Pork Shank Confit
This recipe is featured in Pure Charcuterie - The Craft & Poetry of Curing Meats at Home by Meredith Leigh
Use this recipe to confit anything (which is the preservative process of cooking and storing bone-in joints in fat). The skin makes for great texture, and the sinewy meat of the shank lends itself well to a slow braise in fat and garlic.
Metric conversions by The Cook’s Cook
- 1 pork shank with or without trotter
- 1 pig tail
- 1 whole corm garlic, with the top .6 cm (¼ inch) sliced off to expose all the cloves
- .9-1.3 (2–3 pounds) pork fat, cut into cubes
- 15-30 ml (1–2 tablespoons) quatre épices*
- 20 grams (0.7 ounce) salt
*Quatre épices is French for “four spices.” Make your own by combining 156 ml (⅔ cup) white peppercorns, 3 whole nutmegs, 20 ml (1 heaping tablespoon) whole cloves, and 15 ml (1 tablespoon) ground ginger in a sturdy spice grinder. Store in an airtight, opaque container where you keep your spices.
1. Mix the salt and quatre épices and distribute over the leg and tail. You may choose to run a knife under the skin of the pork shank, just to loosen the skin slightly (don’t take it all the way off!). This way you can work the salt and quatre épices into the meat more thoroughly. Place in a nonreactive bag or other container labeled with the date, for 24–48 hours.
2. When the time is up, rinse the leg and tail, pat them dry and place them in a large cast-iron skillet. Place the garlic, cut-side down, into the skillet as well. Surround everything with the pork fat, as much as you can muster. Place the skillet on the stove top over low heat, and slowly melt the fat. Preheat the oven to 149°C (300°F).
3. As the leg and tail brown slightly, and the fat begins to melt (you may choose to add a tiny bit of water to keep the fat from browning as it melts), remove the skillet from the burner and place it in the oven. Leave it until the pork leg has bent at all its joints, the bones are breaking through the skin, and the meat pulls gently off of the bone. Remove from the oven, take the garlic out to use as a special spread or pizza topping, and move the leg and tail to a ceramic crock or other deep container, pouring the fat in around them. Allow the crock to sit and the fat to solidify. You will then store the Crock in the fridge, with the leg and tail sealed safely under the seasoned fat.
4. To serve, remove the tail and leg from the fat and warm in the oven. Flake off pieces to use in handpies, on pizza, in pasta, or in sauces. The seasoned fat can be saved for other applications, such as frying eggs or searing fish.