Hold the Caul Fat, We Got a Trotter!

by Mary Choi
Antoinette Bruno
August 2014


Casings are a hot topic in the charcuterie world. From bungs to bladders, the options can be daunting. Beef, hog, or sheep? Which casings should be used when? Natural or synthetic? But for Chef Cyrus Keefer of Fork & Wrench in Baltimore, Maryland, one particular substitute for the conventional casing came to mind: a boned out pig trotter. Inspired by the flavors of cotechino and the technique of zampone, both traditional Italian sausages, Keefer decided to pay homage to the Italian larder his own way. The cotechino sausage, traditional to the Modena region of Italy, is served with lentils on New Year’s Eve, and is said to bring good fortune in the coming year. It consists of various cuts of pork, fat, and skin in a ratio of 1:1:1. That mixture is stuffed and linked in natural pork casing and simmered for three or more hours. Because of the high fat content, the cotechino takes on a rich, creamy texture. Keefer takes the cotechino filling and stuffs it into the traditional “casing” for a zampone, a pig trotter, and bastes it to crispy, crunchy pork-skin perfection.

Pig Trotters, Farro, Pickled Hot and Sweet Peppers, Snow Pea Shoots, Pickled Ramps, and Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns

Pig Trotters, Farro, Pickled Hot and Sweet Peppers, Snow Pea Shoots, Pickled Ramps, and Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns

Pig Trotters, Farro, Pickled Hot and Sweet Peppers, Snow Pea Shoots, Pickled Ramps, and Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns

Pig Trotters, Farro, Pickled Hot and Sweet Peppers, Snow Pea Shoots, Pickled Ramps, and Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns

Chef Cyrus Keefer of Fork and Wrench – Baltimore, MD

Chef Cyrus Keefer of Fork and Wrench – Baltimore, MD

Fork and Wrench – Baltimore, MD

Fork and Wrench – Baltimore, MD

In Keefer’s Italian technique mash-up, the shank meat from the boned out trotter is run through a grinder twice, along with pork belly and cured pork jowl—the fatty goodness is evenly distributed throughout the farce. Further embellishing the mixture, Keefer adds star anise, fennel seeds, coriander, InstaCure, and ground comapeño chile for an intriguing, underlying kick. “The comapeño chile is so rare that even within Mexico they are virtually unfamiliar to the people outside the central highlands of Veracruz,” says Keefer. “Mr. Joao [Norona] is the sole importer of this chile and lives here in Baltimore.” The ground pork mixture gets packed into the trotter and then wrapped tightly with plastic into a cylindrical tube which is cooked sous vide at 185ºF for three hours. “I believe this to be a great way to ensure that the juices stay trapped inside the farce,” says Keefer. For pick up, the stuffed trotter gets a basting with butter and rosemary until the hue of the skin has deepened to Keefer’s liking. “I’ve seen it served very pale, and [I] prefer a bit of color; however, too much [color] turned out to give a very tough, tooth-breaking experience,” he says. Because of Keefer’s trial trotters, his guests bite into the packed and sliced hog leg without any dental anxiety. It’s served on toasted farro with an array of pickled peppers, ramps, and fiddlehead ferns. Keefer’s modern trotter mash-up is packed with fat and flavor down to the toes—and the phalanges, and metatarsals, too.

Stuffed Pork Trotter

1. Debone pork trotter and then remove shank meat from the bone.
2. Grind shank meat, pork belly, cured pork jowl, and pork shoulder through a ½-inch dye. Season with InstaCure #2, star anise, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, ground comapeño chile, and sugar. Grind a second time through a ¼-inch dye.
3. Stuff boned out trotter with ground pork mixture, and wrap in plastic wrap, shaping into an airtight cylinder.
4. Heat immersion circulator to 185ºF.
5.Cook wrapped trotter sous vide for 3 hours.
6. Remove trotter from plastic wrap and baste in sauté pan with butter over a sprig of rosemary until skin is golden brown. Season with salt and pepper.  

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