Rillettes is pork meat, cooked in its own fat, minced and mixed with some of the fat from the cooking process.
Sometimes, pork meat is mixed with pork liver.
There are also rillettes made from duck or goose meat. The flavour of those is more powerful, and the mix less fat that with pork.
Once cooked, rillettes can be kept in the fridge for a long time, by pouring them into jars and covering with a thin layer of fat.
A little history
Rillettes are meat product obtained by long cooking meat in its own juice (the pork, goose, duck, wild boar …). Cato the Elder (234-149 BC) already boasted pork cooked and preserved in lard (pork fat). “Rillettes” is a feminine noun plural form appeared from the fourteenth century, derived from “rilles” (piece of pork), dialectical variation from the Old French “reille” (flaps: “oreille=ear). This name appeared in the official Bescherelle Dictionnary in 1845.
When the majority of the population lived in the countryside, there was a tradition in Sarthe and Touraine families to make their own charcuterie, once or twice a year. Indeed, there was the famous day of “killing the pig,” which took place at the beginning of winter. During this day, every family killed pig(s), that they bred throughout the year and prepared its meat (including the famous pork rillettes). Then they kept it alongside fresh meat in large jars called “saloirs” in specific sandstone jars. Conservation is achieved thants to lard (pork fat) and salt, two major preservers because at the time, refrigerators did not exist. Rillettes were made in large cauldrons that were hung above the fire in the fireplace, and there they mixed fat, meat, salt and pepper.
It was unwise to boil rillettes, and that is why a person was left beside the pot at all time during cooking, stirring regularly for the preparation of rillettes. This cooking was long (between seven and ten hours) and at low heat. This day also allowed the transfer of know-how of family recipes. All that meat allowed them to eat during the coming year. This tradition has made “rillettes” a typical dish of the Sarthe and Touraine.
The pork rillettes were introduced to the market with the arrival of the railway in Sarthe. In the 1900s, a butcher from Sarthe saw an opportunity during halts of the train Paris-Brest, which was loading water at Connerré (72), and offered its Rillettes to mechanics and passengers. The success was dazzling for this product, easy to spread and well suited to travel. A manufacture in Sarthe started to put the rillettes in waxed pots (honey pots) for better transport. It is the shape of the pots today.
- 1kg of pork meat, leg or ham
- 1kg of pork belly
- 200g of pork fat
- 40g shallots
- 10g of varied spices and herbs, traditionally sage, coriander, thyme,bay leaves, cloves and/or juniper.
- 1 clove of garlic, salt, pepper.
Cut in dices the pork meats. Put all the herbs in a bag, place them in a pot with the pork fat and cook gently for 5 hours, stirring those from time to time.
Add salt, pepper, spices, mix and cook another 15 min.
Remove the bag and mince the meat. Put the mix in jars and let it cool down. Cover the meat with melted fat, cover and refrigerate.
You can use the same process for other meats such as duck and goose, or mix several meats to experiment with flavours and textures. However, the final texture must be like shredded meat, not too fine like a pate or mousse.
Eat like a pate, spread on bread slices, accompanied with pickles, ghurkins or onions.