Smoked Pork Rillettes
Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish
2 smoked ham hocks, shank portion is best since it is meatier, 2-3 pounds
½ cup bacon grease
½ cup butter, softened, if needed
¼ cup fresh thyme leaves, very finely chopped
½ cup fresh chives, very thinly sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
STEP 1:Place the ham hocks into a large pot and cover them with water. Place the pot onto stovetop and bring them to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and allow the ham hocks to simmer gently for about 2 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bones.
STEP 2:Remove the hocks to a sheet pan lined with foil. Set cooking liquid aside to cool and for the fat to rise to the top. The fat will be used in the rillettes. Reserve the broth for another purpose. It makes great soup!
STEP 3:Next, remove the meat from the bones and skin. Remove inedible bits like gristle as well and discard. Once all the meat has been separated begin to process it in a food processor. Take a cup or so of the meat and pulse it a few times so that it has become finely shredded. Process the meat in small batches for best consistency. Once all the meat is finely shredded add it to an electric mixer bowl.
STEP 4:Next, skim off all the fat from the cooking liquid. Allow it to cool until it has begun to solidify. Add the fat to the shredded meat in the mixer bowl. Add the bacon grease, too. Mix at lowest speed and sprinkle in a tablespoon of salt. Add another tablespoon of coarsely ground black pepper and mix well but slowly. Add the fresh thyme and the fresh chives. Check a small amount of the rillettes for salt, pepper, and spreadability. If it seems too stiff add some of the softened butter. Mix again until completely mixed.
STEP 5:Once the rillettes is spreadable it can be put into small jars- two or three 4- or 6-ounce jars is good. Serve the rillettes at room temperature with fresh baguette slices. Freeze any rillettes not used in a few days. Makes approximately 1 ½ cups to 2 cups rillettes. Each jar would be enough to serve 10-12 guests.
Cook’s Note: This recipe is not difficult but does take several hours to do. The idea with this recipe is to achieve a spreadable consistency at room temperature with the traditional generous amount of salt and pepper. Salt was the original way of helping to preserve the rillettes. Of course, salt and pepper can be to taste. The yield of the recipe will vary due to the meatiness of the ham hocks used. Rillettes is a nice recipe to make in large batches because the rillettes do freeze well. It’s a wonderful addition to any cheese board!