Recently I’ve had a real craving for rillettes, the shredded, slow cooked pork, preserved with fat and herbs. One of the great joys in life is a freshly baked baguette, slathered with rich, smooth rillettes and served with cornichons and sliced shallots and it seems every time I’m in France I gorge myself silly on it. It’s not so easy to come by in this country, however, but it is obscenely simple to make.
Soon to be rillettes
On a whim and a recommendation, I decided to buy a copy of Lindy Wildsmith’s book Cured. This is a really excellent and informative books and has a very good selection of paté, confit and terrine recipes including rillettes. What surprised me was how incredibly simple they are to make. There is an investment in time, so they’re best done on a weekend but apart from that it’s incredibly simple.
The recipe below is an adaptation of Lindy’s recipe with a few tweaks to bring out some more autumnal, herbal flavours.
Jon’s Rillette Recipe
500g belly pork
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp salt
1 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 bay leaves
125 ml water.
You’ll also need a casserole dish and some sterilised pots to pack the rillettes into.
Pork inna pot. Ready for the oven.
Cube and skin your belly pork and place in a large casserole dish along with all of your other ingredients. Mix well and pour in just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan, about 125ml. You can also throw the skin back in if you want to render extra fat from it. Seal the pot with a tight fitting lid. You might want to put a layer of foil between the pan and the lid if the lid is not especially tight.
Sealed in nice and tight so the flavours don't escape. This is the ADX of pots.
Place in a very low oven (Gas mark 1/4 or 80c or as low as your own will go) and cook for a minimum of eight hours. Mine went in early evening and came out at about 10am, after a grand total of 16 hours which perfumed the house with a delightful porcine aroma and made me wake up craving meat.
After 16 hours of slow cooking the meat is incredibly tender, if slightly unattractive.. You can see the rind in the background.
After a night in the oven, the pork should have cooked down into delicious, melt in the mouth chunks and all of the fat should have rendered into liquid. Remove your pan from the oven and strain through a sieve, being careful to reserve the fat that runs out.
When the meat is cool enough to work with, remove the bay leaves and rind, if using (this can now be discarded) from the stewed pork and set aside. Return the pork to the cooled casserole dish and proceed to pull it apart using two forks until it is completely shredded. While you do this, add in about a quarter to a third of the reserved fat to keep the meat moist.
Shredding with forks.
Take the bay leaves and lay them in your rillette pots. Next, take the shredded pork and pack it firmly down into the container. When all the pork is potted, take the remaining strained pork fat and pour it evenly over the meat to create a seal.
Rillettes. Waiting for a good greasing.
Set aside to chill until the fat is set firm and there you have it, finished rillettes.
These are wonderful spread on toast, stirred through a jacket potato, or even fried up with some savoy cabbage as an impromptu supper. They’re also great to keep in the back of the fridge in case of pork emergency as they keep for ages under their protective layer of fat.