Like all charcuterie, rillettes (pronounced ree-yettes) were originally a way of preserving the cornucopia of fatty goodness yielded by the slaughter of a pig. Stored in earthenware crocks or in glass jars and sealed with a lid of pork fat, they would keep for months. This recipe is much lower in fat and consequently has a little less staying power, but the rillettes will keep well in the fridge for at least a week, and will benefit from a few days’ maturation before you break open the jar.
- 1.25kg pork belly or shoulder, skin removed but bones left in, cut into chunks
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
- 1 bouquet garni
- 3 bay leaves
- 6 cloves
- 50ml vermouth
- 500ml water
- 1tsp ground mace
- Salt and pepper
Place the pork, garlic, bouquet garni, bay leaves, vermouth and water in an ovenproof, lidded dish. Cook at about 100°C for four hours, turning the meat a few times so it doesn’t become too brown, until it falls away from the bones. Remove from the pan and allow to cool slightly. Discard the bay leaves, cloves, bouquet garni, bones and any obvious pieces of cartilage. Drain the pork and place the liquid in a small bowl over ice or in the fridge to chill.
Using two forks, gently shred the meat, allowing it to retain its natural grain. Remove the reserved liquid from the fridge and carefully lift off the solidified fat. Mix the jellied stock that remains with the pork, season to taste with mace, salt and pepper and place in a sterilised 580ml clip-top jar.
Melt the reserved pork fat and pour over the rillettes before sealing the jar and refrigerating until needed.
Rillettes are delicious served cold or at room temperature as a starter, the centrepiece of a light lunch or for a picnic. All that’s needed to accompany the rillettes are some slices of warm baguette, a few cherry tomatoes and some cornichons or pickled onions.