Say you have a big Autumn sausage festival and you have some leftover ingredients. Ask yourself what would the French do? OK I am over generalizing again, What would a person of Angers, of Le Mans, or of Tours do? Why they would throw pork scraps into a big pot let it stew for a few hours then put it into jars to be used as sandwich spread. Stick a "gourmet" label on it and folks will snap it up at Dean & Delucca for twelve bucks a pop.
Rillettes is part of a family that includes Rillons and Rillauds (Tic loves the three R's). All three start out as Rillions which is cubed pork poached in fat. Rillauds are cured in salt prior to cooking. Rillons and Rillauds are served hot or cold soon after cooking. Rillettes are pounded (pesto!) after cooking then potted and covered with lard. Oh boy I'm getting hungry, let's get cooking.Making Lard.
First we need our cooking medium, lard. The hardest part of making lard is finding fresh pork fat. You can try asking at the grocery meat counter, but you'll have better luck if you go to a butcher or a packing house. Any kind of pork fat will do, it just needs to be fresh (it shouldn't have any unpleasant smell), and relatively free of meat.
Chop up the fat and put it into a pot. Place the pot uncovered into 250F oven for three hours, check it every once in a while, give it a stir, watch the fat melt away!
Once you have some nice brown bits and everything looks good and melted, strain of your hot lard.
As the lard cools to room temperature, it solidifies. Lard will keep in the fridge for a month or two before it starts tasting a little off. I have also read it keeps well in the freezer (just like butter huh?), but frankly there are so many things to do with lard (just wait until Christmas) that I usually use it up before I have to freeze it. Making lard is very simple and you get a product that is superior to what you can find in the store. That said, its okay to go to the store to get some, but the stuff sold in blocks at the grocery have hydrogenated fats and preservatives added and it really does not have much flavor. You would be better off to find a Hispanic market where you may find lard sold in tubs labeled Manteca. Wherever you go whatever you buy, always read the food label.
The next day I melted the lard in a medium pan (sautoir) and added my cut up pork shoulder and a bouquet garni. The lard should just cover the pork. The pot goes in a 200F oven for several hours (maybe four) until the pork is fork tender. Strain while hot.
At this point it's time to add some spices and start pounding. Now you can start pounding with a mortar, maybe use a fork to pull apart the strands (I tried), or you can drop the the lot into a cuisinart set for obliterate (I did). While the blades where turning I added the juice of half a lemon and a bit of chopped parsley.
Les quatre épices: Poivre, macis, gingembre et clou. Un peu de sel.
Here's the portions I used:
For the Lard
517 g Pork Fat cubed (That's a little over a pound)
For the Rillettes
862 g pork shoulder cubed
Bouquet garni made up of fresh thyme, Hyssop, bay leaf and 2 cloves of garlic
10 g salt
7 g pepper
1 g mace
1 g ground clove
1 g ground ginger
Juice of half a lemon
a bit of parsely
For the fancy pants look, I put into a french jar and poured warmed lard to cover by about a half an inch.
Spread it on some bread crack it with some mustard and you got a fun snack. If you want to read more about Rillettes go to the library and look up Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery, by Jane Grigson, she has the word.
Put on some loud music and get back to work.