SFC: Crackly Heaven

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               I’ve been having a few leftovers to play around with lately, first a Sole filet and now a chunk of Salt Pork (also from a “project” of sorts), which is basically just a thick slab of lard and pork skin. Options call to me, with a strong argument in the back of my head to render it out and make some more melted fat for cooking. At the end of the day, I can’t help but choose a venture I’ve been craving to try for a long, long time.

                Gonna go and make my own Pork Rinds! I’ve been wanting to do it for so long, but never really had some chunks of just pork skin or fat to work with (man I need to get some pig belly in for dinner sometime).

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                After going online to better reconfigure myself with the technique, the steps of which I’ve been aware of for a while but was still missing specifics, I got down to it. The first of many simple steps comes in slicing the skin from the lard, leaving as little amount of the fat on as one can, giving what should be about 1/8” thick slabs. At the same time I sliced the actual fat up in similarly thick pieces, and then moved to cut all of it into nicely sized squares. Not sure if these will actually fry up well like the skin will, but nothing wrong with testing it out.

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                Though I wish I could just fry them up here, there are a couple more things that need doing. Starting with boiling; just boiling, in a pot, for at least an hour. I think. Many recipes never stated how long, but one said 1 ½-2 hours; the main goal is to get the skin “tender and pliable,” or something like that. It shouldn’t have any resistance when you squeeze and bend it.

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                My assumption on the reason for this step is to break down various proteins and bonds, softening them up so that once fried the cell walls will expand with little resistance. It could also help to render out some fat and/or other things.

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                After scooping from the milky white water (which I saved and used for boiling potatoes, num) and letting cool, we move onto the next major phase: drying/dehydrating. One can do this in an oven set at 160-170F, on racks. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have one, in a food Dehydrator set at the Meat setting (which is around the same temp). This will need to be left for quite a number of hours, best done overnight or set in the morning and left for the day (it may even take longer depending). When done, the pork will have shrunken somewhat and firmed up again, but in a noticeably different fashion.

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                This step helps not only in evaporating any water that injected itself in during the boiling, but also in the creation and full solidification of air pockets within the skin layers. Also, though the bindings have softened and broken down somewhat, the actual skin is now firm again in a sense and will allow it hold structure once expanded. Or something like that, I’m sure; was too lazy to research THAT specific.

                Pat dry (there may be some fat leakage, haha) and get the friar ready, heating it up to 380-390F. Oh yeah, that’s pretty darn hot, but it’s supposedly the best range for optimal Rind frying; if anything, it almost felt like mine started at 10 or so degrees hotter still. The rest, as with everything before it, is simple: pop those pork pieces in and let them fry!

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                It’s so fun watching them expand and “pop” up into their new crispy forms while you sit there with your utensil of choice (for some reason I sorta liked using chopsticks) to keep turning them submerged and turning around. Which is needed, so that every part KEEPS frying, since they’ll want to float belly-up, or side-up, or whatever, not to mention curling in a tight ball and hiding certain sections.

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                The rinds should be ready after about 2-3 minutes of frying; you want to ensure the outside fully cooks crisp so it doesn’t soften after cooling. Transfer and dry on some paper, season with whatever spices you desire (since I used cured pork there was no need for salt, wooh), and see how many minutes you can last before eating them all. I counted… 2? Maybe.

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                Oh, and the chunks of fat… yeah, those don’t fry well. Was hoping they’d at least make some crunchy cracklings, which they sorta did… I actually really enjoyed their delicately thing, light crisp outside texture. But the rest is just fat, pure soft fat. Maybe if you sliced them REALLY thin it could make something enjoyable.

                As for the rinds, well what else can I say after them only lasting a couple minutes. Crispy, crunchy, with those perfect little air bubbles; they tasted just like ones I’ve had in store and at restaurants. Only mine still had some fat under the skin, which made this interesting little soft air pocket on its underbelly; ideally not what one wants, as you SHOULD scrape any leftover fat off after boiling. But I’d say it depends on preference, so don’t feel any pressure.

                Either way, I can’t wait to go to some of the markets I’ve been frequenting lately and see if I can just buy slabs of skin in the future. Gonna be making a lot more at some point!

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