears and Irish Buttermilk Parsley Dumplings

Menu Part: 
Cuisine Type: 
Serves 10 to 14

Brendan Ryan, foodservice director, Framingham School District, Massachusetts, says: My mother would burn water. My father was mister mom. If it weren’t for my father, we would have all starved to death. This is an old Irish recipe made by my father, who was from Limerick, but was modified with the use of pork butt and hocks. This would classically be called Pig’s Head Stew made by the poor, with the head being slowly stewed until all the meat was tender. They didn’t have much money, so they made stew from the pig’s head. You don’t see a lot of the products used in traditional Irish cooking over here.


3 cups flour
Salt and white pepper to taste
6 to 8 lbs. fresh pork butt, cut into large 2-in. pieces
4 fresh ham hocks, blanched, clean of all hair and debris
6 to 8 fresh pig ears, blanched, clean of all hair and debris
6 to 8 fresh pig cheeks, blanched, clean of all hair and debris
8 oz. olive oil
2 lbs. Spanish onions, large dice
2 lbs. carrots, large dice
1 lb. celery, large dice
2 gals. chicken stock or any clear neutral stock
6 bay leaves
8 sprigs fresh thyme
3 lbs. Irish-style potatoes, pealed
2 lbs. parsnips, large dice
1 bunch parsley, chopped fine, rinsed
¼cup parsley, chopped, rinsed, for garnish

4 cups flour
8 tsp. baking powder
4 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
4 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
½cup unsalted butter, melted


1. For stew: Heat large 4-gal. heavy-bottom pot or rondeau pot with lid.

2. Season flour with salt and pepper.

3. Dredge pork butt meat, hocks, ears and cheeks in seasoned flour. Make sure to remove all excess.

4. Add oil to pot. Once oil slightly smokes, add pork in small patches so not to overcrowd bottom of pot.

5. Lightly sear all areas of pork pieces. Remove and set aside. Note: Do not overbrown meat. This is a white or light colored stew.

6. Add onions, carrots and celery to pot and briefly sauté.

7. Add all meat back into pot. Cover with stock. Add bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a boil. Then lower to a simmer, making sure all product is free from sticking to bottom of pot. Cover and cook, stir occasionally so stew does not stick.

8. Once all meat is fork tender and hocks have pulled down on bones, add potatoes, parsnips and parsley. Cover and cook for 15 mins.

9. For Dumplings: Combine all dry ingredients and set aside.

10. Combine eggs, buttermilk and melted butter.

11. Stir liquid ingredients into dry to form stiff batter that is able to be scooped and hold shape.

12. Scoop dumplings onto top of simmering stew, gently dropping mixture so it floats on top of stew.

13. Cover and cook about 20 mins. at a simmer, or until dumpling is firm to the center.

14. Adjust seasoning if needed. Garnish with parsley

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