For someone who doesn’t eat pork, do you think it would be just as good with another meat’s fat? You can also make soy chicharones by frying strips of flat dried tofu, available in Asian food stores.
Thanks for doing all of this work and experimentation Carolyn, I can’t wait to try these out! Since pork is the preferred meat of Georgians everywhere, I doubt I’d have problems finding pork back fat here in Athens.
Just one thing though, you go to the trouble of buying beautiful grass fed and therefore low Omega 6 meats, but you use a vegetable oil that is high in Omega 6, Grapeseed.
Aishah, people do make chicken skin cracklins but I think it’s a very different process because pig skin is so tough.
See now I see it as an excuse to pick up pork belly to use the meat and then save the skin for chicharrones! I am doubtful you can freeze them as I think that would add moisture back into them and they would get chewy. You can use whatever you wish, I do not get overly concerned as to O6 oils because I eat a wide variety of foods that give me O3.
Come to think of it, though, the store-bought brands still freak me out, what with all the additives, MSG, hydrogenated oils and other unmentionables. We discovered them at our local farmer’s market a few summers ago and have been purchasing grassfed and pasture-raised meat from them ever since. That is good stuff and super healthy if you’ve managed to procure some pasture-raised pork skin.
I was beginning to think I really didn’t want to make them at all when I came across this recipe for Cuban Chicharrones.
For now, I am just enjoying the flavour of the chicharrones all on their own, enhanced only be a little salt and pepper. It provides too much moisture and they tend to get tough and chewy as they sit if you leave too much on. Tiny parts of the skin were crisp and beautiful, while others were tough and wouldn’t be any good! But having tasted some freshly made chicharrones at a few restaurants, I no longer tar them all with the same brush.
Knowing that many butchers are simply throwing back fat and skin away since there is so little demand for it, I was sure I could find a better solution. They offer a meat CSA and we get our share every month, a random mixture of beef, pork, lamb and chicken, with the occasional cut of goat thrown in for good measure.
This appealed to me in part because it eliminated the extra work of cutting the fat off the skin, but also because I thought it would be tastier. I then scored the fat and the slid a sharp knife (really sharp knife, so get out that knife sharpener!) under the first piece of fat. You can do a number of things with it, including making sausage, rendering your own lard (healthy lard!) and even using it to fry the chicharrones themselves. It offered me a choice of two methods, one of which meant I could turn on my oven at a low temperature for several hours and leave the skins to their own devices. Insert knife carefully between skin and fat on one end of the strip and remove a portion of the fat (you will end up with a thin layer of fat still on the skin and that is fine). Once that first part of fat is removed, you can hold the skin in one hand as you slide the knife down the strip to remove the majority of the fat.
The frying really preserves them but you don’t want them in a closed container or they will get all chewy and tough. The carnivore in me loves the meat, of course, but I also appreciate the passion and personality of the farmers and farm workers.
It is not fine to do so, however, since when you go to fry the pork rinds, the fat puffs up into something resembling a pillow and floats with the pork skin on top. Once that was removed, I could use that part of the skin to hold onto and slide my knife easily under the remaining pieces of fat (see photo below). In fact, many recipes I came across have you frying the chicharrones in lard and why not fry it in its own lard instead of the hydrogenated store bought variety? Every so often we get updates and emails about goings-on at the farm that are written with a bitingly dry humour I love.
It’s like a little life jacket for each piece of pork skin, rescuing it from drowning in the hot oil.
This last time, I cubed the fat and froze about half of it for future sausage making, and then rendered the rest and used it to fry the chicharrones. Because I have been experimenting in the kitchen and can honestly say that homemade chicharrones are a delicious and healthy low carb snack. They were clearly my best option for pork skin and they happily included some in my next farm share. Your pork skin won’t sizzle and get all crispy, but instead become hard and impossible to chew and the only part you will be able to eat is the fatty pillow attached to the skin. They wouldn’t take a penny in payment for it either and have said I can have as much of it as I want.
Oil should be quite hot but not bubbling. Add pork rinds and cook until they bubble and puff up, about 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle immediately with salt and pepper.Notes*These counts reflect the nutrition in a serving of commercially made pork rinds because I could find no information regarding the nutrition of uncooked pork skin. They are made very similarly but would contain far less sodium since you season to taste with salt and pepper.
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