Pig trotter, which is the foot, is awesome! Not only is this something found in classical cooking, but we get some good nutrition out of it! Through the braising process (this is just the cooking method I used below) the connective tissue is softened so much that it falls apart. That connective tissue as well as a little bit of muscle, is what you eat. Collagen makes up connective tissue like tendons and ligaments, all of which you are able to eat out of the preparation of this ingredient. Collagen has been used to help joint health, and is widely used in the world of athletics. Gelatin is another substance found in the tissue of animals where it is in very high concentration in pigs. Gelatin is one of the most easily digested forms of protein we can obtain. Most people know the job of protein in the human body for growth and repair, but what most don’t know is that gelatin provides protection for your gut. Gelatin will actually help to line your gut giving you protection against sickness, and has been used in treatment for diseases such as Crohn’s and Colitis.
I know it doesn’t sound very appetizing to eat tendons, fat, and gelatin. However, this is what has been lost with nutrition and food. A good preparation is key to making this type of thing palatable! People will get grossed out at anything other than a burger, pork chop, or chicken breast and this is very sad. Some of the best tasting foods and optimal sources of nutrition are the ones that are a little bit more labor intensive and a lot cheaper! This is one of my reasons for creating this blog! You have got to get out of the box!
We start with the pig’s feet (trotter) to the left, which I bought from Whole Foods. If you have not taken the time to cure them which I would have, if I had the time… boil them for five minutes in salted water as shown below.
As your pig trotters boil away, roughly chop your mirepoix (standard vegetable mixture for soups, sauces and stews/ braises) of approximately two large white onions, five to eight stalks of celery, and five carrots. Then mince your six cloves of fresh garlic. You can add to this, herbs of your choice. I like to use rosemary, bay leaf and sage as my aromatics for a lot of soups and stews…
In a separate pot with the flame high, saute your mirepoix in clarified butter, avocado oil or animal fat, holding off on the garlic and herbs until last so they don’t burn. I used a mixture of chicken fat and clarified butter that I keep on reserve… Once the vegetables start to release their moisture (sweat) and become rather soft, add your garlic, herbs and tomato product. Stir this mixture together and finally add a bit of nutmeg and then your braising liquid. You can use vegetable stock or any kind of bone broth. I used chicken stock which I had made earlier in the week from leftover chicken bones.
Now, add your pig trotters and bring up to a simmer. Cover your pot with aluminum foil once everything has been added. Let this cook until the trotters essentially are fork tender or they start to fall apart. I left mine cooking at a gentle simmer for about eight hours on med-low heat.
Once they are cooked, carefully remove them from the broth and pick out all the bone and hard tissue. What you will be left with is tendon, ligament, gelatin, some fat and some meat. This is what we want! This is what is good for us. If you don’t believe this, do your own research on the health benefits of collagen and gelatin and see what you come up with!
If you have decent knife skills or a food processor, finely chop your picked meat from the pig trotters and reserve. From this point, there are many different preparations and recipes you can do, from a rillette, to soup, to a terrine. I chose to add this meat back into my broth and make soup because why throw away that nutrient dense broth. From here, you can season however you like to your particular taste.
So what again, does this give us from a nutrition standpoint?
-A great source of gelatin to aid in a healthy gut.
-Some of the most easily digestible protein.
-Lots of collagen for joint health.
-A healthy source of saturated animal fat from properly raised pigs. (Yes the saturated fat is good for us!)
4 pig trotters
2 Lg white onions
tomato product (tomatoes, tomato paste, crushed tomato, etc.)
rosemary, bay leaf, sage, nutmeg, salt and pepper
2 qts. bone broth/ vegetable stock/ chicken stock