Pig Trotters in Aspic
(first posted on 8.2.2008)
I wobbled a bit, torn between going to Wroclaw this morning to see the *first normal service train hauled by an English locomotive after a 40 year break from end of steam traction on the lines of British Railways in 1968 (sic) and staying at home and letting my garlic and vitamin C therapy complete its course. Common sense prevailed and, instead of riding behind ex GWR 5521, I’m sitting at home typing this blog.
Today, there’s no new Polish rail news, so I thought that I would accede to the demand from my readers and publish a recipe for that Polish wonder food: zimne noszki. I Googled a bit – after all it’s much easier to publish a link than type up a long recipe – NOTHING! I tried Googling for the English equivalent “pigs’ trotters in aspic” and came up with one dodgy recipe that couldn’t possibly work. So here faithful readers is my recipe.
This is the way I make zimne noszki. It works for me, time after time, with the equipment that I have at home. It may not work for you. If the apparatus blows up, destroys your flat, and leaves you and your loved ones maimed or disfigured, don’t come snivelling for sympathy or compensation. Unless you are prepared to take full responsibility for what may or may not happen, do not try this at home. If you continue to read beyond this point you are deemed to be accepting the above condition and also to be indemnifying the author of this blog, his agents and worldwide affiliates against any injuries, damages or extraordinary rendition that reading this blog or attempting to make zimne noszki may have caused.
The secret of success to any complex project is adequate preparation. If you are fortunate to live in Poland you will have no difficulty in sourcing the ingredients. If you live in Ealing Broadway you should visit your butcher a few days beforehand and explain exactly what you want. You should try to synchronise your cooking and testing with a time that your significant other is out of the house, preferably out of the country, so that you will have some time to tidy up should things not go exactly to plan.
6 pig’s trotters (feet only)
4 pig’s trotters (with shank)
2 knuckles of pork
2 garlic cloves
4 large onions
4 medium carrots
1 medium parsnip
1 5 litre bottle Polish mineral water (Zywiec works)
1 loaf of Polish bread
1 crate of Polish beer (Red Warka is best)
1 bottle of Polish vodka (Zubrowka recommended)
Archive of British Steam DVD (or Polish equivalent)
gas cooker (with the price of electricity you’d be mad to try this on an electric one)
1 stainless steel cooking pot (10 – 12 inches wide, about 14 inches high)
1 stainless steel pot slightly smaller than the above
2 other heavy pots to act as weights
12 or more salad bowls
Sharp kitchen knife and Arkansas stone
wet shave razor (if you don’t use a wet razor, check out your partner’s bathroom cabinet)
heavy duty oven gloves
waterproof lab coat
Stage One – Cooking the meat
Wash the pork thoroughly under a cold running tap, paying particular attention to the difficult to get to corners between the toes. (You may need to use the sharp knife to scrape surplus hairs and goo from these areas.) Most of the hairs should already have been removed, dispose of the remainder with your wet razor till all the skin is perfectly smooth. Put the trotters and knuckle of pork in the pot. Add mineral water till the ingredients are just covered. Add 10 black peppercorns, 3 bay leaves, a sprig of rosemary, a twist of thyme and one third of a level tablespoonful of salt. Bring to the boil, cover pot and simmer for half an hour on a very small flame. Add one third of bottle of Polish beer and four peeled (but not chopped) onions. Drink the remainder of the beer. It will replace essential moisture that you will loose during the cooking process. Continue cooking the meat for another 2.5 hours over a very small flame. I clamp the lid of the cooking pot by placing an upside down pot over its lid then placing a heavy pot half filled with water on the top of that. This results in a very satisfactory escaping steam noise from the lid. (Note 1, your pot from IKEA may not stand up to this treatment. I recommend steam testing the pot under pressure in the garden using a builder’s or plumber’s gas hearth. You will wear suitable safety clothing and ensure that you are a safe distance from any explosion. Note 2, if you do blow up your garden the UK police currently have 28 days – Gordon Brown would like them to have 42 days – to help you remember why you blew up your garden.) Remove from heat, unclamp lid and allow to cool for half an hour. Warning, Stage 1 probably the most anti-social part of the whole process as during this stage the escaping steam is rather smelly.
Stage 2A – Cooking the vegetables
Peel the vegetables during Stage 1, wash leek. Remove the meat from the hot stock. You may fish out each piece individually or strain the stock through a colander. The second way is easier with an assistant. Remove all the bones and gristle from the meat. Return these to the stock add all peeled vegetables except carrots and garlic and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes add carrots and one garlic clove simmer for another 40 minutes. Fish out carrots, allow to cool then put in fridge overnight. As soon as the stock has cooled down sufficiently for it to be safe to do so drain through colander. Discard the bones and gristle, the vegetables can be discarded or used to make a Russian salad. Note, at this stage the escaping vapours are quite aromatic and should not cause any distress to your domestic pets or passing neighbours.
Stage 2B – Recovering the meat
As soon as the meat has cooled down sufficiently for it to be comfortable do so, start separating the meat from the fat. (Much of this can be done using fingers only!) With a very sharp knife (sharpen if it’s not sharp enough) scrape all the fat from the back of the skin. Dissect the almost pure gelatine sinews from the trotters. Reject all the fat and any small lumps of bone or hard gristle. The remaining meat, skin and other bits are carefully diced, removing any small pieces of bone or hard gristle that may have escaped the previous inspection and separation process. Add the meat to the stock, bring to the boil, simmer for 10 minutes. Cool the pot by putting in a basin of cold water. When the pot has cooled sufficiently put in the fridge overnight.
Stage 3 – Moulding the jelly
Crush the remaining clove of garlic and leave a smear in each salad bowl. Remove the stock from the fridge. (It should have set and be covered with a cap of white fat.) Carefully scrape off all the fat from the stock, and reject, then put the pot on small burner and heat stirring with a wooden spatula till the stock has melted. Continue to heat until the stock comes to the boil. Slice the carrot, add to the boiling stock and boil for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat source and, stirring thoroughly, use a soup ladle to fill up each of the salad bowls with a homogeneous mixture of stock, diced meat and sliced carrots. Allow the mixture to cool then put in fridge for 24 hours.
Stage 4 – Finale
Invite friends round, put on steamy DVD, pass round the beer. Serve thick slices of pigs’ trotters in aspic with thin slices of lemon or a few drops of white wine vinegar. After the pigs’ trotters and beer have gone, crack open the Zubrowka.