Friday, December 11, 2009

Chicharrones (Fried Pork Rinds)

Chicharrones are fried pork rinds. Which is like fried crispy pork fat and skin sometimes with some meat on it. Chicharrones are the product left from rendering lard, you literally render all the fat from the pork belly or rinds and then they fry to a golden crunchy crisp.

It's a great deal and not expensive at all it was only 49 cents a pound when we bought it, for 5 bucks we got 8 pounds of the pork belly, rendered it's fat and had enough Chicharrones for about 6 of us with leftovers, and in addition we get 1/2 a gallon of rendered delicious flavorful lard to cook with great deal in my opinion (yes yes I am frugal)

These fried pork meats are popular in many many cultures, Mexicans, Cubans, and I believe almost any culture that renders pork fat for cooking. I am labeling the recipe as Mexican however since my mother taught me how to make it, it was the first time she ever made it she told me she learned from watching neighbors make them when she lived in Mexico in these large copper wok like pots called "Caso's"


-8 lbs. Pork Belly (we by a cut in Spanish called "Lonja de Puerco" I don't know the English name I think it's pork belly, but with very little meat and mostly skin and fat)
-water (enough to barely cover pork belly)
-salt to taste

(1) Clean pork belly into thick strips, then shave those thick strips just in case there is still hair on the skin... (I know sounds gross) now cut into large squares. Clean really well with water, my mom likes to clean them with lime and salt and water then rinse several times, you can just rinse if you wish.
(2) Put in a large wide copper pot Mexicans call this a Caso it's like a wok made of copper, we didn't have that so used a large NON-STICK wok. Put cut and cleaned pork bellies, cover with enough water to barely cover season liberally with slat (I put like 4 tsp.), and leave on high heat until it comes to a boil, let boil uncovered on medium high.
(3) Let boil uncovered for about 2 1/2 hours, the meat will start rendering it's fat, you need to carefully stir occasionally maybe every 30 minutes the first hour then every 15 once the water evaporates BE CAREFUL it will pop sometimes and throw bursts of hot boiling pork fat so it's dangerous, be careful, and don't over also. I stir from a distance firmly holding the woks handle. I still get a little splatter here and there but no bad burns.
(4) When the Chicharrones (pork rinds) are golden brown and crispy, turn off heat and take them out. They will have literally released about at least for me 1/2 a gallon of lard/ pork fat they will be deep-fried in their own fat.
(5) Set the Chicharrones aside and lightly salt them if necessary. You can enjoy them with any meal you wish as a meat dish, or a snack, we ate it at my house served over some boiled Yuca/ cassava root smothered in Mojo sauce (we call it Yuca Con Mojo), served with a mixed steamed yellow rice with corn (we call it Arroz Con Maiz), and some sauteed green beans (no recipe posted, but my mom stirfried green beans with finely chopped pork cracklings in the flavorful pork fat with onions and garlic seasoned with soy sauce and oyster sauce I know not very Cuban for this meal but damn delicious and went well with it). For dessert we had an Almond Flan and for beverage some chilled Hibiscus tea.
(6) Let the fat rendered from the chicharrones cool a bit, then you can strain it, and save it in containers so you can cook whatever you want with it. That's the main reason we make Chicharrones, to have some fresh rendered flavorful lard to use in certain dishes.

(1)Don't use a regular metal pot, the chicharrones will stick to the bottom and burn you'll end up with a mess.
(2) Don't cut them to small they will fall apart since they shrink about more than 1/2 their size.
(3)Don't stir so hard you break them.
(4)Be careful for splatters you may burn yourself it's risky I'm warning you but the rewards are great.
(5)Use something non-stick, or a large copper pan.
(6)You don't need measurements or exactly 8 lbs. just be sure whatever amount you have that it fits in a pot, cover with enough water to barely cover, and salt to taste.