For those who don’t know, Rilettes are meat (I think it’s usually either pork or duck) cooked very slowly in fat so that it poaches rather than fries. Once the meat is very tender it’s pulled into small shreds and served like a coarse pate.
Yesterday, I got the various piggy parts out of the fridge, I had leftover shoulder from Sunday’s roast, the meat from the head and 2 bowls of rendered fat, one from each cooking process. When I dug into the bowls of fat, I was quite surprised to find the one from the head was probably 80% really firmly set gelatinous meat juice. And when I say firm, I mean firm, as in, if thrown hard enough it could fell an intruder.
I followed St Hugh’s Rillettes recipe but changed it slightly as my meat was already cooked and his starts from raw. I melted the fat and added a small amount of the really firm set meat juice (didn’t want to add too much and make it into a meaty Fruit Pastille) and some of the less firm stock/juice from the shoulder. I added the chopped meat, and a bunch of thyme and 3 cloves tied into a muslin bag and transferred everything to a slow cooker.
I cooked it on the lowest setting for 3 hours until the meat was very soft and golden in colour then I left it (with the muslin bag still in) until it was cool enough to handle. Then I used a slotted spoon to take the meat pieces out and shredded them with forks, removing any large pieces of unmelted fat at the same time. Finally I seasoned the mixture with salt, pepper, mixed spice and fresh nutmeg.
Huge recommends leaving it to mature for a few days before eating but, seeing as I’d bought crusty bread already we decided to eat it straight away. We had it with cornichons and home made Piccallili. Personally I thought it was amazing, really well flavoured despite being very subtly seasoned which, obviously, is down to the quality of the meat we’ve produced. Adam pronounced it “nice”, even when reminded it took 2 days to make he didn’t gush any further.
Would I make Rilettes again? Undoubtedly. Would I spend 2 days roasting a pig’s head to do so? Well, I won’t waste the ones in my freezer, I will cook those and would happily make rilettes for the Pork Feast. A lot of the anxiety this time round was due to the unknown, now I have a bit of experience to drawn on I’d find it much easier. I have a feeling though it may be more sensible next time to get the cheeks filleted from the head, much easier to both store and cook and still not wasting the meat.