Pigs’ Trotters

March 9th, 2010

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When it comes to all things culinary I’m up for trying most things once. I say most things, I would probably draw the line at brains, testicles, eyes, that sort of thing. I’m not really an offal girl, you see. Yes, I admit it, I’m a little too squeamish and blood, guts and gore on a plate just don’t do it for me (I’ll leave that to Sweeny Todd and Mrs Lovett). If you were to measure my level of adventurism I would say I stand firmly past the ‘average’ line but neatly tucked away behind the long line of those in front of me who are the Indiana Joneses of the culinary world.

My own little adventures have included trying frogs legs, cooking a lobster, lopping off a cow’s tail and simmering it for soup (OK, I didn’t do the lopping), becoming a bunny boiler, and cooking with duck’s eggs. OK, the last one may not seem all that brave but you may be surprised just how many people exclaim to me ‘eww, duck’s eggs!?’. I really don’t know why (if you, reader, are one of them please do comment and let me know, I promise I will not judge you; we’re all opening up on this post, or at least, I am).

Now, pigs’ trotters. They seemed harmless enough, I mean, OK, they’re feet, and they’re feet that are particularly comfortable in, um, poo, but they get a very good clean-up before they’re sold to you and, really, what could be so bad about little tootsies? I’ve always been intrigued and when I saw them being sold for less than a pound at my local supermarket I grabbed them fast. I was quite excited all the way home and was even more encouraged when I enthusiastically waved them in Rob’s face saying ‘look what I’ve got’ and he muttered that he’d try them and then carried on what he was doing while shaking his head at his wife’s crazy antics. Excellent. Off to the kitchen then.

All started well; they were very clean indeed, had very few hairs on them and when I neatly arranged them in a pot they looked quite promising. I covered them with cold water and brought it to the boil. As the water started to bubble the aroma coming from the pot reminded me of something. It took a while to put my finger on it but when I did the likeness was quite remarkable. Dog food, that was it. They smelt disgusting. It wasn’t a good start.

As the trotters continued to boil scum started to come to the top of the water. I’m used to scum, that’s no problem at all, you get it when you make stock, it’s quite normal. This scum, though, had a greenish-tinge to it and the water started to take on the look of pond water. I wasn’t encouraged. But after this moment of doubt I mustered up my enthusiasm again and figured all would be well when I rinsed away the water and added fresh, along with lots of lovely stock vegetables. So that’s what I did.

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Three hours of simmering later and Rob and I peered into the pot. Rob was the first to break the silence ‘They don’t smell too good’. ‘No,’ I agreed ‘They don’t’. The dogs looked pleadingly up at us and for once it was looking likely that they may just get their wish. Rob was the first to go in with a fork. The trotters seemed to be all bone, skin and gristle, but he picked around for a bit and finely found a morsel of meat. He popped it into his mouth and I looked at him expectantly. ‘Bland’ was his unimpressed conclusion. And bland they were. In fact, completely and utterly tasteless may be a better way of describing them.

Now, at this point it seems that many cooks will painstakingly take off the meat, mix it up with all manner of flavoursome ingredients (I wonder why that is…), make them into little terrines, or coat them in breadcrumbs and fry them up. They are also often cooked with Chinese ingredients. The common theme seems to be to add so much other flavouring to them so that they actually taste nice. I just don’t really get it, I mean there’s hardly any meat on them and what meat there is tastes (to me) bland at best and disgusting at worse. And if you have to add other ingredients to make them flavoursome and substantial why bother? Somewhat perplexed I Twittered my findings and was surprised and relieved to find that I wasn’t alone in my conclusion. I guess, like many things in life, pigs trotters are one of those things you either like or you don’t.

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If you want to try this unappetising dish yourself here’s what I did.

Ingredients

2-4 pig trotters, cut in half lengthways
1 onion, quartered
2 carrots, roughly chopped
3 or 4 sprigs of thyme
A small handful of flat leafed parsley
1 bay leaf
8 peppercorns

Cover with cold water and bring it to the boil, then empty away the water, rinse the trotters and put them into a clean pan. Cover them with fresh cold water and the rest of the ingredients. Bring the water to the boil and then simmer for 3 hours.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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    34 Responses to “Pigs’ Trotters”

    1. Anne Says:

      My boyfriends nan has been trying to convince me pigs trotters are good but the thought rather repulses me! I think I shall happily abstain in the future!

      Did the dogs enjoy them? ;-)

    2. Beth Says:

      Like I said – Fish and Chips!!

