Love Means Never Having To Say I Won't Cook You Pickled Pig's Feet

I'll be the first to admit that this dish of escabeche de patas de puerco
con cebolla y repollo—Pickled Pig's Feet a La Mexicana With Onions and Cabbage—is not everyone's favorite. But before some of you turn away in disgust, let me just say that most of these animal parts that you don't dare touch much less eat actually taste surprising good. (Ever had sausage?) Lengua de rez (beef tongue) is my all time favorite tender meat for tacos. I will never turn down some nice crispy tripas (intestines) hot off the grill, or look down my nose at the tender bites of cow stomach in menudo. Who says that you can't make a silk purse out a sow's ear? Mexicans have done it over and over again, at least when it comes to turning an unwanted piece of meat into a fabulous feast.
But I draw the line at pig's feet. I'd just as soon eat a human foot as I would a pig's hoof. It just seems too ghoulish for my taste. Plus, the pig's patitas seem so sad and lonely, like the discarded shoes you often see on the side of the road.

My husband, on the other hand, suffers from no such sensibilities. He is more than happy to suck on the toes of a puerquito that contently spent its days wallowing in the muck and eating his weight in corn until he made that fateful little trip to the woodshed. By the blissful look on my viejo's face, you would think that he was served an exquisite delicacy of the utmost refinement on a silver platter. He looks so happy! I look so horrified! He glares in my direction and washes it all down with a cold glass of beer, and slowly pats his stomach and smiles in a way that says ha! you won't spoil my fun.

For years I have adamantly refused to have anything to do with pickled pig's feet, but lately I've had a change of heart. I suppose I was trying to impose my own tastes rather then respecting his, which is what I should have done all along. Everybody has a different palate. What is gross for one is heaven to another. Just because I don't like it, who's to say that Mexican style pickled pig's feet doesn't taste good (at least to some)? My husband says that the meat and marrow are full of delicious porky flavor, even if you have to suck on the bones. Any fattiness is counterbalanced by the acidity of the vinegar and the slight taste of chile piquin. He loves to eat it all with some fresh thin-chopped cabbage, perhaps some jalapeño chiles or hot sauce, onions and a must-have icy-cold beer.

It appears to me to be a very masculine dish, not for the faint of heart, true, but one that unflinchingly tells us, that yes, you are eating another living thing and have been doing so for a very long time. Just admit it and be done with it.

So here it is: my first attempt at pickled pig's feet, cooked just the way Doña Catalina, The Lady of The Hacienda, used to cook it for my husband and his father. It's now my turn to cook it, to watch him as he eats it with relish and surprise at my having made it for him in the first place--and featuring it on my blog no less, something I vowed I would never do. He contently pats his stomach—no reproachful smiles this time. Is this all it takes to make him one happy muchachito?

Because love means never having to say I won't cook you patas de puerco.

P. S.: Guess what my husband is eating for Super Bowl tomorrow? That's right—a pig's foot with a bottle of beer. I'll be enoying a Jane Austen movie instead.

(Note: I know that it's been a long time coming, but tamales will be the subject of my next post. I finally got some amigas to join me for a little tamalada—tamale party. See you next time!)
Mexican Style Pickle Pig's Feet

Escabeche de patas de puercoI may be totally wrong about this, but I suspect that this dish was introduced by those other organ meat and beer loving people, the German and Czech immigrants who arrived in Mexico in the 1800's, who also taught Northern Mexicans the finer points of beer making and making music on the accordion ("música norteña").

If you are brave enough to try this dish, make sure that you buy the freshest pig's feet available. The bones must be the lightest beige and the fat must be absolutely white. The meat and skin must be a delicate "porky" pink. The broth is delicious and flavorful. Just bring the water with no extra ingredients to a boil until all the nasty scum rises to the top. Toss out the water, rinse the pig's feet, add the necessary ingredients, and start all over again. Refrigerate it overnight and skim off the fat.


4 or 5 pig's feet
2 garlic cloves2 white onions, 1 cut in half
¼ head of cabbage, thin-sliced (not shown)
1 teaspoon oregano½ teaspoon ground black pepper1 tablespoon salt1 bay leaf¼ teaspoon dried thymeapple cider vinegar to taste (¼ cup to 2 cups). My husband likes his with plenty of vinegar, but you don't have to make it that way if you don't want to.dried chile piquin or chile de árbol to taste (optional)
Put the pig's feet in a large pot with plenty of water. Add the oregano, black pepper, salt, bay leaf and 1 onion, cut in half. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over medium low heat for 1 to 1 ½ hours OR until the meat and skin are tender when pierced with a fork and the meat is falling off the bones. You will be surprised how good it smells.
In the meantime, thin-slice as much onion and the cabbage as you want.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pig's feet to a large bowl. Pour the vinegar over the pork and the onion and cabbage and the chiles. (You can omit the slice cabbage for later and eat it fresh with the picg's feet if you wish.) Add a little dried oregano is you wish. Wait for the pig's feet to cool off. Transfer the pig's feet mixture to a gallon size zip lock storage bag and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Make sure you flip it every couple of hours so that the all of the pig's feet may absorb the vinegar.

Serve it to your guests with ice-cold beer and pray they will like it.


Gloria said...

