Rillettes (pronounced ree-yettes) are coarse-textured and deliciously old-fashioned. They make a great alternative to paté. Often made with pork, duck or goose, the savoury quality of rillettes comes from using traditionally fatty meats and a generous quantity of salt. They will keep for weeks if covered with a layer of fat.
2kg of belly pork. The best flavour comes from pork with plenty of fat.
This recipe is best started in the early evening as you’ll need to cook for at least 12 or 14 hours.
Turn the oven on. Set it to 160 degrees Celsius.
Purists will remind you to remove the skin and to bone it, but personally I think it gives it more flavour if you cook it with these rather than without them. It’s a good idea to cut grooves in the skin and, if you do, try and make sure that these grooves are parallel with the bones, and not too deep – they should go through the skin and just about touch the meat and fat underneath.
Put the pork in a big flat roasting tin. Rub some salt over both sides. Pour the remainder of the wine over the pork. The pork should be skin side up in the roasting tin. Add 3 bay leaves, a couple of sprigs of thyme, a couple of garlic cloves, and a small amount of finely crushed mace. If you have some juniper berries, throw in a half dozen too. Some grated nutmeg can be good too. Make sure that this is fairly well distributed around the dish.
Cover the roasting tin with tin foil. Make it as tight as you can as you don’t want the lovely wine to evaporate too quickly. Put the tin in the oven.
After about 2 hours, drop the oven to 120 degrees Celsius. Just before going to bed, check that there is still liquid around the pork. You might need to drop the temperature of the oven still further if you don’t think you can go all night without the pork going dry. Add water to top up if necessary. Go to bed. Have a good night’s sleep.
In the morning, you should wake up to the delicious aroma of slow cooked pork. It is a truly amazing smell. You will probably find pools of saliva beside your dog baskets. Check the pork. With a bit of luck it won’t have dried out overnight.
Check the pork for tenderness. It may need another couple of hours. Get the kilner jars ready.
Carefully remove the pork out of the tin. Hopefully it won’t fall about as you do so. Let it drain so all the juices run back into the tin.
Place the pork, skin side down on a big plate. With forks, tear the pork off the bones and skin. As you do so, you will shred it, and this is what gives rillettes their unique texture. Warm the kilner jars and pack with the shredded pork. Pour some of the juices over the pork until they are covered. As this cools, the fat will form a protective layer over the pork. Refrigerate.
Serve at room temperature with toast, cornichons and a glass of good French white wine.