12 Mar2010

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Mrs. MM was watching a program with Heston Blumenthal on his quest to make the PERFECT peking duck recipe, part of which entailed recreating superb duck skin, but in his version, the skin was cooked separately from the duck. It was a fascinating program, and I was glad to hear even Mr. Blumenthal and his crew tried some 40+ iterations of their skin recipe before they got to their final version. APM, a regular reader, once sent me a DVD of Mr. Blumenthal and I am a fan of the chef’s incredible penchant for detail and perfection. At any rate, the program and some of the trials were still fresh in my memory a few days later when I was shopping at S&R for our weekly requirements, and I decided to ask their butcher if they would sell me some pig skin…

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…and BINGO!, the butcher emerged with some 2 square feet of pig skin removed from the section that ended up as “skinless” pork chops, and with about an inch layer of fat below the skin. I was somewhat giddy with excitement. Plus at PHP200 for the bag filled with porcine epidermis, this wasn’t going to be a costly experiment if it all ended in failure…

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We removed all but about 1/4 inch of fat behind the skin, and cut the skin into roughly six inch squares or slightly bigger. The fat was reserved and I made something else with that (more in another post).

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Next we secured the pieces of pig skin to a cookie rack with a needle and twine (not an easy process by any measure), and actually resorted to a sharp nail to puncture the skin before tying it securing to the rack which was then placed in a cooke pan and placed in a pre-heated 325F oven.

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We slow-rendered the fat and it dripped to the pan below, this took some 90-100 minutes, then the heat was turned up to 375F and the two pieces of pig skin were browned a bit more. The result is pictured above. They LOOKED brilliant. Though they did remind me a bit too much of this little cufflink box I purchased many years ago made of pigskin/leather… the color was a dead ringer. :) I didn’t season this first “control” batch and just wanted to see how it would turn out. It was flat, it was crisp and it looked pretty darned good. But it was also nearly tasteless (no salt, pepper, sugar or spice), and after a few minutes, wickedly hard. Let’s just say if you had false teeth this would be a challenge to eat.

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For another batched of skin, I laid another pan ON TOP of the skin, then weighed it down with some cast iron equipment to FLATTEN the skin, without sewing it to the rack.

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After some 40-50 minutes of cooking in the open, I removed the weights on top and brushed the “flattened skin” with a mixture of soy, brown sugar, star anise, peppercorns, etc. on both sides and put them back into the oven to brown. I was trying to ensure I had a crisp base, and a flavorful sheen/finish.

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The results, in the photo above, were promising, but not brilliant. They had portions that had puffed up nicely, resulting in a chicharon effect. But they also had crevices where the marinade pooled and made the skin a little soft and chewy. Overall, the skin was still a little tough, maybe I should have started with a younger pig… but then they wouldn’t be selling its skin so readily… At this point, I would have rated this batch say a 6/10…

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We continued the experiments on another day. This time first boiling the skin for 30 minutes in water flavored with star anise, salt, pepper, etc. then cooling and drying the skin and refrigerating it overnight. I figured I would try the crispy pata approach of sorts. Then I brushed the chilled pieces of skin with marinade and stuck it into a hot oven and proceeded to set off the smoke/fire alarms in a bit way. The result, above, looks burned but it wasn’t as crisp as I would have wanted. The marinade burned, but the skin wasn’t finished releasing its moisture yet.

We tried another piece where we just applied the marinade to the underside of the skin and stuck that in the oven. Then we fried (instead of baked) a piece of skin in hot fat with marinade on both sides to bad results and a kitchen full of fat splattered everywhere. And finally, the last piece that we tried was boiled, cooled, brushed with marinade only underneath, and deep fried. This yielded a crisp, crunchy version, a bit weak on flavor, but quite edible. It is the piece on the lower right hand portion of the top photo with three pieces of pork crackling. It wasn’t the lechon skin of a slow roasted hand turned piggy, but it was certainly interesting enough to keep on experimenting… And you wonder why I lost my diet bet with the Teen? :)

 

COMMENTS:

  1. mei kwei says:

    will there be a future zubuchon cracklings in the market. hope it will be distributed here in the states so i can savor it. the other day and up til now been munching on pork cracklings from mexico but not the same as those in cebu- love it. i forgot the name. i used to buy it at the back of the hospital where i had my internship. think its near cebu doctors.- like a stall of purveyors.

