Give me some skin!

Homemade pork rinds are so good, we can’t even call them pork rinds. To me, pork rinds are the stale, oversalted  bottom-shelfing puffs at the Stop'n Go.

But whatever we make here at home, this is some next-level snacking and they need a more appealing name.

Something with jazz hands.

Luckily, there are an endless regional variations. Mexicans call them chicharrones. They don’t use sparkle fingers when describing them, I don't think, but unless you are of hispanic descent, you are not hogtied by this cultural limitation. Here’s how to make yours:

 Beauty is skin deep.

Beauty is skin deep.


Chicharrones

 
 
 
 Give them the hose.

Give them the hose.

1.) Thaw and unroll the skins you saved at your Teter-hosted whole hog butchery class. As long as you have enough oven rack and fridge real estate to for drying and cooling, the amount of skin you have does not matter. The process is always the same, and you’ll eat as many as you make, I promise.

2.) Drag out your largest stock pan. Don’t have a stock pan? It’s time to buy one. You’re an adult now. You should be simmering things. Cover the skins with water and weigh them down with a plate to ensure they stay completely submerged.

3.) Boil them until they are pliable and the water turns white, about 1.5-2 hours.


 Sittin' pretty, ready for the fridge.

Sittin' pretty, ready for the fridge.

4.) Grab yourself some oven or cooling racks. Getting these slippery slabs onto the racks takes some finesse and creative use of kitchen tools. I drain as much of the water as I can and then sort of guide them onto the racks with prayers and an old hand-grater.

5.) Cool the racks in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Don't worry about covering them.


 Things get weird right about ... NOW

Things get weird right about ... NOW

6.) Time to scrape all the fat off with a spoon. To me, everything worth doing on this Earth has at least one, “Why am I doing this?” moment. This is your moment. But after a few rounds of practice, you may actually find something very therapeutic about digging that spoon into the fat and scraping it all off. Your inner OCD will tell you to spend vast amounts of time on this, removing every speck of white. Get most of it off. Microbeads of fat left on the edges will not ruin your chicharrones.

7.) Return the skins to the racks and put your oven on its lowest setting to dry them overnight. Ours cranks down to 170 degrees. Be sure to put down something to catch any fat as it melts off. Otherwise, you will have a very smoky oven for a few days. Ask me how I know.

8.) Once your skins are nice and dry, crack them into one inch pieces. If they are pliable AT ALL, they aren’t dry enough yet. They need to snap before they crackle and pop.


 The moment of truth.

The moment of truth.

9.) In a sturdy pot, heat an inch or two of lard to around 360-375 degrees. This is about the smoking point of our lard. When things start smoking, that’s your lard telling you to turn the heat down before you ruin all your hard work. Put a test piece or two in the hot oil, and watch as the dry, brittle piece of skin transforms into an unforgettable snack in about 15 seconds. You want to make sure all the dark brown skin bubbles and expands. You can hold them under the oil if needed. Make a video and post it on YouTube. Or don't. No skin off my ... nevermind.

10.) Season to taste. That is, assuming you can prevent your family from eating them as fast as they come out of the pan. We like chicharrones simply with salt and a splash of lime juice, but a hint of ancho chile powder really puts these things over the top. The seasoning possibilities are endless. I’ve heard sweet works just as well as savory (think cinnamon + sugar). I want to try it with some Chinese-Five spice, but they keep disappearing before I can do that.

 

Next Up: Roasted pork stock