Pork rinds around the world
Pork rinds, also known as pork scratchings or pork cracklings are the skin of a pig. Pork rinds can be found all around the world. They can be fried or roasted in pork fat as a snack. For the large-scale production of commercial pork rinds, frozen, dried pork skin pellets are used. They are first rehydrated in water with added flavoring, and then fried in pork fat at 200–210 °C (392–410 °F). Cooking makes the rinds expand and float on the oil surface. The rinds are then removed from the fat, flavored, and air-dried.
Serbian style pork rinds
In Serbia pork rinds are known as “Čvarci” (singular Čvarak) (Serbian Cyrillic: Чварци / Чварак) and are considered a specialty. They are a kind of pork ‘crisps’ with fat thermally extracted from the lard.
Čvarci are mostly a rustic countryside specialty, typically made in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and continental Croatia, although they can also be found in other countries of Southeastern Europe. They are usually homemade and can be bought on farmer markets or in supermarkets.
Preparation of čvarci involves melting the lard. Lard is cut in blocks of about one inch (2 to 3 cm) in size and slowly fried in their own fat. Milk may be added at this point in order to obtain caramel color. The more milk, the darker the color. The process lasts until all fat melts away and only a kind of tough crispy pork rind remains. Onion or garlic may be added as a spice and salt is always used as a condiment. Pieces of the skin may or may not be attached. In most common varieties of čvarci, some percentage of pork fat remains.
A special variety of čvarci, known as Duvan Čvarci are produced in the Šumadija region of central Serbia and especially around the town of Užice. In the case of duvan čvarci, the process of slow fat frying/cooking is prolonged until completely all fat is extracted. The remainder is a mass of delicate fibers, which resembles finely chopped tobacco, thus giving the name to the variety: ‘Duvan’ is a Serbian word for tobacco. A similar process is used in Croatia, where čvarci are pressed in a potato press to achieve better fat extraction. for ‘Duvan čvarci’ had been registered and protected in the Serbian intellectual property office.
As with most traditional pork products, čvarci are considered to be winter food. The traditional time for pork processing in the Balkans is late autumn, and they are consumed throughout the winter. Čvarci can be enjoyed on their own as a snack, combined with heated fruit brandy common to the same region, called rakija, or they can be used as an ingredient in other food recipes. They are most often eaten with bread feta cheese and onions. If consumed as a snack, they are combined with rakija or beer.
Where are pork rinds produced?
Mexico is one of the world’s largest producers and consumers of pork rinds, known as chicharrón, and are commonly served in homes across Mexico. In Colombia, the term for pork rinds is Chicharrones.
Pork rinds, or sometimes cracklings, is the American name for fried or roasted skins of pigs, geese or other animals, regardless of the status or amount of pork in the snack. Pieces of fried meat, skin, or membrane produced as a byproduct of rendering lard are also called cracklings.
Crispy pork rinds are known in Thai cuisine as Khaep mu and are a specialty of the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai. One way of making khaep mu is to first cure the pork skin with an attached layer of fat in salt for several days, after which it is soaked in water for a couple of hours. This ensures that the fat cells will expand, resulting in a “puffed skin” after cooking. The slabs of belly fat are then slowly cooked at a low heat in, preferably, lard but other animal fat and vegetable oil can also be used. Similar to a confit, the pork thus treated can be stored. The pork is then cut into smaller pieces and baked in an oven until perfectly crispy.
In the Netherlands and Belgium, pork rinds are known as knabbelspek, or “nibbling bacon”. They are usually sold with no flavorings other than salt at most butchers and supermarkets. They are usually eaten as a snack food.
In Austria and Southern Germany, they are known as Grammeln or Grieben, in other German-speaking regions as Schweinekrusten “pig crusts”. In Romania, they are known as jumări. In Poland, similarly like in the Czech Republic, they are known as “skwarki” and are a common ingredient of lard. They are typically consumed with pickles, lard, and bread and are quite common during traditional celebrations where they serve as a popular snack for vodka. They are rarely consumed as a snack on its own. They are also often added to pierogi and kluski together with melted lard as a kind of topping.
Pork scratchings is the British name for deep-fried, salted, crunchy pork rind with fat produced separately from the meat, and then eaten cold. Pork scratchings are typically heavy and hard, have a crispy layer of fat under the skin, and are flavored only with salt. The pig hair is usually removed by quickly burning the skin of the pig before it is cut into pieces and cooked in hot fat. In comparison, Crackling is distinguished from normal pork rind in the United Kingdom by the fact that it is cut from a freshly roasted joint of pork (Usually a Pork loin or Pork chops) after the meat has finished cooking and is usually served warm or hot, before the fat on the underside of the roasted skin can finish cooling down and re-solidifying.
Note that Serbians style pork rinds are completely different from the ones you can buy in supermarkets here in Canada or US. If you ever have a chance to try Čvarci, please do and trust me, you won’t regret it! We don’t call them golden nuggets for no reason! 🙂 If you would like to try and make them at home, please follow this recipe.