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A recipe to help you plan ahead for the holidays

Don Houston of Hearty Fare

By Don Houston

Don Houston

Don Houston

Since Thanksgiving is just around the corner, I thought I would get ahead with a few recipes suitable for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This meat spread is great to have on hand for impromptu hor d’oeuvres. Both the meats and the spices can be changed to suit your tastes, but for best results it must be cooked in the ‘confit’ method and don’t be shy with the salt.

Rillettes is a French potted meat used mainly as a bread spread. The most common types of meat going into a rillettes are goose, duck, and pork. Back in the old days, before there was electricity or refrigeration, this was one of the best ways to preserve meat without altering its texture or adding a lot of preservatives. Some people call it the peasant’s pâté or Country Pate.

It is still very popular in Quebec, New Brunswick and other Canadian areas with a degree of Francophone culture. Cooking the meat in fat is known as ‘confit’ cooking. It requires long slow cooking and preserves the meat flavours better than broth cooking.

To make rillettes, raw meat is salted and simmered with some herbs at low temperatures in lard (from the same animal) for a long time. Some recipes call for braising in stock instead of lard, but those are not the real deal. As the meat falls apart, the bones are removed.

When the cooking is done the meat is strained, raked with a fork to shred it, then allowed to cool. After the strained liquid is cooled, any congealed gelatine is mixed back into the meat with some of the lard. Each jar is then topped off with a thin layer of lard to the brim and sealed by placing a piece of wax paper on the lard. The meat is ready for consumption after aging for a few days in the fridge. The final product is a meat spread which contains very tender meat suspended in a matrix of lard and other natural juices. After you open a jar, you can keep it in the fridge for about a week before it goes off.

It is often served with a pickled topping. I chose pickled red onion.

PORK & CRANBERRY RILLETTES

& Red Onion Pickle

Yield: 8 x 2 cup ctns.

Ingredients

1 Cup Whole cranberries, fresh or frozen

2 Tbsp. Maple syrup

2 Tsp. Freshly ground pepper

2 Tsp. Herbs de Provence

1/4 Tsp. Cinnamon

1/4 Cup Kosher salt/sea salt

3 Lbs. Trimmed pork butt, cut into 1” cubes

2 Tbsp. Fresh thyme leaves

6 Cloves Garlic, peeled and smashed or pressed

1 Litre Rendered pork fat, melted (natural lard, available @ Houston’s)

Lemon juice to taste

1 Baguette Toasted and pickled red onions for serving

 

Method

Finely chop the cranberries, place in a small bowl and stir in Maple syrup. Set aside.

Put pork cubes in a large bowl and knead in spices, garlic, & cranberry mixture blend until coated. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring the pork & spice mixture to room temperature. Place in bowl of slow cooker; melt the pork fat over low heat and add 1 cup of melted fat to slow cooker with the pork and seasonings. Cover and cook over high heat until the meat is very tender, 4-5 hours. (If you want to use low setting on slow cooker allow 10 hours) Let cool slightly, then, using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork and garlic to a large bowl. Reserve fat & liquid in slow cooker. Mash the pork, discarding any gristle. You can also use the paddle attachment in a stand mixer to shred pork.

Return the reserved juices and fat from cooking vessel to the meat mixture a few tablespoons at a time until meat mixture is creamy. Season with additional salt and a little lemon juice to taste. Pack the meat into a ceramic bowl or individual crocks. (I use 2 cup ramekins) Reheat the fat to barely luke warm and ladle a ½ inch-thick layer on top of the pork. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Discard the remaining fat or save it for another use.

Note: The rillettes can be refrigerated for up to 1 month and it freezes well. Keep the meat covered with a layer of fat

Pickled Red Onions

1 large Red onion (3/4 pound)

3 Tbsp. Vinegar (cider, red or white wine)

1-2 Tsp. Light-coloured honey or sugar

1/2 Tsp. Salt

Method

Put on a kettle of water to boil. Cut the onion into very thin slices using a mandolin. Cut slices in 1/4’s then place colander in the sink.

In a bowl large enough to comfortably fit all the onion, combine the vinegar, sweetener, and salt and whisk until blended. Pour the boiling water over the onion and shake to drain. (It’s fine if a little water still clings). Add the onion to the vinegar solution and stir to coat. Let it sit for at least an hour or up to several days, covered and refrigerated, occasionally stirring and/or shaking to allow maximum exposure to the liquid. Store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid in the refrigerator.

Serve rilletes on crackers or toasted baguette slices topped with pickled red onion.

If you need any information on Free Run Chickens, Black Angus Beef, Mennonite Sausage/bacon/pork/poultry, local Ontario Lamb, Home-made and Naturally raised or grown products, recipes you would like to see, or food items you can’t locate, visit our Farm Market 3232 Burnham St. N. Camborne. Open Wed to Sunday(see ad in Thursday’s Northumberland Today classified section) or e-mail me at houstonbakery@airnet.ca Visit the web @www.houstonsnaturalmeats.ca.