I’ve loved pork rillettes since my family used to holiday in France during the summers of my childhood. I have many happy memories of sitting around the kitchen table in the cottage owned by friends in Parcay-Meslay, spreading rillettes onto slices of baguette with a good sprinkling of salt, accompanied with crunchy cornichons and (when I was older) a glass of wine from an unlabelled bottle courtesy of one of the local vineyards.
- Enough to fill three 300ml kilner jars.
- 1.5Kg boneless pork shoulder.
- 400g Pork fat (duck or goose fat will do)
- 1 bouquet garni
- 8 Bay leaves
- 8 Garlic cloves
- 20 peppercorns
- Pinch Nutmeg
- salt to taste
- Turn the oven onto 135c (fan assisted).
- Dice the pork into cubes roughly 3cm in any direction and chuck them into a large casserole dish as you go.
- Add all the other ingredients except the salt to the casserole, cover with a lid and stick it in the oven for three hours.
- Remove the casserole from the oven, uncover it and leave it to cool for an hour or so.
- Remove the pork skin that was left behind as the fat from the pork shoulder rendered down.
- Transfer the pork into the bowl of a food mixer (the kind with a paddle). If you don’t have a mixer, transfer the pork into a dish large enough to shred the pork by hand.
- Drain what’s left in the casserole through a sieve into a jug, to remove all the bits and pieces and leave a clear fat behind.
- Turn on the mixer or begin shredding the pork with a pair of forks. When the pork is roughly shredded add about five tablespoons of the fat and a bit of salt. Keep shredding and adding salt, until the pork is finely shredded and creamy in texture and is salted enough for your tastes.
- Pack the pork into the jars, pressing it down firmly as you go. You don’t want to leave any air pockets in the meat because the rillettes won’t keep as long if you do. Leave a gap of 1cm or 2cm at the top of each jar.
- Pour the remaining fat into each jar to form a layer 1cm to 1.5cm deep. This seals the meat and makes it airtight, helping preserve it.
- Store the jars in the fridge so the fat layer solidifies, then eat whenever you like. To help make it last a little longer, move the layer of fat aside when you serve the rillettes then spread it back into place when you’re done (assuming there’s any left in the jar).
You can use pork belly instead of shoulder for this, and plenty of recipes do, but I tend to think the fat to meat ratio of pork shoulder is better.
You can experiment with the herbs. The first time I made rillettes I used fresh Thyme amongst other things. It tasted good, but it turned the fat a slightly odd shade of green! A bouquet garni works well, not least because it’s like herbs in a teabag that you can easily fish out of the casserole once the meat is cooked.
It’s worth mentioning that when you shred the pork it will be at room temperature. On the basis that the rillettes will be served cold from the fridge, you might want to be generous with the salt you add. Salt as a flavour is less noticeable when foods are cold. Don’t over-do it though – it’s better to be cautious at this stage and sprinkle a little salt on as you eat it, than add too much and ruin the whole batch now.