    Mar 12, 2010 | 7:42 am

     
  2. Brian Asis says:

    This post almost gave me a heart attack, it reminds me of eating chicharon :D I wonder if you could do a series of things, like steam then roast it, then fry it afterwards :D

    Mar 12, 2010 | 8:24 am

     
  3. Betchay says:

    I think the skin needs to be dried a few more days to remove most of the moisture for it to puff up nicely.A little more patience MM! :) I think I will remove the soy sauce as it produces sugar resulting in the the burnt areas.I will just stick to plain salt and pepper and a few herbs and spices.Double frying may also help.I really appreciate it when you do these experiments!……very scientific!

    Mar 12, 2010 | 8:33 am

     
  4. attybubba says:

    hi MM, just wondering when the oven was preheated to 325F, “then turned up to 275” – are we talking about Celsius in the latter? thanks

    Mar 12, 2010 | 8:47 am

     
  5. giancarlo says:

    Noticed that pics are included in the feed. thanks!

    Mar 12, 2010 | 9:20 am

     
  6. Mom-Friday says:

    I’m thinking the same thing as Brian — heart attack! hahaha… It’s just so interesting and “entertaining” to see and read your experiments here :) more please

    Mar 12, 2010 | 9:47 am

     
  7. erleen says:

    You can use the furniture needle w/c can be bought in any local hardware store. Around 4-5 inches, has a bigger hole(not sure what its called) and also a bit wicked looking.

    Mar 12, 2010 | 9:55 am

     
  8. Fatcat says:

    Try cooking it adobo style, cool, slice thin and skewer, then grill to crisp…dunk in spiced vinegar while they’re hot… that’s how street vendors do it… : )

    Mar 12, 2010 | 9:58 am

     
  9. Mari says:

    Oh MM you are so funny…with Sister coming home and cooking childhood memories of your mom’s cooking…it was pretty obvious you have already lost the bet. Well, don’t worry, I didn’t make it too. Not a pound to my name.

    Anyway, pork cracklings…my mom used to do them too. She would actually boil them with salt and keep them in the pan until it turns into oil. (She would also do this on chicken skins.) We did this for the pork bellies that was cooked in turbo broilers, boil them and then put some salt on it again and then freeze them. … the skin would turn out crunchy. Maybe you can try that.

    Mar 12, 2010 | 10:07 am

     
  10. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    Whooooooooa!!!!! Is this a Zubu-charon prototype? It would be great to have chicharon full of flavor and not laden with MSG!!!!

    What say you, MM?

    Mar 12, 2010 | 10:46 am

     
  11. junb says:

    Hi MM, try Fergus Henderson Nose to tail pig skin recipe. It works for me !!!

    Mar 12, 2010 | 11:20 am

     
  12. junb says:

    oh he has also a recipe for fat that you remove on your skin for appetizer :) … heavy on cholesterol though

    Mar 12, 2010 | 11:26 am

     
  13. joey says:

    Oh my my! Those photos are speaking volumes to me! All I have to say is — Don’t give up MM!!! You can do it!!! :) :)

    Mar 12, 2010 | 11:39 am

     
  14. Divina says:

    Keep on experimenting. :) Looking forward to it. I remember dad would make crackling at home but I didn’t pay attention how he was doing it. Right now, how I wish I paid attention on what he was doing in the kitchen before.

    Mar 12, 2010 | 2:00 pm

     
  15. Gigi says:

    Yum! I really enjoy reading your blog.

    When I cook roast pork with crackling, I pat the skin dry, score it and rub lots of sea salt onto it.

    Mar 12, 2010 | 2:15 pm

     
  16. betty q. says:

    After googling it, MM…a lot of them highly recommended puncturing the skin too and to release moisture, salt the skin and leave it for a few minutes until it looks like it is covered in sweat! Then dab the sweat and roast it…

    But I still will have home-made chicharon anytime!

