Pork stock and a snack for the Wife.

CrubeensI have been keen to post the photo above. It was taken, on 35mm, by my late father, in 1967 while we were at Puck Fair in Killorglin, Co. Kerry. The picture of a ’67 food truck gives a great insight into Irish life at the time. The typography tells me that Fish and Chips was the lead offer. Crubeens were a staple and Hamburgers were something pretty exotic. I had never cooked crubeens. Oh, they are pigs feet, for those of you not in the know. So, when Ety from Ethical Pork offered me a few, I knew I could redress the situation and have an excuse to show a wonderful bit of Irish social history from almost 50 years ago.

Not the prettiest thing I have ever cooked. Still, worth showing you.

Not the prettiest thing I have ever cooked. Still, worth showing you.

The first thing to do with the crubeens is to burn off the excess hair. Given what  I was doing, I really don’t see the need to do this but, it was fun and the picture is pretty attractive, in a gruesome sort of way.

It's a long way from crème brûlée - my versatile kitchen blowtorch.

It’s a long way from crème brûlée – my versatile kitchen blowtorch.

Place the trotters in a pot of water and bring them to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. This will bring impurities and a foamy scum to the surface.

Not so attractive. Trust me, it gets better from here.

Not so attractive. Trust me, it gets better from here.

Pour off the water and scum. Clean the pot and add the trotters, water, three carrots, two onions, three stalks of celery, 12 or so peppercorns and a bouquet garni.

At last, an attractive looking photograph.

At last, an attractive looking photograph.

Simmer this for three hours. Remove the trotters. Let them cool for about an hour.

Side note on crubeens: Back in the day, they would have been served at this stage of the process. They would have been eaten greedily with a lot of slavering and slopping. 

Now roll up your sleeves and take the crubeens apart. Remove all the meat and put it in a bowl.

Not a lot of meat on the three crubeens.

Not a lot of meat on the three crubeens. Enough for a sandwich, perhaps?

Separate the fat from what remains and discard.

This is a really, really messy job. Man up and get stuck in.

This is a really, really messy job. Man up and get stuck in.

Put all the bones (there will be lots of them), skin and gelatinous materials back into the pot with the cooking stock. Bring this to a gentle simmer, with the lid on, for a couple of hours. Then remove the lid and take out all the vegetables and pork bits.

Like I said. This is a messy job. Trust me, it's worth it.

Like I said. This is a messy job. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Simmer again, to reduce the remaining stock by about three-quarters. Let it cool somewhat. It will start to turn to a very thick, extremely flavoursome stock. Before it sets, pour it through a muslin (Muslin, not Muslim – It’s pork remember).

The muslin will remove any last bits of grittiness and impurities.

The muslin will remove any last bits of grittiness and impurities.

Pour the stock into ice-cube trays.

The ice cube trick give great flexibility for adding to soups, stews, chilis or whatever.

The ice-cube trick give great flexibility for adding to soups, stews, chillis or whatever.

I got an even 42. Into the freezer with them!

These will add punch to porky things over the coming months.

These will add punch to porky things over the coming months.

The stock cubes are a long way from 1967 crubeens. But, they are all about big pork flavour. That much they have in common.

Oh, one last thing. While I was at work the next day, the Wife made a sandwich with the meat. I never got to taste it. It’s 48 years since we were in Puck Fair that day. To date, I haven’t tasted crubeens. A treat in store….

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  • My dad was very fond of pigs’ trotters. Like you, I use them to make a stock, especially for pork pies etc. Waste not, want not.

    • Linda, I made some gravy with a couple of the little ‘bombs’ last weekend. Glorious flavours.

  • This is pretty much what we do with pork hocks all the time. I’ve not taken a blow torch to them before, though. Even if hair is not an issue, I guess that al as long as you don’t blacken the skin overly, the process probably adds an interesting new depth of flavor…

    • Thinking about it John, I was in two minds as to eating the trotter or making the stock. Still, a good blowtorch photo never did any harm….

