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Pork rillettes failure!

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!

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  1. 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!

    1. Interesting. I make rillettes with mostly pork shoulder.

      1. 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. 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. 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

              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.