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There’s a lot more to pork rind than crackling | Waste not

by Ace Damon

It is ironic that one of the most wasted parts of a pig is also one of the most delicious. Pork scratches are a classic snack, while crackling on a powerful roast pork loin is one of the most revered delicacies in British cuisine: puffed, sweet, golden and crunchy and totally unctuous with a salty accent.

The pork rind is removed from bacon, chops and other cuts to refine them, but today there is little demand for these delicious offal; therefore, once removed, it rarely reaches our plates and is intended for cosmetic products. Woe to the pig.

The good news, however, is that most butchers will happily reserve some and sell to you. If you want to save waste, the next time you roast pork, also get some skin – but make sure you have enough crackles to get around. Save the bacon peel, chop it and use it instead of oil in the soup and stew bases. Or try this week's recipe for Italian-inspired cotechino meatballs.

As a vegetarian, it would be remiss of me not to mention sustainability in this context. Intensive animal agriculture has the most damaging anthropogenic impact on our planet, but omnivores who enjoy economic cuts and pasture rearing will reduce that impact without damaging their portfolios.

Cotechino meatballs

This classic Italian sausage is usually squeezed into sausage casings, then poached and served with lentils. Unless you have a good Italian diner nearby, it can be difficult to find and take a long time to cook – about three hours in all – so I wrote this recipe to be relatively quick to cook on the grill. It is a super rich delicacy that, thanks to the pork rind, is worth making. I first had it at River Cottage, when we used to do something similar in the Pig In A Day butchery course with the legendary Ray Smith. Ray always said how important it is to know where your meat comes from, to guarantee its quality.

Preparation 10 min
Cook 1 hour 20 min
Serves 6-8

300g of pork skin
200g of streaky bacon, chopped
500g ground beef
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
50ml of red wine
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons sea salt
1 pinch of apple or nutmeg
1 pinch of cloves powder
Cooked lentils and green parsley, to serve (optional)

Cook the pork rind in hot water for an hour, until it is really soft, then drain and finely chop.

Mix well with bacon, ground beef, garlic, wine, fennel seeds, pepper, salt, apple (or nutmeg) and powdered cloves.

Roll the mixture into 20 balls, then grill or bake on low heat for 15-20 minutes, spinning them as little as possible and serve with lentils and green parsley or bread rolls.

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