    3. Kavey Says:

      Fantastic – you experimented so the rest of us don't have to! I've only had pig trotters once, at Piere Koffman's pop up restaurant recently (pictures on my blog) and I loved it BUT I have no idea how the dish was made nor how many extra ingredients were used to inject flavour!
      They've never been something I wanted to try and cook at home!

    4. Vicki Says:

      I did trotters not too long ago, a la Thomas Keller. The 1st time it was just feet, and not too tasty, but the 2nd time I boiled a shank along with the feet – more meat, less ick.

    5. Louise Says:

      like you I had heard so many recipes of trottery loveliness but not really appealed to me. Glad to hear I'm not missing out on anything.

    6. WizzyTheStick Says:

      First off. I congratulate you for your bravery. West Indians use this to make souse. Which is like a highly seasoned, peppery broth. The trotters themselves are more a textural element than for flavour

    7. Alex Says:

      Oh no – what a shame! Pigs cheeks are as far as I've gone offal-wise and they were a success, maybe try them next time (if you haven't already…)

      And I love duck eggs!

    8. Rebecca @ InsideCuisine.com Says:

      LOVE 'EM and I've got a post on InsideCuisine.com from last year from one of our Aussie chefs cooking 'em too @frombecca x

    9. doug87 Says:

      I must admit that I had not considered trotters for my recent foray into the world of pork. My hat's off to you and Rob, though. Culinary adventuress are you!

    10. Megan Carroll Says:

      I will try most things too but I think I will pass, so good on you for trying…

    11. Julia Says:

      Anne – I think even the dogs would have turned their noses up! (Seriously they're on special diets so couldn't indulge).

      Beth – Yep, definitely the better choice!

      Kavey – Haha, I'm here to help!

      Vicki – You see, you need to add extra flavour. Again I ask 'What's the point??'

      Louise – I had such high hopes for them but, no, I'd say you're not missing out.

      Wizzy – Yes I can definitely understand they would add good textural element.

      Alex – Yes I 've heard good things about pigs cheeks (but then, I had about trotters too!).

      Rebecca – Good to hear another perspective, I'll check that out.

      Doug – Haha, thank you!

      Megan – Wise decision :-)

    12. Jean Says:

      I am so glad I found your blog–I know I'm going to love it! Being a bit squeamish myself, I'll not be giving the trotters a go. I'm a native Californian, but my mother was English so I've been exposed to trotters and kidneys and all that, but some things are just a bit too exotic for me! Was very fun to read about, though. I'll be back. I write about English foods, but don't look for trotters on my blog!

    13. Dangerous Variable Says:

      Love it… the chinese has different styles of cooking this lovely part of the animal!

    14. tasteofbeirut Says:

      like the french say "les gôuts et les couleurs ne se discutent pas" (taste and color preferences are not up for discussion)
      I enjoyed reading your post. I doubt I will purchase these lovelies in the future, along with lamb testicles and camel penises, these are not offerings I like to have on my table; I have been cooking lenten dishes lately and I think I may turn vegetarian! (almost)

    15. The Redhead Riter Says:

      Well, that was a shocker! I didn't expect to see pigs feet when I clicked on today. I was, however, raised in the country where we ate pickled pigs feet. Bet that sounds gross to you! LOL

    16. Jean Says:

      Had to follow your duck's eggs link and comment on that post with a little story about one of my early baking experiences.

    17. Patty Says:

      I'm not going to lie, that picture almost scared me off! But as a up and coming foodie :P I can't wait to try this recipe out, thanks for posting!

    18. peteformation Says:

      Pig trotters are nice and yummy. I love the soft tendons!

    19. bigjobsboard Says:

      Thanks for sharing this recipe. I never tried cooking these before but i would definitely love to. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

    20. Jamie Says:

      This is one of the funniest blog posts I've read in quite a while! But I have to say that you are one brave girl buying and cooking up these babies. Ooh I never could! I do have a chef friend the fries them. No, I think I'll have a serving of the frog legs and lobster, please.

    21. SimonHaestoe Says:

      would be cool if you, and everyone else here, would take a look at my blog on http://www.tastyshrimpsalad.blogspot.com

      If you like it and link it, tell me! I'll link to you to :).

      SimonHaestoe@gmail.com

    22. Melange a Trois Says:

      Think I might skip that one… great pics though!

    23. Antonia Says:

      Good on you for giving them a try – and sorry to hear they didn't work out! I've always wondered about them but felt a little squeamish about cooking them. Relieved to hear that I'm not missing much.

