24 October, 2007


Making lard and potted pork.

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.



Anonymous said...

mmm...are they vegetarian? Thanks for the birthday wishes

Brian said...

Guess what we're all getting for Christmas from MAC.

mac said...

Dear Amous:

Les rillettes vegetarian? I have no idea. I imagine they ate acorns, grass, grains, more likely a lot of corn and beans. One of my favorite condiments is tapenade, which can be as simple as olives, capers and lemon pureed. In Ruhlman's Charcuterie book, he gives a recipe for a vegetable "Rillettes" where you essentially roast anything you have in the garden and puree it. We had a great eggplant crop this year so we had a lot of baba ganouj(look up Mollie Katzen for great eggplant recipes). Since I am expanding the definition of Rillettes, I must mention one of my favorites is Tonno sott'Olio Mantecato, from Marcella's Italian Kitchen. That is simply tuna whipped with softened butter and capers.

I got a note from another reader saying she made lard in the kitchen of her small apartment and the smell lingered in the entire flat for days. Yes that could be a problem, I didn't notice it when I made it, but think about your ventialtion situation when cooking. If you live in a small apartment or sleep under the kitchen table, make lard at your friend's house.


Lard + Xmas = Tamales

Thanks for writing.


shamste said...

I had some incredible rillettes at Cochon in New Orleans a couple weeks ago. If you are down there for whatever reason, I cannot recommend the place highly enough. Ever since, I have thought about making some back in Chicago, but I have been a little gun shy due to the aforementioned lard rendering without good ventilation issue.