Experiments with Odd Bits: Pork Rinds

I ordered a pork rind as an add-on to my CSA last week from Tara Firma Farms.  I had in mind that perhaps I could make some Cracklins or Cicharrons.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I opened the wrapper.  Here’s what I got:

It was labeled as Pork Belly Skin.  When I noted that there was also quite a bit of fat, I shifted my focus to also trying to get some lard from this experiment.  I have been trying to get a pound of fat from Tara Firma Farms for several weeks.  😀  So far I have been unsuccessful.

I did some Internet research and found a traditional Cajun recipe for Cracklins.  I decided to use that as a base for my project.  First I cut the pork skins into small pieces with my kitchen shears.  As you can see, the Airedale Terrierists were supervising this experiment very closely.

After everything was cut up, I put a pan filled ¼ of the way full “on a hot fire” and brought it to a boil.  I added the cut up pork skins.  The water helps the fat to start rendering.  It evaporates off and then things start cooking in the rendered fat.

Here’s where I had a procedural dilemma.  The Cajun Cracklin recipe said to keep the fire hot until the Cracklins were brown and crisp.  The information on rendering lard for fat said to keep the temperature low so that the lard wouldn’t brown.  At this point I decided to reduce the temperature until all the fat had rendered.  It was probably 3:00 or 4:00 PM.

At 8:30 PM it looked like there was still quite a lot of fat that needed to be rendered off the skin.  I decided I would just bite the bullet and stay up as late as necessary to see the experiment to its conclusion.  By 9:30 PM I was having trouble staying awake.  TMOTH was already drooling and snoring asleep on the couch.

Note:  I don’t want to give my loyal readers the impression that TMOTH and I always spend our evenings in such a boring sedate manner.  It just happens that the day before was my company’s annual Holiday Party.  These events are traditionally similar in nature to the wild debauchery exhibited at a fraternity party very festive.

We started at 1:00 PM on the beach with a crab feed and wine.  From there we went to the hotel’s hot tub and soaked while drinking wine.  Our cocktail party started at 6:00 PM.  Dinner was a fabulous, mostly Paleo, meal that utilized local ingredients.  I had beet greens and a grass-fed rib eye steak that was perfectly cooked and as big as my head.  The Cabernet was also FABULOUS.  From there we adjorned to another room for Casino Night.  I never gamble, but I enjoy these events.  I had a hot streak going at the Craps table.  Everyone was very pleased.  I rolled for over half an hour.  My new nickname at work is El Fuego.  My co-wrokers insured that I was not thirsty while rolling.  There was an after party scheduled, but the event ran 1 ½ hours late.  TMOTH and I retired to our lovely hotel room at about 1:00 AM.  We are morning people, so we awoke at 7:45 AM.  We did not take advantage of the late checkout (1:00 PM) that had been arranged for us.

So, anyway, neither TMOTH nor I were in any shape to stay up late with the pork skin.  I decided to put it all into a crock-pot on low overnight.  When I awakened, the fat had finished rendering and there were some Cracklins.  I took out the pieces that were done and placed them on paper towels .  I seasoned them with Cajun spice while they were still warm.

I returned the rest of the rendered lard and pork skin to the original soup pot and turned the heat up to medium.  As the pieces got puffy and turned into Cracklins, I removed them.  When the Cracklins were done, I poured the lard into a strainer with a coffee filter in it (you can use cheesecloth) to save the lard.  It’s browned from the Cracklins and not suitable for baking.  However, it will be tasty for other uses, like omelets or greens.

The Cracklins were tasty, especially warm.  I think I will utilize some of them in recipes.  I have a few concepts in mind.  Cracklins could replace the bread crumbs in a Sweet Potato Au Gratin.  I’ll also probably use them for a breading for chicken pieces. I also think they would be quite tasty as an accent for greens.

The Airedale Terrierists are also very enthusiastic about the Cracklins.  Queen Barktifah has been trying to make me give them to her.  She asks to go out in the yard.  Then she runs around barking like a fool at nothing.  I open the door and call her in and she comes running and sits at my feet.  I haven’t given her any treat the last two times.  QB appears to have given up and is sleeping in the sun behind my chair.

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4 Responses to Experiments with Odd Bits: Pork Rinds

  1. Cathy Williams says:

    I am now missing my former workplace and it’s debauched parties as well. (We teachers tend to be a more sedate lot when we get together unlike my former sales cohorts).

  2. Nickie says:

    Love that post! Again, I get so much useful info from you! I think once we’re done with all this moving business and I can get a hold of some pork belly fat, I’ll give them a try as well. I’ve gotten tired of the bagged ones and I bet the homemade pork rinds are 100 times better than the commercial ones.

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