So, are you ready for this?! You may know that in Spain, especially the south, the pig is a highly prized beastie. We start at the top with the aristocratic pig that is the “Pata Negra” (which translates as the Black Hoof) who is fed on acorns and snuffles round in a life of luxury until he is turned into the most expensive Jamon in the world. At the other end of the scale, after the regular jamones and normal cuts of meat have been consumed and enjoyed, we´re left with all the other bits that most people think would be best consigned to the bin.
Well, not so here, and in many other countries and cultures too. If they could turn the “oink” of a pig into a soup in Spain, I´m sure there would be a recipe for it. Pig´s trotters are pretty common place in butchers and supermarkets here. No need to place a special order as they are often put into stocks and soups, or boiled up with chick peas for their dish “Puchero”. Sometimes though, they have a starring role all to themselves and this recipe is one which comes from Big Man´s mum, to one of his sisters and on to me.
I was told that this, like many other Andalucían dishes, was the poor folks´ food. When the Matanza (pig killing) was carried out in the autumn, the “extras” such as the tripe, trotters, tail and ears were given to those who had helped out in payment for their services. Because there was so little (or no) meat on them, the cooks had to get creative to add flavour and use long, slow cooking to tenderise the food.
I have to confess, I´m not a big fan, but I love the sauce from this dish. Pig´s trotters, when cooked, are rather gelatinous and involve a lot of chewing and then spitting out of all the little bones. It doesn´t bother me, but Big Man loves them so much that I make a pot for him every so often to enjoy all to himself whilst I tuck into something like aubergines or curry – which do nothing at all for him.
It´s a slightly long winded, but not complicated process to make this dish as you need to plan several days ahead. Give it 5 to be on the safe side. Here´s how to do it if you´re feeling adventurous.
For two people as a main course
- 8 pigs trotters split into halves or quarters (they usually come like this or ask your friendly butcher to help you out)
- Salt about 6 tablespoons
- 2 bay leaves
- About 12 peppercorns
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 2-4 small dried chilies
For the sauce
- 3 cloves of garlic peeled and cut in half lengthways
- 1 large slice of stale bread
- A few strands of saffron soaked in water (or use a heaped teaspoon of paella spice mix)
- Half a teaspoon of hot chili powder (pimentón)
- Olive oil
- About 12 peeled almonds
- Salt to season
On the first day salt the trotters, put into the fridge for 24 hours
On the next day and for 48 hours, de salt them by submerging in a pot of fresh water which will need to be changed about 3 times per day
The day before you want to eat them you need to put them into a large pan with a lid, cover with water and add the garlic, bay leaves, chilies and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 2 hours or until really tender. The trotters will start to fall apart and you need to end up with half the liquid you started with. You may need to top up the water during cooking.
For the sauce you need to fry the garlic, almonds and bread in a small amount of olive oil until browned and then put into a jug with the saffron and it´s water plus about 2 ladles full of the water from the trotters. You add the pimentón and then blend with a stick blender until you have a thick purée.
Pour this into the pot with the trotters and simmer again for about half an hour. Add salt to taste and then cool and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
In the fridge the gelatine will cause the whole thing to solidify. When you warm it up to eat it, it will all return to a liquid state and you´ll have sauce again. This isn´t typically served with anything as you have to eat it with your fingers which get incredibly sticky! I love the sauce though and serve it with plain boiled rice.
This is not a dish that will be to everyone´s liking, but for those of you willing to try it, it has a wonderful flavour. Do let me know if you´re brave enough to give it a go!