I’ve been making Souse.
Right? Got that? Know what I’m talkin’ bout?
You might be confused. You might stay that way. Let me unravel a bit.
Here's souse as defined by the Wikipedia geniuses:
“1. to plunge (something or oneself) into water...or other liquid.
2. to drench or to be drenched.
3. to pour liquid over a person or a thing.
4. to steep or cook food in a marinade.
5. to make drunk.
6. Head Cheese or ‘brawn’. A cold-cut that originated in Europe. A version pickled with vinegar is known as souse."
There are many variations of Souse! Cold ones. Hot ones. You’ll see.
I cooked with a guy named Ronnie Truax back in Key West in 1977. He was a burly, long-haired Harley-Davidson riding man with no fear and a lot of dash. If I were casting him in a movie I’d say Daniel Day-Lewis in his ‘Gangs of New York’ mode. He was loud and had more chops than I did behind a stove at that point in life. And he was smart and passed up the head chef position I grabbed in that he knew he’d make a little less money but he’d have a lot more free time. He used it going to parts of Key West back in that time that many hadn’t quite the nerve to.
He came back with ‘Souse’ one day and enlightened me to its savage yet seductive charms!
Many souse recipes read like this:
“Clean a pig head and split it open. Place head, feet and hocks in a large heavy kettle and cover with water. Add salt and pepper. Bring to boil and cook until tender. Remove meat from liquid, cool, strip from bones and chop. Add spices and liquid and boil until liquid is reduced by a half.”
That is not something we’d expect to learn on Giada de Laurentiis’ Food Network show.
To make mine, I went in several directions but never strayed too far from animal parts more familiar to the folks in, say, the Ozark's, more than Worth Avenue, Palm Beach.
I start with pig’s feet, smoked pork hocks and pig’s tails and cook them in a mix of chilies, onions, spices and water with a good dose of white vinegar. (The pig’s ears were missing on shopping day so I suffered their loss.)
In another vessel I prepare honeycomb tripe (also known as cow’s stomach lining), which is slowly cooked and made tender with a mirepoix vegetables, tomatoes, chilies and good chicken stock.
I’d make a meal with just that part and be happy but that ain’t Souse, folks. So on we go!
Bowing briefly to the less adventurous — throwing a bone, if you will — I put one more pot on the fire and cook always popular chicken wings in lime juice, (not much lime though, enough) with Yukon gold potatoes (so sweet!), serrano chilies (for a nice consistent chile buzz), bell peppers, carrots and a red onion. I use the water that I cooked the pig’s tail, feet and hock, which I now call my “Pig Bone Broth.” Why not? It sure didn’t stay "water" after rolling with that pig for three hours.
Everything is now joined together in one large pot and allowed to marry. Slowly, slowly.
I serve it with finely chopped chilies and onions, torn cilantro and a wedge of lime.
If that kind of Souse is too meaty I have another recipe written by a lady from Texas for
“Cheese Dessert on Soused Camembert with Almonds.”
You see? Souse. It is beyond definition.
RECIPE FOR SOUSE
2 pigs feet, split
1 pound pigs tails
1 smoked pork hock
2 onions, peeled and diced medium
2 serrano chilies, stemmed and chopped small (seeds discarded if desired)
2 Tablespoons kosher salt
1 Tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon pickling spice
1 Cup distilled white vinegar
3 Quarts cold water
Rinse the pigs feet and tails in several changes of water.
Now place all of the above in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Cook for 2 or more hours and the pig meat is tender. Strain reserving the liquid for later.
When the meat is cool enough to handle shred and reserve it. There will be more skin, bones and cartilage than meat but the broth will have great flavor so don’t despair!
Take that part and top it with water by double and reduce it by half. Save that for balancing out the souse at the very end. This is the Pig Bone Broth.
For the Tripe:
1 1/2 pounds of honeycomb tripe, rinsed well
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ Tablespoon white vinegar
1 bay leaf, broken
1 serrano chile, stemmed and chopped small
2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 small or ½ onion, peeled and diced medium
2 stalks celery, washed and chopped medium
1 carrot, peeled and chopped medium
5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped roughly
2 quarts Chicken Stock (or water)
Cut the tripe into 1 x 1 inch pieces trimming out any odd parts if necessary.
Place the tripe in a pot with enough cold water to cover. Add in the salt and vinegar and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. Drain and rinse the tripe well. Throw out that water. Clean the pan.
Return the tripe to the pan with Chicken Stock (or water).
Now add in the bay leaf, serrano chile, tomatoes, onion, celery and garlic.
Bring to a high simmer and maintain it skimming as necessary until just tender, (about 2 hours).
Allow the tripe to cool in this liquid.
To finish the Souse:
1 1/2 pounds of chicken wings, separated
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 yukon gold potatoes, washed and diced large
3 Tablespoons blended oil
1 serrano chile, stemmed and seeded, diced
1 small red onion, peeled and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced medium
5 Cups of the reserved Pig Bone Broth
salt and black pepper to taste
Toss the chicken wings with 3 tablespoons lime juice and the kosher salt and cayenne pepper. Set aside to marinate at room temperature for 1 hour.
Meanwhile cook the potatoes in salted water until not quite cooked through. (About 15 minutes). Strain and reserve.
Now heat the oil in a large flat pot over medium heat.
Brown the marinated wings on all sides. Remove from the pot and reserve.
Working in the same pan as the wings were in add the serrano chile, red onion, bell pepper and carrots; cook and stir until the onion has softened and begun to brown, about 10 minutes.
Now add the browned chicken wings to that pan.
Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and continue simmering until the chicken is cooked, (about 30 minutes)
Add in the cooked tripe mixture, the blanched potatoes....and the 3/4 Cup lime juice.
Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.
Serve with a side of lime wedges and finely chopped onion and serrano chilies.