Not Always So Divine Swine

While not everyone wants to eat every part of the pig, there are those in the South who appreciate the pig from the rooter to the, well, you know. And the three most popular pig parts to hit the plates are chitterlings, feet, and skin.

Simply put, chitterlings (or chitlins) are the small intestines of freshly slaughtered pigs. (OK, now try not to think about that sentence as you continue to read.) Chitlins have been a Southern soul food tradition that traces back to the times of slavery, when slave owners gave their slaves scraps of animal meat they deemed unacceptable for themselves. These days, though, people actually eat them by choice. (Yeah, we were surprised, too, until we remembered that in the South we'll eat anything as long as it's fried.) The key to good and safe chitlins is in the cleaning: the labor-intensive process requires turning the intestines inside out to remove all, um, fecal matter and bacteria and can take hours. Once cleaned, they must be simmered for two to three hours until tender and can then be broiled, barbecued, or fried. And it should come as no surprise that they're loaded with fat: about twenty-four grams per three-ounce serving.

Pig's feet, also called trotters by the Brits, are the feet and ankles of pigs. They're typically bony and skinny, but the meat is very flavorful—or so some say. There are several ways to cook pig's feet, including boiling, barbecuing, smoking, and even braising, but the most common method is pickling.

Pork rinds (or pork cracklings) are bits and pieces of cured pork skin that are deep fried and generally eaten as a snack food. True pork rinds and cracklings were once sold by local butchers and were very different in taste and texture from the light and airy mass-produced version that we know today. Like several other parts of the pig, pork rinds are high in fat and sodium, although they contain no carbohydrates, making them a popular snack food in low-carb diets.

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