    Frenchadobo: mymudcake@hotmail.com

    Mar 12, 2010 | 2:26 pm

     
  17. Wenko says:

    Good job for not using MSG. I salute you for being very brave. And I am happy you are still here with us today lol…

    Mar 12, 2010 | 4:09 pm

     
  18. Cris Jose says:

    Wow.. I think my cholesterol level went up a notch just by looking at these pictures. I don’t think I will ever be a vegetarian… i just love to eat pork so much! :)

    Mar 12, 2010 | 5:02 pm

     
  19. Jun B says:

    Here’s the recipe from Fergus henderson’s Pork Skin
    Ingredients:
    1 sheet of pork’s skin, with a ¼ inch layer of fat still attached
    3 cups rendered duck fat or lard, or enough to cover the layers of skin
    A few cups of kosher salt

    Procedure:

    1. Rinse and dry your piece of skin. Using a non-reactive pan, spread a thin layer of salt on the bottom. Place the skin on top, and fold accordian-style if needed, so that all of the skin will fit in the pan. Each time you fold the skin over, sprinkle another thin layer of salt in between so that the entire surface area will be touching salt by the time you’re finished. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let sit in the refrigerator for 5 to 6 days.

    2. After the salting period, soak the skin in a large bowl of cold water for at least 6 hours to one day in a refrigerator replacing the water once.

    3. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the skin into a cast iron skillet or heavy pot. Cover the skin with the rendered fat. If you’re using a skillet or pan without a lid, cover the top with a sheet of foil. Place the covered vessel into the oven and cook for two hours, until the skin is very soft and shrunken. Be sure that the skin is gently simmering rather than deep-frying in the fat. If needed, turn the oven down to 250°F.

    4. Kept in the refrigerator, the skin can be stored in the fat indefinitely. When you are ready to eat the skin, place the skin on a pan and crisp it in a 350°F oven for a few minutes, until the skin is puffed and golden brown. Cut into pieces and serve.

    Mar 12, 2010 | 7:45 pm

     
  20. quiapo says:

    Suggestion: Boiling to soften it (adding spices to the boiling mix) then drying it perhaps by storing it in the refrigerator overnight would make it easier to bake/fry to crispy texture. I would avoid the use of toyo or sugar as it would caramelize before the skin was done. Perhaps the use of younger piglet skin may not require boiling.

    Mar 12, 2010 | 7:51 pm

     
  21. Jun B says:

    here’s the original recipe from Fergus Henderson’s nose to tail book

    Pork Scratchings,
    By Fergus Henderson & Justin Piers Gellatly from Beyond Nose to Tail

    Ingredients
    Pig’s skin (ask your butcher for some fat attached)
    Sea salt
    Duck fat (enough to cover the skin)

    Method
    Spread a layer of sea salt on a plastic tray, or anything that won’t react with the salt.
    Lay the skin on top & sprinkle liberally with sea salt.
    Leave in the fridge for 5 days.
    When its time is up, remove the skin from the fridge & soak overnight in cold water.
    Thoroughly dry with a clean tea towel & lay it on an oven tray.
    Cover with duck fat, then cover the tray with foil.
    Cook in a medium oven for 2½ hrs. As with all things cooking, keep an eye on it.
    Take it out of the oven & allow to cool, smearing it with the solidifying duck fat.
    At this point you can keep it in the fridge until your next drinks party, or a frail moment when you are in need of such nourishment.
    When such a moment arrives, place a rack on an oven tray, then lay your skin on top.
    Again put into a medium oven, in which it should slightly puff up into a sheet of golden, crispy joy (be careful not to brown it, as this is bitter & sad).
    Now remove from the oven & allow to cool.
    Place the crispy skin on a board & chop it with a heavy knife. It should break up into pieces. Serve.
    A word of warning, though: with fragile dental arrangements, eat with caution.

    Mar 12, 2010 | 7:54 pm

     
  22. i love sta.rosa says:

    norvask pls…

    Mar 12, 2010 | 8:17 pm

     
  23. betty q. says:

    MM…google ….justcookit.blogspot…I think that is what you are looking for! I have to forego trying his method or hubby will really never talk to me!

