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Pork rillettes failure!

greedygirl Dec 20, 2010 11:02 AM

I thought I'd try my hand at pork, rillettes today, with a view to putting a jar in a Christmas hamper I'm making for a friend.

I followed an Elizabeth David recipe, which said to cut belly pork into cubes and then cook over a very low heat for an hour or two, with seasoning, garlic and thyme, until tender and swimming in fat. Then you shred with two forks, as if you're making pulled pork, and pack into jars, sealed with its own fat.

in theory this couldn't be easier. In reality, it hasn't worked. I think it's because my pork wasn't fatty enough. It's a bit tough, and I couldn't really shred it properly so resorted to whizzing in the food processor. It doesn't have that meltingly tender quality that I love in rillettes.

Is there any way of rescuing this, or should I just start again with pork belly that is more fatty. Damn modern pork and its lean ways!

  1. Da_Cook Jul 19, 2011 05:23 PM

    I use pork shoulder and a supply of homemade lard.
    I debone and cube the pork and season it with fresh thyme, allspice, salt and pepper and let it mellow in the fridge overnight. You may add a few duck legs or do this with duck only for a tasty alternative.
    The pork (and the bones!) should be in a pan just big enough to be submerged in lard. 250º for 5 hours is great. The key is to let it cool for 3 or 4 hours in the fat, with just a small corner opened. Pour off the fat, remove the bones then shred the meat in the stock. Yes a paddle mixer works well, but Cat Food texture is just a few extra seconds of mixing away. Be careful. Add back enough fat to maintain good body, pack it in jars, top it with more fat and seal. The lard goes in the freezer after I'm done (alongside my goose fat) and waits until the next time.
    This recipe is also excellent packed into a small terrain mold. When chilled and set, cut slices to serve with crusty bread, dijon, gherkins and pickled onions. Or bread with panko, fry it up and call it "scrapple".

    3 Replies
    1. re: Da_Cook
      eight_inch_pestle Jul 19, 2011 08:11 PM

      Re: The "key" 3 or 4 hour cooling period

      Do you know the science behind this? I'm guessing the meat fibers slowly taking on flavorful fat as they cool, but have never heard definitively.

      1. re: eight_inch_pestle
        Da_Cook Jul 20, 2011 09:48 AM

        Yeah baby, cooling in the fat and liquid helps the meat fibres re-absorb that unctuous goodness. Anything we can do to bring in more of that gelatinized stock and the fat to the finished product the better.
        I would even go as far to cool on the counter, refrigerate overnight, then gently warm the next day to process. It would only taste better for it.
        I would also advocate using classic charcuterie Quatre Epice for seasoning, Probably more authentic anyway.

        1. re: Da_Cook
          eight_inch_pestle Jul 20, 2011 02:27 PM

          Thanks! That's what I figured, but always good to hear it from a professional.

          And yeah, I use a mixture of white pepper, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg. Which I think is pretty close to quatre epice. Thinking about swapping a couple-few out for star anise next time, though.

    2. eight_inch_pestle Jul 19, 2011 03:16 PM

      I know this is late, gg, but just in case you come back before trying again sometime in the future: I've found about 4.5 hours at 250F works pretty perfectly for a mixture of half belly and half shoulder. I start checking around 3.5 hours, and let it ride until a dinner knife meets basically no resistance anywhere.

      Also, I noticed you wrote that your recipe called for cooking *until* the pork is swimming in fat. How does it start out? The "meltingly tender" quality you're after probably comes from rillettes that *started out* swimming fat. Since most any butcher stellar enough to sell belly can usually provide fresh pig fat, I buy a pound at the same time as the belly, render it, and confit the pork in that.

      Anyhow, hope that helps.

      1. t
        tomishungry Dec 20, 2010 01:45 PM

        Try this. Works, it's insanely easy and makes a wonderful end dish.

        http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co...

        1 Reply
        1. re: tomishungry
          Robin Joy Jul 23, 2011 11:21 PM

          I've been making rillettes for 30 years, and my mother has for 20 before that, and I've just tried Edwin's method from your link. Well, it's superb! I'll never shred with a pair of forks again.

          I actually ran it for about 3.5 hours in the oven (2lb cut up skinless belly in a little 8 inch/1.5 qt LC with a layer of foil under the lid) and used a potato masher which worked perfectly.

          Many, many thanks.

        2. jen kalb Dec 20, 2010 01:35 PM

          In your world - here is Nigel Slaters recipe for rillettes with belly - a 3 hour cooking period.
          http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyl...
          dont have it here but I bet there is an indicative recipe in SW France too

          1 Reply
          1. re: jen kalb
            greedygirl Dec 20, 2010 01:52 PM

            I don't remember one. Rillettes is a speciality of the Sarthe, I think. Spent a lot of time there as a teenager and was always being fed Rillette du Mans.

          2. greedygirl Dec 20, 2010 01:28 PM

            Thanks everyone. I've tried reheating over a low flame with some goose fat but I think it's turning into carnitas or similar! I've found a slightly different recipe in French Provincial Cooking (the one I used came from Summer Food), which uses pork back fat as well as belly and says to cook for four hours in a slow oven. I think I'll give this a try if I've got time over the next couple of days.

            1. PBSF Dec 20, 2010 12:00 PM

              You can try cooking what you have longer over very low heat or low oven. It is worth a try.
              If you do start again, use fatty pork belly or add some back fat; one or two hours of cooking is not enough, more like at least three or more. If you are cooking it over the stove top, cook it in the lowest simmer (just a trickle of bubbling). Easier to use a 300 degree oven. Drain off the fat before mashing and then separate with a fork. Be rough with it. Add a little more of the rendered fat if needed. Or use a food processor: pulse until you have a spreadable consistency. The satiny textures comes from slow slow cooking.
              Pork shoulder would work also but you will need some lard.

              1. ChefJune Dec 20, 2010 11:42 AM

                Interesting. I make rillettes with mostly pork shoulder.

                1. rabaja Dec 20, 2010 11:19 AM

                  Can you cook it longer, in some more pork fat until it's tender. Seems to me, the belly should be almost falling apart before you'd use it for rillettes. Also, next time, put the meat into a Kitchen Aide mixer if you've got one, and use the paddle attachment to break up the meat. Easier and faster than a fork, and you'll get the right texture for rillettes.
                  Maybe use what you have for empanada filling (after further cooking) and give it another go with fresh belly.
                  Good luck! It sounds like a nice Christmas hamper!

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