I never did care for pigs feet. Poor little things. My dad loved them and so did my son. I appreciate the recipe though. You are such a hard working woman. I'm making menudo tomorrow. Not because it's Super Bowl day, but just to make it. Have a great Sunday and thx for sharing.

Clementina said...

You have a great Sunday, too. A menudo on a Sunday is a wonderful thing, especially if it is cold outside. Is yours red or white?

Anonymous said...

I can eat pickled pig feet, I liked the flavor. But I'm afraid I don't eat it like a true lover of pig feet. My mom says I leave all the best bits on the bone. I guess it's a bit too fatty for me. But I love pickled cueritos on a tostada, yum, yum.

Clementina said...

Hola Marbella!
Pickled cueritos?? Sounds very intriguing. Would you mind sharing la receta? I would love to try it.

Anonymous said...

Very intriguing - I would definitely love to try this!

Clementina said...

Hola, 5 Star Foodie!
Trust me, it's either love or hate for this dish. but you never know, you just might like it!

virginia said...

i think i will pass, but i'll be back for tamales.

something related, as in you are what you eat (in LA):

she went to art school with my son.

Clementina said...

Hola, Virgina!
How nice to get a little message from you! I love your art and I love everything about your blog--cerebal, understated and heartfelt all at the same time.
And by the way, thanks for telling me about She Rides The Lion. I'm very familiar with that part of Los Angeles. It's great to see art taking place there.

kobico said...

I don't know about pickled pig's feet being a man's dish. The only one in my family who ate them was my mother!

Clementina said...

Hola, Kobico!
It's funny, but I do believe you are right.
When I served this to my friends on Super Bowl Sunday, it was my girly-girl but "tough" football-loving friends who ate them.

Sister-n-law Power! said...

My Dear Sister-n-law,
I have always known you were talented. I must say however, I had no idea of the depth of your creativity and passion for everything you do. After reading your blog, I became enchanted by your beautiful writings and wonderful memories of our family. Reading your stories is like looking at one of your beautiful paintings and imagining yourself there at that moment in time. You bring everything to life with such perfection. I love all your recipes and Aubweeeey and I are excited to try them! As we were driving away from our visit with you and la familia, Aubweeeey said, "Mom when I grow up I want to be just like my Auntie Clementina!" I could think of no better person or sister to be a mentor or role model for my little chica! Lots of love, M

Clementina said...

To My Bellissima Sister-In-Law M,
I am truly humbled by your kindness. Thank you so much for being a part of my family. The best thing my bro-in-law and your hubby ever did was to marry you. He is one fortunate dog.

I'll teach how to cook Mexican food and you can teach me how to cook Italian--deal?

sara said...

Oh wow, I thought I was the only one who thought piggie patitas looked like lonely abandoned shoes...

I can't groove with patitas, but can definitely appreciate a recipe for preparing them.

Christy said...

I stumbled upon your blog about the pigs feet....LOL. Loved every minute of it. I'm originally from Irish/German/Polish/Spanish family have eaten Pickled Pigs Feet, Head Cheese, Blood Sausage etc...forever, and Boiled Dinner with Pork Hocks-Cabbage-Potatoes-Carrots. I enjoy Boiled Dinner...but never have I been able to let Pickled Pigs Feet or the rest of that undesirable stuff pass through my lips.

Clementina said...

Hola, Christy!
I'm glad you enjoyed reading this post. People can turn their noses if they want to, but a lot of those dishes featuring unwanted body parts can taste awfully good, but that is not the only reason why I eat most of these unwanted body parts.

I just feel that it is ultimately respectful of the animal you just ate to consume all of it instead of eating only what you want and letting the rest go to waste.

Thanks for visiting and for letting me pontificate!

ProudTejana said...

Just found your blog! Looks fabulous - my husband likes his pig feet in the menudo. I can do without thank you very much. My kids do like the cueritos though....

Clementina said...

Hola. Proud Tejana!
My mam always put patas de rez en her menudo, but although I don't eat it, it certainly adds a lot of flavor.
Mucho gusto--come again!
PS: Did you see the PBS program "Faces of America"? "Texican" Eva Longoria learns about her Tejano geneology. It was just fascinating.

Anonymous said...

I will be anxiously awaiting the tamale recipes. I need a little variety in my tamale making (after 22 years of chicken, pork & beef-I know there is more.)
Candee in Oceanside

Gera @ SweetsFoodsBlog said...

Never tried escabeche de patas de puerco looks interesting.

Beef tongue in my country is very popular as you said, it is all in the mind ;)



Clementina said...

Hola, Gera
Youare quite correct. It is all in the mind, or in this case, all in the feet!

Anonymous said...

All I have to say, as I sit eating some delicious stewed pig feet (pig feet, ham hock, parsley, thyme, garlic, onion, roast peppers, chili flakes, chicken broth, cognac, white wine, spanish dry chorizo, paprika, salt, and whole peppercorns, throw everything in a pot and stew for 2-3 hours until feet are super tender, skim fat,enjoy!)that you guys do not know what you are missing. The intense porky and full bodied flavor of the broth, together with the unctuous and gelatinous texture of the feet, make this an extra special delicacy. I had to make a second batch within one week thanks to my family eating it all and my friends being left out of the promised feast.

Clementina said...

I would love to make this for my husband-especially when you mentioned the cognac and the Spanish chorizo. Dios mio de mi vida, it sounds bien delicioso!
Woudl you care to share the proportions of this delicious recipe?