The cover of "Pickles, Pigs, & Whiskey" by John Currence
By Chef John Currence
Pickled Pig's Ears
My college roommate and all around swell guy, Coyt Bailey, drug me, blisteringly hungover to a place called the Big Apple Inn (or Red's, depending on who you talk to) on Farrish Street in Jackson, Mississippi on a painfully warm Thanksgiving in 1985.
On the menu were hot dogs, tamales, and "pig ears." The pig ear, it turns out, was actually a little sandwich on a Crystal-sized bun of pressure-boiled pig ear and a vinegar/hot sauce slaw. THEY WERE AMAZING. Even in my hungover state, they registered as remarkable.
They have been there making those sandwiches since 1939 and are just as good today as they were when I had them the first time almost 30 years ago. They lit a fire for me early in my cooking career, but I have found that going heavier on the vinegar and making more of a pickle makes a better product. These are amazing sliced thin, lightly battered and fried.
Makes enough for about 12 small sandwiches
2 1/3 cups apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 ½ teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons light brown sugar
2 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
¾ cup thinly sliced yellow onion
2 teaspoon mustard seed
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 to 1 ½ pounds fresh pigs ears, 2 to 2 ½ ounces each
Combine the vinegar, 3 ½ cups water, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, salt, brown sugar, cloves, bay leaf, garlic, onion, mustard seed, lemon zest and juice, and the tomato paste in a pressure cooker and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pig ears and lock the lid onto the pot. Bring the pressure cooker back to the boil over high heat. When it reaches high pressure, regulate the heat to keep the pressure steady for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the pressure to fall naturally, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove the lid; it will release easily once the pressure has fallen to normal.
Remove the pig ears and slice into ¼ to ½ inch thick strips and pack them into quart-size glass jars. Pour the pickling liquid over the ears, submerging them completely, and filling the jars to just below the necks. Let cool to room temperature and screw the lids onto the jars. Refrigerate until cold. Store chilled for 2 weeks, or up to 1 month.
Crispy Pig Ear "Frites" with Comeback Sauce
My good friend and culinary superhero, Sean Brock, made some fried pig ears with some of the best BBQ sauce I have ever tasted and served these in a lettuce wrap for a Southern Foodways Alliance event we both worked in New York City several years ago. We have all played with ears for years, but the cut struck me as perfect to do a knock off on French fries. Here we simply take our pickled pigs ears and slice them thin, dust very lightly with flour and give them a quick fry to crisp them up.
4 whole Pickled Pig Ears, sliced into thin strips
3 cups Seasoned Flour
6 cups lard
Comeback Sauce (recipe follows)
Heat the lard in a medium Dutch oven to 375ºF. Dust the pig ears slices in the flour, knocking off any excess. Drop these carefully into the fryer and fry until the edges begin to crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on a plate lined with paper towel. Serve immediately with the Tabasco Aioli.
Makes about 2 cups
2 cups Homemade "Duke's" Mayonnaise
4 teaspoons finely minced garlic
3 tablespoons finely minced yellow onion
4 tablespoons ketchup
½ cup chili sauce
4 teaspoons pure olive oil
2 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons mustard powder
2 ½ teaspoons Crystal Hot Sauce
½ teaspoons salt.
Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor. Blend well. Store chilled in glass or plastic covered containers. The aioli will keep for about 7 to 10 days refrigerated.