Shredded pork cooked in fat to be spread on bread? Sign me up!
Rillettes are similar to pâté in a sense that they are made with pork and are eaten on slices of bread. Traditionally, rillettes are made with pork – you’ll find nowadays that goose, duck, chicken and even salmon have all made it to the Rillettesland. But here, we’re talking fatty pork belly or pork shoulder.
Salt, fat and more fat are what makes rillettes worthwhile. While you probably won’t find them in the stores in the U.S., you can buy them at any supermarket in France. However, not all rillettes are good rillettes. Trust me, I know! If you’re from the Le Mans, Tours, Angers area, you were probably born with a slice of bread smothered with rillettes already in your mouth – in other words, you were born with a very sensitive and acute rillettes palate. Good rillettes are salty, not too cold and served at room temperature, rich in texture and grey in color – bronze is also a good color but certainly NOT pink! – smooth, soft, rich in taste and they have to have pieces – I will not budge on this! Feeling up to the challenge yet? Let’s get rustic then… French rustic.
1.5 lb (750 g) of pork neck, or belly, or shoulder
0.5 lb (150 g) of pork back fat
0.5 cup (100 ml) of dry white wine
3 juniper berries, lightly crushed
3 teaspoons of sea salt (remember, rillettes are salty. If it’s not enough, do not hesitate to add more)
3 teaspoons of dried thyme
2 teaspoons of ground nutmeg
3 teaspoons of black peppercorns
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1.5 teaspoon of ground allspice
some ground cloves
1 big garlic clove – crushed
Preheat the oven to 140 °F (275 °C). Cut the meat and fat in short strips and place them in a deep sauce pan with all of the other ingredients. Mix well and cover. Cook for 4 hours. The pork should become soft and swimming in liquid fat.
Pour the meat and the fat into a sieve placed over a bowl so you can keep the fat. With 2 forks, shred the meat still warm. Season if necessary – add salt, nutmeg, pepper and all spice if needed. Depending on the meat and the quality of it, you might need to add more. You are going to want to end up with salty tasty meat shredded morsels.
Place the meat in a terrine dish, or a crock, and leave it to cool completely. In the meantime, strain the hot fat through a sieve again – you might need to use a damp muslin for this depending on your sieve.
Once the pork is completely cold in the crock pot, pour the fat over it so it covers it in its entirety. If the fat has solidified, you will need to melt it first. Cover the crock pot, place in the fridge for up to a week. Always serve at room temperature with a fresh French bread – baguette or country bread.