Potted meats seem to be popular at the minute as I've seen them on many menus. Over the years I've made a few of them, ranging from rillettes du porc through to hough - the Scottish dish of beef shin set in its own gelatine - and I can say hands down I've enjoyed them all. I'm a self-confessed meat addict, rarely going a meal without any (even my daily breakfast revolves around it - I need my protein) and the idea of spreadable meat - scratch that - rich, fatty, heavily seasoned spreadable meat is right in so many ways. Pair it with some toast and a pickle of some description and your well on the way to an ideal lunch.
For the blog I wanted to do something a bit different from your average rillettes, not that a plain rillettes isn't lovely (many a day on the slopes has been sustained with a baguette and tin of rillettes du porc stuffed in the rucksack) but there are hundreds of recipes on the web already. The thought of using ham came to mind as I'd seen potted ham recipes but I didn't want to mince leftover ham and set it with some butter. Not that it isn't tasty - it is so - but I wanted to set off with the sole aim of a potted product, not a dish of leftovers. By using a rillettes recipe every last bit of hammy goodness would end up in the dish, no wayward meat juices lost through boiling or roasting and no requirement for extra fat. Just start with a lump of cured pork and cook it down, stewing it its own rendered fat until all that was left was tender strands of flesh, pink from the cure and moist with lard. I guessed at this point it would want a bit of seasoning, although being cured (and so having spent a few days in salt already) it would mean that I'd only need to turn to black pepper.
For the recipe I cured my own piece of pork shoulder because it has a good proportion of fat (key for rillettes) and because the texture has the large striations you need too. This may also work with a piece of gammon as well but I think you'd need to add some extra fat. Everyone should learn how to cure though before it becomes a lost art so I'd suggest buying some cure #1 and cracking on, you can then make your own bacon and salt beef too.
Rillettes of Ham
1kg pork shoulder, about 75% lean and 25% fat
3gr cure #1
A little lard, maybe 50gr
Cube the shoulder into 3-4cm cubes, cut any pure fat into smaller cubes of about 1-2cm. Rub with the salt, sugar and cure #1 and place into a zip-lock plastic bag. Leave in the fridge for 4 or 5 days, turning every day and giving a massage to redistribute the cure.
Remove the meat from the bag and wash well then place in a saucepan and cover with water by about 3cm. Bring to the boil then turn the heat right down and simmer for about 2.5 hours. Within an hour or so the water should have evaporated leaving the meat simmering in its own rendered fat. Stir occasionally to stop it sticking.
At this point the meat should fall apart easily so season it well with black pepper then break it down with a potato masher - or a spoon if you're a glutton for punishment (it will take a while) - until it is a mass of glistening pink strands. Pack into clean ramekins - 4 to 6 probably - and cool, refrigerating till set. Melt the lard and then pour on top of each till covered. If you try and skip the cooling stage the warm rillettes will absorb all the excess lard, so don't.
When you're ready to eat take it out the fridge half an hour prior to the meal so it can soften a bit. Serve with toast or bread and something pickled. I went for piccalilli. I don't eat the lard coating, it's just there so it keeps better. I doubt it will kill you if you do though, well maybe kill you slowly through heart disease but not on the spot.