Natural gelatin released by pig’s trotters during cooking gives them a jellied consistency. In Creole cuisine, they were traditionally served chilled as an hors d’oeuvre or battered and fried like chicken. While trotters do not contain a lot of pure meat, their skin and cartilage are edible and—once pickled—loaded with tart, porky flavor. The silky pickings from one or two make an excellent addition to beans or braised greens, like the delicious sweet and sour collards Chef Jean-Paul Bourgeois makes at his restaurant Blue Smoke in New York City.
This recipe is adapted from the method used in Marion Brown’s Pickles and Preserves. An added soak in a seasoned curing salt solution helps the meat to retain its hammy pink hue without the addition of food coloring often used in store-bought versions.
What You Will Need
- Extra Large Jar or Plastic Resealable Container
- Large Stockpot
- Heavy Plate
- Slotted Spoon or Spider Skimmer
For the salt brine:
- 10 whole pig’s trotters, scrubbed well
- 1 1⁄2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. kosher salt, divided
- 1⁄2 cup cane sugar
- 2 tbsp. curing salt
For the vinegar brine:
- 1 gallon distilled white vinegar
- 1⁄2 cup cane sugar
- 3 tbsp. kosher salt
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp. whole cloves
- 1 tbsp. yellow mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp. brown mustard seeds
- 1 red onion, quartered
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1⁄4 cup sliced fresh ginger
- 4 bay leaves
- 4-6 hot dried chilis
- In an extra large jar or plastic resealable plastic container large enough to fit all the trotters (or in several smaller containers), add the trotters.
- Make the salt brine: In a large stockpot, add 1½ gallons of water, 1½ cups kosher salt, the cane sugar, and curing salt; set over high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the salts and sugar fully dissolve.
- Remove the pot from the heat and let the brine cool to room temperature. Pour or ladle the brine over the trotters to cover. Place a heavy plate on top to help keep the trotters submerged. Cover the container and refrigerate for 4 days.
- On the fourth day, drain and remove the trotters, discarding the brine. Clean and dry the jar and set aside. Rinse the trotters and transfer them to the stockpot or 2 large pots. Cover with cold water and add the remaining 2 tablespoons kosher salt (if using 2 pots, place one tablespoon in each). Bring to a low boil over high heat, then lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook the trotters, stirring gently occasionally to avoid tearing the skin, until tender when poked with a knife, 2¾–3 hours.
- Use a slotted spoon or spider to gently remove the trotters from the cooking liquid, returning them to the jar. Discard the cooking liquid or strain and reserve for another use.
- Make the vinegar brine: In one of the large pots, combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic, clove, white and brown mustard seeds, onion, cinnamon, ginger, bay leaves, and chilis. Set over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is simmering and the sugar and salt have dissolved.
- Pour the vinegar solution over the trotters, then weigh them down with a heavy plate to keep submerged in the pickling liquid. Cover the container and let the mixture cool to room temperature, then transfer the jar to the refrigerator to pickle for at least 7 days or up to 1 month.