    24. Nick / Bex Says:

      Julia, I admire your efforts! I've had similar experiences poaching a pigs head.

      Seeing this reminded me of a great video I saw recently of a (very) young Marco Pierre White describing stuffed pigs trotters as his 'favorite dish of all time" and the "cleverist dish he's ever seen".

      The 3 part video is great as he cooks three courses for his mentor Raymond Blanc – but the stuffed trotter is his main.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-D8Wzqs-xc

      Also spot a (very) young Gordon Ramsey running chef de partie duties…

      Nick

      x

    25. Wild Rabbit Stew (with Cook’s Treat) | A Slice of Cherry Pie Says:

      […] my culinary taste and options. It doesn’t always have a happy ending, such as when I tried pigs trotters and found them bland and tasteless, not being able to figure out what all the fuss is […]

    26. Raise Your Glasses | A Slice of Cherry Pie Says:

      […] Always up for trying something new I couldn’t resist these pig’s trotters when I saw them in a local supermarket. But what did I make of them? Read on to find out… […]

    27. Stuffed Pork trotters stuffed with ‘Fake’ Dongpo Pork Belly and Char Siu neck. Says:

      […] to the dam PorkOff2011 Trotters do not seem easy to cook as demonstrated here where she says that “there’s hardly any meat on them and what meat there is tastes (to me) […]

    28. Dennis Says:

      They’re horrid but they are good for making the stock/jelly for pork pies.

      Even so, the initial smell is horrid. I pop them in savagely boiling water for five minutes (kitchen door shut, window open as far as it will go) and then transfer them to the stock pot.

    29. ventjoran Says:

      ehm…. pig’s trotter, no matter how clean when bought must be washed thoroughly before use. Soak in water with cider vinegar for a couple of hours first (overnight is better) Rinse and place in cooking pan with cold water, with onion, cloves (just a couple!) and bay leaf. As you did, you must bring to boil, boil for 10 minutes and then discard first cooking water. Then you can cook them properly.

      And don’t forget: if they smell real bad then maybe you bought some that were off? and that is why they were very cheap?

      Don;t give up, give it just another try – try this wonderful recipe by Richard Corrigan: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/crubeenspigstrotters_86182

    30. jean-bernard parr Says:

      Hi Julia
      I too thought I might have been misled into thinking this was a staple de campagne. Im using a pressure cooker on them. Like you I got them at a supermarket. Cant help feeling they would have been meatier from our butcher.
      I wont be trying it again, lot of hooha about nothing, and as for stuffing well it would be like trying to stuff the inside of a golfball.
      Your photography is great and I bet your book is worth buying. I shall look out for it
      john parr

    31. Tom Says:

      I have a couple of trotters sitting in the fridge (supermarket impulse buy – did everyone get them from Morrisons? Interesting fact there…) and am slightly apprehensive having read this post! However, I suspect one big hurdle to jump is how you relate to meat, fat and skin in general. As someone who actively welcomes saturated fat in their diet, perhaps I will be more inclined to enjoy these than the majority who have been brought up to pick out the tiny bits of lean meat and see the rest as scrap?

    32. Nev Says:

      Hi :-)
      We just came back from a long weekend in Lyon and had trotters.
      I was a little disappointed that they weren’t served whole, but instead as 2 burger shapes. Aren’t you meant to bake the trotters? Btw that write up on Lyon with the pic of the trotters can be seen here if you feel like it:
      http://ittp-tefl-prague-tesol.blogspot.com/2012/07/ittp-tefl-prague-jadore-lyon.html
      Btw, you have a great blog and you are welcome to contribute to our Weekly recipe if you like one week:
      http://ittp-tefl-prague-tesol.blogspot.com/search/label/Weekly-Recipes

    33. in tokyo Says:

      definitely hats off for giving it a go.

      i’ve never cooked with trotters but do you think the lackluster result might have been due to the recipe? it looks like a recipe for boiled meat.

      i’m about to use some in a recipe for pork loin en cocotte that uses them to get gelatin into the sauce (then toss the trotter).

    34. russ Says:

      soak for 24 hours then stick them in a tagine on the absolute lowest temp you can get from your oven along with … and I’m not joking here… about half an inch deep in the tagine of “full fat Coke” (diet doesn’t work!) and generous amounts of shallots and root ginger. Go shopping, pub or whatever and 8 hours later … sweet as can be. Crusty bread.

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