Continuing with the chicharrón theme, this snack, prepared from pork belly (barriga de cerdo), is known as chicharrones tradicionales (traditional) in Spain, and they are popular in some Latin American countries, such as Colombia and Cuba. In Mexico, this type of chicharrón has been a staple in its northern states for a long time, particularly Nuevo León, and more recently, it is being embraced nationwide.
Chicharrones Norteños – Northern Style Chicharrones
1 lb (454g) pork belly (barriga de cerdo)
1 cup water
1 tsp salt, or to taste
Pork belly comes either as a large piece, or as in this case, already cut into strips, about one-inch (2.5 cm) thick, as shown:
Examine the skin to see if there are any less-than-gracious bristles still on (photo below, left); with the tip or back of a knife, scrape them off (photo below, right):
Rinse the pork belly and pat dry. Slice into chunks, approximately 1x1x2 inches (2.5×2.5×5 cm):
Place water and salt in a wide pot over high heat, mixing to dissolve. Arrange pieces of pork in a single layer (photo below, left). Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium, and cover pot (photo below, right):
Allow to cook for 30 minutes. Uncover pot, and continue cooking; as the water evaporates, the meat will finish cooking and the rendered fat will start bubbling (photo below, left). Once all the moisture is gone (15-20 minutes), the pork will start browning and crisping in its own fat. At this point, do not leave unattended; flip and move the pieces around to avoid burning, using a utensil with a long handle, being extremely careful as the remaining moisture in the pork might cause sudden spattering* (photo below, right):
* Note: Some cooks, particularly in Colombia, remove the pork from the pan at this point, and pat a little flour on the meat, to dry it out before finishing frying, just being careful not to add too much that it becomes a slur. I did not use this method, as it is not part of the Mexican style seasoning, but if the spattering becomes too extreme, another pertinent mend is to remove the pork belly pieces from the pan, pierce with a skewer to release moisture, pat dry, and then resume frying.
Continue frying and carefully flipping until the pork is crispy and golden brown all around, for about another 10-15 minutes (photo below, left). Transfer chicharrones to a colander propped on a bowl lined with paper towels; placing the towels under the colander absorbs oil without touching the meat, so the chicharrones do not become soggy (photo below, right):
A serving of these chicharrones, eaten still warm right from the plate, feels just like grabbing the crispy snacks out of a paper bag from a Mexican store:
If there are any left, a couple of chunky pieces are also delicious in a tortilla, topped with chopped onions and cilantro, salsa of choice, and a slice of avocado, with lime wedges on the side:
A platter of chicharrones norteños may also be just perfect to celebrate this Cinco de Mayo (May fifth, Battle of Puebla.) For more on the History of this day, and full menu suggestions, please click here (2020) or click here (2021).
I am sharing my post at Thursday Favourite Things #539, with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Pam @ An Artful Mom, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode. Special thanks to Bev for featuring my Lentil Soup with Vegetables (Vegan) at her party.