    Mar 13, 2010 | 12:35 am

     
  24. Connie C says:

    Crispy pork skin? MM or all you pork epidermis lovers, try this…sounds/looks ( pics included) simpler than the other methods. You can tweak/remove seasonings to your taste but you get the basic idea.
    Let us know how it turns out.

    http://happyhomemaker88.wordpress.com/2008/05/17/homemade-yummy-crispy-roast-pork-belly-siew-yoke-or-siao-bak/

    Mar 13, 2010 | 12:47 am

     
  25. Connie C says:

    Mar 13, 2010 | 12:53 am

     
  26. Bernice says:

    how about using a turbo broiler? i remember how my mom used to “turbo” her lechon kawali. the skin was to die for! yum!

    Mar 13, 2010 | 1:05 am

     
  27. thelma says:

    chicharon from guagua, pampanga is simply the best. i love chicharon and it
    must be fun to try making your own chicharon. using the turbo broiler is
    the easiest way to do it.
    mm, this is off the topic… do you know where i could buy a bulk of pili nuts
    in manila? i will be in the philippines this coming may. it would be great if i could buy pili
    nuts for me to take back to california. thanks, mm…..

    Mar 13, 2010 | 1:16 am

     
  28. mayumi says:

    they call it ‘crackling’ over here. usually served with roast pork on a sunday (unless of course you buy it in a pack)

    the skin is covered with sea salt, oven roasted, and then to crisp it up, placed on the grill to get that puffed up effect. tried it once, seemed alright. it’s not lapid’s but hey…

    Mar 13, 2010 | 4:02 am

     
  29. Marketman says:

    thelma, it’s very hard to find pili nuts (not already made into candy) in Manila. I have only found it here once or twice during regional trade fairs. They seem to spoil quickly and I have never seen bakery shops stock it (which is odd as they stock hazelnuts et al). Bernice, have tried a turbo on this but it would probably work nicely. Connie C, thanks for the links, will check them out, thanks to Bettyq. Junb thanks for the recipe, I was looking for it in my Nose to Tail cookbook, but it must be in beyond nose to tail… quiapo I did boil it and refrigerate overnight. And I agree soy/sugar overbrowns it. Artisan, hahaha, ZubuCharon, I should start registering all these sub-brands! :) Mari, thanks… erleen, will have to add a furniture needle to my toolbox! giancarlo, yes, a few people had mentioned the problem, so it seems fixed now. Thanks. attybubba, good catch, I meant increase the heat to 375F, will update post now. Betchay, yup, out with soy sauce… mei kwei, no this didn’t start out as a product development thing for Zubuchon, was just fooling around in the kitchen…

    Mar 13, 2010 | 5:59 am

     
  30. ingrid says:

    hi MM, those cracklings make me want to munch on those veggie cracklings.
    I have a suggestion: how about stitching the skin in a wire rack contraption that can be placed in a rotisserie – like the lechon. basting it once in a while with salted water to give its flavor and have a lechon looking crisp skin. what do you think?

    Mar 13, 2010 | 12:10 pm

     
  31. Gerry says:

    You’re trying to deconstruct Lechon Macau (Siu Youk?) aren’t you? I’ve done several experiment with pig skin, but all have ended in failure. Steamed it, dried it, punctured it, used vinegar and lye water, baked, poured hot oil, etc. Extremely frustrating endeavor trying to work with pig skin trying to come close to the texture and flavor of lechon macau. I’m sure there’s a way to do it right, just haven’t found it. Maybe Jun B’s method will work.

    Mar 13, 2010 | 12:14 pm

     
  32. fmed says:

    Many people use Baking Soda to enhance the blistering. For example:

    Chicharron http://nikas-culinaria.com/2005/12/26/chicharron-deep-fried-pork-belly-how-to/

    and

    Saveur Magazine’s Porchetta http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Porchetta

    Mar 13, 2010 | 2:10 pm

     
  33. kitongzki says:

    Hey MM… Why not try to boil it with some onions, garlic, pepper corns and laurel then put it in the oven then deep fry it…

    it’s gonna be really crispy… :D believe me… done that before… :D

    Mar 13, 2010 | 3:50 pm

     
  34. millet says:

    forget about Sports Illustrated, MM. you belong to Cook’s Illustrated! go,go, go!

