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Rillettes is a type of pâté traditionally made from pork but can also be made from duck. Pâté is meat ground or shredded and processed with its own fat in order to make it smooth and spreadable. A traditional food, rillettes are called "pig jam" or confiture de cochon by the French. They may be made in a slow cooker or on the stove top.
The main ingredients in rillettes are meat and fat, usually pork. Many recipes suggest using rendered lard since most at-home cooks do not wish to render their own. Both spare ribs and shoulder meat are used. Pork butt may be used as well.
Truly authentic rillettes will be made with fresh, not already rendered, fat. The fat, or lard, is first cut into small pieces — keeping the lard cold makes for easier cutting. Then, the lard is put into a pot and boiled, which melts, or renders, the fat.
The rib meat is cut into large pieces, and the shoulder meat into medium sized chunks. Both rib and shoulder meat are placed on top of the fat and covered in water. After simmering for a few hours, the ribs are removed and de-boned. The meat is then returned to the pot and much of the liquid is boiled off, leaving the meat to poach in just its fat. During this process, the meat becomes extremely tender and begins to shred when touched.
Afterward, the meat is mixed with the fat and is placed into covered containers for chilling or storage in a refrigerator. A layer of fat should be placed on top of the rillettes in each jar. Rillettes can usually keep up to a week, but may keep for as long as a month in tightly sealed jars.
Duck rillettes are usually made with duck confit and often mixed with herbs. A confit is similar to a pâté in that it is cooked in its own fat, but confit uses a whole cut of meat rather than ground meat. Duck confit is usually made with duck legs. After the confit is cooked, it is allowed to cool. Then the leg meat is removed from the bone and shredded before its again mixed with some of the fat.
Rillettes may be thick and course or may be smooth depending on how the meat and fat are blended together. Spices such as garlic, salt, ginger, or thyme may be added to give extra flavor. Usually, rillettes are served on a baguette or similar type of bread and topped with pickled shallots, apricots, or pickles in order to balance the rich taste of the meat.
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