  • Sounds like what I do with my ham bones… Makes a great jellied pork stock with a nice smoked flavour, excellent for a winter soup. Crubeens need a bit of a marketing makeover, I think, starting with the name! I can’t quite understand the attraction, the same way I don’t get chicken wings or feet. Far too much trouble for what you get out of it!

    • Hi Kate,
      Chicken wings are really only good for stock too. The feet, I never see so I don’t have to go there. I don’t fancy taking on the role of Crubeen Marketing Manager either.

  • Minerals! What were minerals doing in a food truck?

    • Lost in translation Sanjiv, for sure. The term ‘minerals’ refers to soft (non alcoholic) drinks. They are still referred to a such here. I can’t imagine them selling boxite or such like back in the day.
      Hope all goes well with you,

  • I’ve never bothered doing the stock. Now I’ll have to! My family loves trotters and hocks. I leave the bone in when serving. Half the fun is making a total, greasy, mess of yourself. 😀

  • Trotters are a much maligned and delicious part of the pig. Marco Pierre White used to bone and stuff them with foie gras and Fergus Henderson uses the gelatinous stock (Trotter Gear as he calls it) as his secret ingredient. You’ve reminded me of the fantastic trotters I had a restaurant called Brawn, where all the meat is removed and tuned into little balls before breading and deep frying. Great photo 😉

    • I knew I could depend on you for some depth of information MD. My dad also used to make brawn. I am now getting some ideas as to what I should do. Though, I suspect I’ll be the only one eating it.

      • I’ve been wanting to make brawn for a long time – I just need a saucepan big enough for a whole pig’s head.

        • I was offered a couple of pigs heads recently and said no. I regret the decision.

          • They are very good cut down he middle and cooked slowly in a roasting tray with stock. The cheeks, tongue and brain taste amazing, plus all the skin turns to crackling.

          • Stop it! I am getting very hungry now.

          • Ha ha – they are cheap too – £5 or less here 😉

    • I suspect too that Marco now rubs them with Unilever salt products and goes “Mmmmm, delicious” in that annoying way of his.

  • Don’t eat pork, but appreciate your detailed explanation of the process. Always enjoy your posts!

    • Thanks. I love to hear that I am not just amusing myself with all of this. I really appreciate the comment, particularly as you don’t eat the stuff!

      • You certainly inspired a few eggplant dishes at my house last week after your last post. Even got the little one to eat it. Thanks! Have a lovely day 🙂

  • Both my grandfathers and several other older family members (some long deceased) were fond of pickled pigs’ feet, which are still easy to come by in the grocery store. We were/still are a poor Scots/Irish/mutt family that came across Appalachia- we couldn’t afford to eat high on the hog. But then, the loin isn’t always the best cut, now is it?

    • The more I taste of pork, the more I think one is better off eating low on the hog instead. Pickled pigs feet sound pretty tasty too. Thanks for that Amber.

  • We live in a world of pig bits here. With Jenny being a vegetarian, not a lot of it gets into the house. I love trotters in breadcrumbs (pieds de porc St. Menehould). There’s a tiny restaurant at the heart of Les Halles, in nearby NIort, where they do very fine things with pigs:)

    • I am deeply envious. We have lots of restaurants where they do pretty poor things with same. The free range and organic are still very much ‘out there’ over here.

  • The next time I hesitate before posting a particularly vivid raw carcass photo (or make a politically-incorrect pun) lest I offend the squeamish, I’m simply going to ask myself WWCD? (What would Conor do?) I think we both know the answer. Great post. We love all manner of stocks and broths so I’ll be giving this a shot, although your torch looks a wee bit bigger than mine. Great photo of the food truck (Roddy Doyle!). What are “minerals”? Soft drinks? Ken

    • Thanks Ken. You are far too generous. Yes, minerals is a name we use for soft drinks. Down the country, the pronunciation would often be minerdals. Not used so much nowadays.

  • Oh my goodness, what a process and you didn’t even get to eat it! Well, you certainly have some wonderful stock cubes on hand now. Nice.

    • Yes. We had some pork belly last weekend. I used the concentrated stock, some wine, fat and flour to make a glorious gravy. Well worth every minute of prep.

