Chicharonnes, Cracklins, and Pork Rinds - Do the names mean anything?
I'm having trouble trying to find any clear cut differences between chicharonnes, cracklins, and pork rinds, at least as far as the names go. While all are tasty food made from the skin and/or fat of the pig, I can't seem to find any consistency in what name goes with what variation. From my experience there seem to be three clear variation on the same dish:
1. Fluffy, puffy, crispy fried skin, similar in texture to a puffy Cheeto, but porkier. These are most commonly called Pork Rinds, but I've seen these labeled as Chicharrones as well.
2. Hard and crunchy fried skin, usually served room temperature. Sometimes these have tasty soft fried fat attached, sometimes not. These are what I most often see called Cracklins, but I've seen them labeled as Pork Rinds and Chicharonnes as well. Also, I can't seem to find any difference in the labeling for the varieties that are just hard crunchy skin, and the ones that have the fat still attached (which are better IMO).
3. Deep fried pork belly, heavily scored, served hot and fresh, with meat, fat, and I guess sometimes skin as well. I've most often seen this labeled Chicaronne, but I've seen the dish called Cracklin as well.
What do you call each of these things? Is there a consensus on the naming, or can any label go with any of these related, but rather different, pork products? Do you have a favorite? Does anyone know of a good source for the 2nd variety that has the crunchy bits but still has the nice salty fat layer as well?
Chicharrón = Pork rind. Just as casa=house, or hombre=man. One is in Spanish, one in English. I think a lot of confusion ensues, especially with foods, due to a lack of translation--maybe because of laziness when it comes to translation, or the creation of false dichotomies.
Its true that Chicharron (Spanish) = pig skin (English), but in Latin America, chicharron can mean so much else. Theres an interesting article on Mexican chicharron here
In the Yucatan, they deep fry whole pork belly (uncured bacon) and call it Kastacan (I assume from the Maya) and its a favorite of mine. It looked kinda like this
I remember the chicharron prensado thread paulj mentions. It had my heart fluttering and my mouth salivating. The picture was something like this and it looks amazing!
I also had chicharron tacos a few times (in a taqueria in Mexico and a small local fiesta de cultura). The skin is stewed in sauce (red in the Mexican version, green at the local fiesta) and is soft and chewy rather than crispy. Delicious as well.
As a side, I had buffalo style pig ear a few years back and since made my own. You braise pig ear to get 'em soft, cut into strips, then deep fry to get em crispy. Finally, you toss them in buffalo wing sauce. Fantastic.
Cracklins and pork rinds and chicharrones are all terms for fried pork rinds, of which there are endless regional variations. Cracklins mostly refers to bite size cajun seasoned pieces. The 2 types I am most familiar with are Mexican. 'Delgado' are thin and light, and are your #1 description. A 'grueso' chicharron is thicker, heavier, and has some meat attached, and could break a tooth.That is your #2. I prefer the delgado, which can be bought in many latin markets in huge pieces the size of ladies' hats at the Kentucky Derby. ( We named them "hats" here some time ago). Chicharron is in many cooked dishes, soft and pliable, your #3. Others will chime in on variations in Guatemala and El Salvador and elsewhere, plus seasonings pre and post cooking.
I'm sure the ones sold in bags have preservatives and can last forever, but I don't really know how long the fresh ones last. Anyone?