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