One of the more popular Southern delicacies is chitlins (pig intestines or chitterlings). Annually, the dish finds its way onto a holiday dinner table in most homes.
Often, it will share space next to collard greens, fried chicken and cornbread on a New Year’s Eve spread.
Home chefs love how the taste of chitlins complements the menu’s main entree. Some individuals believe chitlins are the perfect addition to a large cup of soup or served alone with a rich sauce.
However, chitlins are not for everyone. Some will describe the taste as trying to chew through boiled rubber. Others will tell you the taste of chitlins cannot be matched by another dish in the world.
The popularity of chitlins remains strong with those who grew up in the American South. Often, it will define a person’s level of seasoning they prefer in their meals.
However, the preparation and cooking process is quite extensive. Pig intestines (note that chitlins are usually the small intestine whereas the large intestines goes with the pork bung) must be properly cleaned for consumption by family members.
And you will need a solid plan to eliminate the strong scent of chitlins inside the home while boiling them in a pot, frying them in a skillet or slow-cooking them inside a crockpot.
Thus, chitlins are only served on holidays or special occasions.
Here is how to cook chitlins in a crackpot.
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Cleaning Chitlins is Important
Chitlins must be spotless without a mark before being consumed at the dinner table. Some grocery stores will sell chitlins in a container that reads “partially cleaned,” but you should go through the cleaning process nevertheless.
Check the butcher’s department if you are looking to purchase fresh chitlin. And pig intestines are readily available in the frozen section of the store as well.
Since pig intestines (and stomach) carry some degree of bacteria. The cleaning process should be thorough and precise in removing all of the dirt and waste off the intestines. Do not overlook this step as its importance is vital in preventing the threat of spreading a bacterial disease.
It is wise to use your hands in the cleaning process. First, soak the chitlins in a bowl of water with table salt for at least 30 minutes before beginning the cleaning process.
The length of time in the water will allow the chitlins to separate from the fat. Take the excess fat off the chitlins inside the water. But keep a small amount on them before moving to the next task in the cleaning process.
Remember, chitlins get mushy because there is no membrane or fat left to hold them firm. Often, they will come off in the cleaning process. It is best to keep some of the membrane or fat on while cleaning the chitlins before cooking them.
Chitlins are very slippery when you are trying to clean them. You will have to inspect each chitlin for any remaining waste and inedible materials before moving forward.
It might be wiser to repeat the cleaning process several times before moving on to the next step. Choosing this route will guarantee the chitlins are clean and ready to be cooked.
Sliced Oranges and Lemons Useful in the Cleaning Process
Health-conscious chefs are using sliced oranges or lemons as a disinfectant to remove all bacteria from chitlins.
Plus, both fruits will absorb the smell from the pig intestines as well. Bring the mix to a full boil before removing the water. If not, the chitlins will have a tough exterior surface after cooking them in the crockpot.
Immediately, wash your hands after handling raw chitlins before beginning the cooking process. Also, sanitize the kitchen surface top with a tablespoon of bleach and a gallon of water mixed together. Wipe the entire surface that came into contact with the raw chitlins.
Tips For Getting Rid of Chitlins Smell
Many home cooks refrain from using chitlins because they cannot deal with the smell while preparing a meal. The odor originates from the waste found on the pig’s intestines.
It is a safe assumption that there are several options to remove the smell of chitlins from the kitchen. With the goal of having the kitchen smell better the longer you cook the meal.
An aged-old family tradition of removing the smell of chitlins from the kitchen is using a combination of onions and potatoes in the mix. You will need to peel and cut two or three potatoes in half as this will help to soak up most of the odor.
No question, onions and potatoes are excellent resources to limit the smell, but other cooks will add apple cider vinegar to a pot of boiling chitlins on the stovetop. Using a colander, drain all of the ingredients from the pot.
Replace the items and repeat the step to remove the chitlins’ smell from the kitchen. It may take a third time before eliminating the odor.
