Chicago has long been blessed with a bounty of pork, thanks to its history as a meatpacking hub and its proximity to major pork-producing states like Iowa and Indiana. As a result, the city’s cooks are skilled at getting the most out of a hog.
1. PORK NECK BONES These pieces of bone, meat, and cartilage lend body and depth to long-cooked foods, such as stews and sauces (including the Hearty Tomato Ragu).
2. KASSLER RIBS A contribution from Chicago’s German community, these smoked rib chops, named for the butcher in Berlin who popularized them a century ago, are delicious braised in beer with apples.
3. SALT PORK CUT, like bacon, from the pig’s belly, this fatty portion is preserved in salt (but never smoked) and used to flavor soups and Southern-style greens.
4. RIB TIPS These slabs of meat and bone are what’s left over after spareribs are squared off to produce a cut called St. Louis-style ribs; Lem’s Bar-B-Q, on the South Side, smokes rib tips until they’re dark and crusty, then cuts them into riblets, which are coated with a tangy sauce.
5. FATBACK The thick layer of fat that encases the loin of a pig can be used in any number of ways: rendered for fat in dishes like Bigos, cut into sheets to wrap around roasts (in a technique called barding), or cut into strips to thread through lean cuts of meat to keep them moist (larding).
6. PIGS’ EARS Sold in bins at Polish butcher shops throughout Chicago, ears are perfect for enriching stocks and soups; they’re also tasty on their own when poached and then roasted.