Not for the fainthearted! Slow Cooked Pig´s Trotters

Slow Cooked Pig´s Trotters

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

Salting the trotters

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!

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15 thoughts on “Not for the fainthearted! Slow Cooked Pig´s Trotters

  1. “If they could turn the “oink” of a pig into a soup in Spain, I´m sure there would be a recipe for it.” You are too funny. I love that you use saffron on the cheapest cut of meat too. I’d be willing to try it. Pig’s feet and chitterlings are popular at many a soul food restaurant here.

    1. Hi Greg, it´s funny, I hadn´t thought about the irony of putting one of the world´s most expensive ingredients (albeit a teeny weeny amount) in with one of the cheapest! I had to look up the word chitterlings (in my ignorance) and found this lovely site http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/ChitlinsHistory.htm which explained all. I definitely be up for trying them too. Now I´m off to find my American Cookbook to look for recipes….Take care, Tanya

  2. No tomato in the sauce? I just discovered (okay, I’m a late bloomer some ways) romesco sauce *last week* and this sounds like that except for the tomato and pepper… which I suppose is like saying orange juice tastes like milk expect one is dairy and one is citrus… never mind (grin). Anyway, this sounds fine! Trotters are readily available here in the meat markets as well, and the “nasty bits” sure don’t scare me!

    1. Hi Rachel and thanks for the visit and comment. I know what you mean about it being “like something except for…..”! Nope, no tomato, although I can imagine it working well. Glad the “nasty bits” don´t scare you – the cheaper cuts often have the most flavour, possibly becuase we have to put a lot of love into cooking them. Enjoyed looking around your blog last night, will be back for more.

    1. Funnily enough, my mum is also a big fan. When my parents visit she and Big Man tuck into a pot of these and my dad and I indulge in rare steaks, which the others would rather have “cremated”!

  3. Pigs’ trotters are often on sale here too, in butchers’ shops and even our local village epicerie, but I’ve only tried cooking them myself once, so I’m not sure I’ll try your recipe. As you say, they do make a wonderful sauce, but there’s not much meat on them. I had them once in Tarragona in a Romesco sauce and that was delicious!

    1. Romesco sauce has cropped up twice now in relation to “my” trotters. I have another batch in the freezer, so think I´m going to try them that way next. The Mediterranean folk seem to have less fear of trotters than the Brits, or perhaps they´ll become newly trendy soon and be served in “gastropubs”…who knows?!

  4. I’m glad you warned me before that something like this was going to come up but l haven’t even had my breakfast yet and l think something else is about to come up instead!
    Deep breath….l remember when we bought our first house in the Royal Forest of Dean that the soil in our garden looked so dark. I could grow anything, it was brilliant. I later found out why when my ageing neighbour came round one day and explained they slaughtered the pigs in the garden and let the blood flow into the soil. This was in the days when everyone reared a pig or two for themselves.
    He went onto say that EVERY part of the pig was eaten in one way or another.
    Anus of Pig Soup anyone?

    1. Oh dear, sorry to have given you a bit of a turn! What a lovely part of England you lived in, but it sounds like they didn´t make black pudding in that family then. At least your garden benefitted…

  5. I could not eat that. I’m very impressed with the ingenuity of using every last usable bit of an animal. I hate wasting food.
    I watched an interesting show called “How it’s made” over tge weekend and they were talking about olives. Did you know they’re inedible until they have been soaked in a brine for around 3 months? Ingenuity. Without it there’d be no olives.

    1. I can´t say I blame you entirely, they´re quite scary looking things 🙂 I agree with you on the waste. There is a great cookery book published in the UK called Economy Gastronomy and it´s about turning one meal onto three, not wasting food etc – it´s great! And olives, yes, they´re vile before they´re treated (trsut me, I´ve tried!) but oh so wonderful afterwards. When I pick my next batch towards the end of the year, I´ll do a post on brining them.

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