Fresh Cilantro and Garlic Will Dilute Chitlins’ Smell
To eliminate the smell of chitlins, some home cooks cut cilantro and place it inside a cheesecloth before adding the item to the crockpot. It is best to buy fresh cilantro on the day you are planning to prepare the dish.
Discard the cheesecloth after you have drained the pot. The entire process may take a half-hour before the smell is absorbed. Add the chopped onions to the mix and let them boil for 10 minutes.
Others will add cloves of garlic to the crockpot. Relax, your taste buds will not be overwhelmed with the taste of garlic after you take your first spoonful of chitlins from the pot.
Afterward, you can place vegetables in the boiling mix to temper the smell of the garlic.
Cooking Chitlins is a Thorough Process
Remember to re-clean the prep area, colander and sink before beginning the cooking process.
Cut the chitlins into small ( 1/2 to an inch long) pieces before placing them into the crockpot.
Next, you can pour water about an inch high over the chitlins. Add seasonings, chopped onions, sliced green peppers and garlic on top of the chitlins.
Stir all of the ingredients before securing the crockpot’s lid in place. Set the heat setting to high for ten minutes before changing the setting to medium for approximately four hours or until the dish is fully cooked.
The Crockpot is a Trusted Ally
Let the ingredients continue to simmer without lifting the lid too much. The crockpot will lose heat with the constant interruptions that disturb the setting.
Timing is crucial in the entire cooking process. Proceed with caution, but avoid drying out your chitlins at all costs.
The length of cooking time is dependent upon how tender you like your chitlins served. Keep in mind the heating settings on a crockpot do vary in length.
Cooking at a high setting requires little time, while cooking at a low setting requires 6-10 hours before a meal is ready to be served.
Chitlins are best served tender, but some individuals like them fried with wrinkle streaks much like cooked bacon.
But do not brown or saute the chitlins before placing them into the crockpot. You will lose the flavor of the meat.
Thus, it is best to optimize the cooking time to your liking. At the very least, a crockpot should reach a cooking temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit in four hours or less. If so, your entree is deemed to be safe to eat.
However, that time frame changes if ingredients are added to the mix. Take all of this information into consideration when determining the overall cooking time for chitlins mixed with vegetables and other ingredients.
If you have any cooking issues with the crockpot, you can continue the process on top of the stove.
Unfortunately, if the chitlin mix has been sitting uncooked or longer than two hours, you will have to throw the mix into the garbage. The risk of contracting a bacterial illness from eating the dish is too great to ignore.
Helpful Hints on Using a Crockpot
Never attempt to cook frozen meat inside a crockpot. Cooking frozen items inside a crockpot violates all safety guidelines that have been established for over a decade.
The risk of bacteria growth is high and not worth the risk of contaminating your guests for the convenience of serving a meal on time.
Room temperature meat is a much more ideal choice. The reason being is the meat is more relaxed as the inside juices will be distributed evenly with the other ingredients inside the crockpot.
Also, refrain from cooking all meals inside the crockpot at a high setting. It is okay to use, but you must continuously check the ingredients so as not over-cook them. If left unattended, your chitlins will dry out and be tough to chew.
Finally, periodically check the condition of the crockpot’s lid itself. It may have warped over the years of usage. It might be the primary reason why you are losing heat during the cooking process.
It is best to replace the lid with a newer model, but make sure the product is comparable to your crockpot. If not, heat will still be lost because the lid does not fit correctly on the top of the crockpot.
Southerners think food is the perfect representation of their culture and lifestyle. People from the South believe chitlins reflect on family values and a person’s upbringing. But it is important to cook this staple of Southern cuisine correctly.
Chitlins might not be a necessity on everyone’s preferred diet. But it is a delicacy from our country’s past.
So go ahead and indulge yourself with a plate of steaming chitlins smothered with hot sauce on top. The odds are high that you will not like them. But you will never know until you try chitlins once.