    Mar 13, 2010 | 9:17 pm

     
  35. Footloose says:

    You´ve already invented the wheel with your Zubuchon. Is there any reward that we do not know of in reinventing it?

    Mar 13, 2010 | 10:55 pm

     
  36. betty q. says:

    Thanks for the link Ms. Connnie C! That Lechon Kawali looks goooooood to me. When hubby is away, I will make it!….not for me, of course, but for the kapitbahays!

    Mar 14, 2010 | 12:23 am

     
  37. millet says:

    hmmm..can i be your kapitbahay, bettyq?

    Mar 14, 2010 | 9:43 am

     
  38. ehjey says:

    Hi MM! How about boiling it in salt, peppercorns, bay leaf, and garlic. Once it is already tender, let it be sun dried for a day or so. Then you can deep fry it…Just want to share, this is how my mother prepared home made chicharon for us when we were kids :)

    Mar 15, 2010 | 12:31 pm

     
  39. Joy says:

    That looks great! My husband would love it if I made that but I don’t know if I’m brave enough.

    Mar 15, 2010 | 11:18 pm

     
  40. Lizii says:

    I saw in one factory how they do it. a huge pot full of pork skins was slow cooked for 8 hours. Once cooked, they springle salt and pepper. Tasty and crispy.

    Mar 16, 2010 | 3:47 pm

     
  41. Bel says:

    I make some kind of crackling out of the fatty pieces of my adobo. Adobo is never great when cooked without fat, but I mostly use it for flavoring since the sticky sauce is wicked enough over hot, steamed rice. Rather than discard the skin and fat however, I trim as much fat as I can, salt the pieces lightly, then let them dry in the ref for days. When I want some some crispy stuff, I fry some of the pieces over low-medium heat until they’re half done, let them sit to air dry for a while, then refry them briefly in a new batch of oil over high heat. As you can imagine, I don’t cook adobo often because eating it by itself makes me sin by consuming more than necessary, and eating the chicharong adobo skin makes me sin anew especially when there’s really good vinegar around. I call my adobo “adobong makasalanan”. If you’re really wicked, or have a death wish, you could make adobo out of chicken skin and use that for crackling.

    Mar 18, 2010 | 9:00 am

     
  42. shep915 says:

    Ei! Here, from Marco pierre white Great British Feast Ep1 part3 ” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMAExXO3Fko ” I tried Marco P. way adding water in bottom pan, What I used is just pork jowls skin on aluminum pie plate. Resulted to lechon like crispy skin! ;-P BTW, pig jowls no skin, I made into homemade guanciale!… One more thing about chicharon making, about a 1 or 2 years ago I found a Philippine website telling how to make [authentic] pinoy chicharon, I’ll search for it again when I find it I’ll share with you. but if not, I’ll also search my saved webpages, I’ll share as soon as… happy cooking to all. I love this place Marketman

    Mar 23, 2010 | 8:12 pm

     
  43. Getter Dragon 1 says:

    You know what might work if you want to secure pigskin to that cookie rack? If you get your hands on sutures, you can use the curved cutting needle to easily pierce the skin and thread to the tines of the rack. But then again, not sure if the suture itself will hold up to intense heat as they are made of nylon.

    Mar 24, 2010 | 2:34 am

     
  44. everwynd says:

    There is a lesser known Filipino dish called lechon kawali, (which I think is an Ilonggo Dish),which literally mean lechon in a pan. It would require a thick slice of pork with a deal of fat in it, a slice thicker than liempo. Then its just placed on pan with a very low heat, It usualy takes about 3 hours to cook. the goal is to deep fry it in its own fat very slowly. Finally, to make it crispier, while cooking, take it out of the pan, then dunk it it ice cold water for a few second, then deep fry it again.. you can do this several times. Slice it into bite size pieces to serve.
    for the dip, I’d recommend using native coconut wine vinegar or the pinakurat (from iligan city) which is stronger.

    Mar 31, 2010 | 10:52 am

     
 

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