  • What a superb lesson! Like any good Scandinavian gal make brawn religiously from both head and feet but have never kept any pork stock separately: shall try soonest Hmm: absolutely love chicken wings and have any number of great Asian recipes to which to say ‘yum’ [greatest gooey and messy party food in Oz!!] . . . also happen to like Marco Pierre White who, after all, has taught most of the present day famous chefs 🙂 ! Oh you should see all of our famed ones going commercial: money makes the world go round!!!!!

    • Too true Eha. Now, where’s my cut of the commercial cake?

  • Haha. One day my friend, one day you shall savour the pigs trotter. Boned, stuffed and trussed is also a damn tasty way to consume, or that shredded meat and a little stock into a pressed terrine is also cracking… you just need to hide it from the wife 🙂

    • That would be like trying to hide a truffle from a pig.

  • Love that food truck!! Brilliant !

    • I can’t see it getting a certificate of hygiene nowadays.

  • Lovely pork stock, Conor. Also great if you want to try your hand at carnitas sous-vide (pork shoulder cooked with citrus, pork stock and chiles; loaded with flavor as you can imagine). The muslim/n joke had me laughing out loud! Very educational post too, with two new words for my vocabulary (minerals and crubeens).

    • Thanks Stefan. I enjoyed it and the stock is first class, if you will pardon my boasting.

  • I come from a long line of shopkeepers, Conor, and although we sold hocks well into the 90s, crubeens were long gone. But your post reminded me of a customer who came in every single morning to buy one pound of cheap streaky bacon, a cabbage, and spuds, all of which would have been boiled beyond recognition before being served up to her long-suffering husband. Even when we did sell crubeens, there was no way any of our customers cooked it like that. Just like fish, some pigs’ bits were massacred by indifferent Irish cooking over the decades. You and others (but not Marco PiKnorr White) deserve a medal for rescuing these much-maligned ingredients.

    • Tara,
      I only did it because I got them free from Ety. Though I now need to prepare brawn. I’m thinking it will be great with plenty of herbs.

      • Is brawn the one that some dyed bright pink? Other than that it tasted fine if I remember correctly.

        • Brawn is basically pork and bacon bits with herbs in a jelly. Mmmm, jelly.

  • I love learning the “new” words of your country, Conor. ‘Tis a pity the wifey didn’t share the crubeens with you.

  • Love it Conor, I never considered this. Would make the basis of the best pork pie too I’d imagine with all that beautifully flavoured gelatinous stock. To the butchers…..

    • A pork pie would be excellent. The stock is pretty amazing, though I say so myself.

  • Love the food truck photo. Love learning a new word. And, hey, I love crubeens. I just didn’t know they were called that!

  • Dare you to do something with a pigs head. Or chicken’s feet. If I did something like that in this house….well I don’t know what would happen.

    • If I can get my hands on one, it’s Brawn!

      • It would be my B’s on a plate if I tried it.

  • Dear Conor,

    Crubeen is a new term as we call them pork trotters. I have not cooked with them but have tasted a few slow briased Chinese recipes and it’s delicious.

    • Thanks for the comment. I would imagine them delicious slow braised in Chinese style. I must try that when I get more.

  • love the blog Conor, and love reading the comments too! I love a good bit of pork – haven’t tried making the stock yet but the recipe is saved!

    • Thanks. Getting occasional comments like this is one of the things that keeps me at it. Just knowing that there are people getting a bit of amusement and, hopefully, some information gives me a real buzz.

  • I grew up in a small Midwestern town and pickled pigs feet were always sold in the grocery store and in the gas station! Always in clear jars, floating murkily about. I never knew anyone to actually buy and/or eat them, though.

  • Wow to think 50 years ago a Hamburger was thought to be “Exotic”. Its almost the go to now at food fairs or mobile food vendors.

    • Too true Billy. The world is changing. However, the crubeens could make a comeback and that would be no bad thing.
      Thanks for visiting and for commenting.

      • I would totally agree Conor, just look at the recent rise in popularity of Pull Pork. The Pig is as popular as ever and the idea of using the whole animal and cheaper cuts is very much the latest trend.

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