Charcuterie is not some new trend, rather an important culinary custom that dates back about 6,000 years and is simply based on the necessity of the preservation of meat, originally through methods like salting and smoking. It rose in popularity during the time of the Roman Empire when cuisine started to take on a sophistication, rather than just being a means to survive. Thanks to the French, it really started to take off during the Middle Ages. The French took the production of preserved meats so seriously by the 15th century that they even began regulating the local guilds of tradesmen called charcutiers. While it was the Romans who first organized and standardized the raising, slaughter, and preparation of pork, it was the ingenuity and talent of the French who elevated the butchery of pork to an art form.
A small jar of lightly chilled rillettes is an essential part of a Charcuterie board and begs to spend time (albeit a short time) with some pates, salami, cheeses, crusty French bread or crackers, cornichon pickles, whole grain mustard, fruit preserves and, as always, a good French wine.
- Stand Mixer
- Heatproof bowl and strainer
- Large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, or optional Instant Pot
- 2 lb Boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1½ cubes.
- Kosher salt
- ½ cup Vegetable oil
- 4 Bay leaf
- 1 tbsp Dried thyme
- 1 medium Yellow onion, chop into large chunks
- 4 medium Garlic cloves, cut in half
- ¼ tsp Nutmeg
- If using oven, adjust rack to lowest shelf and preheat to 275°. If not, have an Instant Pot ready. Lightly salt pork cubes and pack them in a large Dutch oven, casserole dish, or optional Instant Pot.
- Pour oil over pork and sprinkle in the thyme, onion, garlic, and bay leaf. Cover. Place in oven for 3 hours. If using an Instant Pot, select PRESSURE COOK, set to 15 minutes. Leave on natural release for 10 minute and then open valve to manually release the remaining pressure.
- When cooking is complete, remove cover and discard bay leaf, onion and garlic with tongs. Set a large strainer over heatproof bowl and carefully pour pork mixture into it. Reserve liquids.
- Transfer pork chunks to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Begin breaking down the pork on low speed and gradually increase speed until pork is finely shredded. With the mixer on fast, add reserved juices a few tbsp at a time until the mixture is creamy. Salt liberally as saltiness will diminish after chilling.
- Spoon mixture into 4 oz. (better fit for charcuterie boards) or larger sealed jars a little bit at a time. Press down to remove any air bubbles. Flatten top, wipe rims, and cover with ¼ inch of oil before securing lids on tight and placing the jars in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up-to 2 weeks before serving. Tightly sealed jars of rillette may be frozen for months and defrosted in the refrigerator overnight.