Serving
(click to enlarge)

Pickled Pig Ear Strips
Worldwide   (except Israel and Muslim regions)

Makes:
Effort:
Sched:
DoAhead:  
2-1/2 #  
**
2+ days  
Must

Pig ears are enjoyed prepared in various ways, pickling being one - they aren't just for doggy chews. Ears have a uniquely enjoyable texture due to their thin crunchy cartilaginous core coated by a thick layer of skin on both sides. Of course they must be pickled properly, as this recipe will do. I have bought commercially packed versions that were all but inedible.




3
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7
2/3
4
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a/r
6
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4
3
1/2
5
1/2
1/2
3/4
2/3
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#
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T
t
qt
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oz
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t

T
t
in
T
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Pig Ears (1)
-- Cure
Salt
Saltpeter (2)
Water
---------
Vinegar (3)
Onion
-- Spices
Chilis dry (4)
Bay Leaf
Peppercorns
Cloves
Coriander seed
Mustard seed
Ginger sliced
Salt
---------

  1. Prepare a jar of sufficient size to hold the Ears. A 2 quart (8 cup) jar is just right for 3 pounds of ears. It should be as sterile as possible (a thorough cleaning with a strong disinfecting cleanser like Comet or a rinse with bleach solution will do fine).
  2. Clean PIG EARS. At this point I usually cut off the thick root end so the ears pack better in the pot. Yes, the thick ends go in too.
  3. Mix the Cure in a large stainless steel pot and add the Pig Ears. Yes that's a lot of cure, but the pig ears are likely to be unruly and take a lot of room. Over high heat, bring to a boil for just a moment, then hold at 210°F/99°C, or a bare simmer for about 5 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and let it stand tightly covered in a cool place for 12 hours.
  4. Bring the pot to 180°F/82°C and hold it there for half an hour to 45 minutes. Start sampling the ears early to make sure you don't overcook them - Hey! Stop eating them. The skin layer should remain a little chewy.
  5. Drain Ears and let cool enough to handle them. Slice them into strips a little less than 1/2 inch wide (including those thick ends).
  6. Place Ears back in the pot. Pack them down, then pour in enough Vinegar to just about cover. Remove the Ears again and set aside.
  7. Cut ONION into lengthwise wedges and stir into the Vinegar, then stir in all Spices. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  8. Put the Ears back in and bring to a full boil over high heat. Immediately turn off heat and scoop the Ears out into the sterile jar. Pour the pickle vinegar over to cover. You can strain it or not, as you wish. At this point I usually cool them down rapidly by immersing the jar in cold water. If you have extra pickling vinegar save it in a separate jar for topping off as you remove ears from the jar.
  9. Cover jar tightly and let sit in a cool place for about 3 days before you start eating them (yeah, sure, like you're going to be able to do that).
  10. When serving, rinse pieces in warm water to reduce acidity.
NOTES:
  1. Pig Ears:   I hear pig ears are fairly common in the Chicago region, but not in most of the rest of the country - except in Asian markets. I find them most plentiful in Philippine markets, but they also appear in markets serving an East or Southeast Asian community. Scratch the skin. If you can scratch the skin off the cartilage the ears are spoiled and should be discarded - the skin should be rather tough and scratch resistant.
  2. Saltpeter:   This may be Potassium or Sodium Nitrate - I use Potassium Nitrate. The action of this chemical greatly improves color, texture and taste, as well as suppressing bacterial growth. For details and pros and cons see our Curing Salts page.
  3. Vinegar:   Buy lots of vinegar. Get it at a Restaurant Supply where it's under $1.50/gallon, not at the supermarket where it's 5 times that or more. Generally, Distilled White Vinegar, or you can use the fake Cider Vinegar (white vinegar and apple juice) sold in gallon jugs (real Cider Vinegar comes only in quarts or smaller).
  4. Chilis:   4 Japones will not make the skins very hot at all. 4 dried Thai chilis are a different matter though. De Arbols are in between, so use your own best judgement. For details see our Chili Page.
  5. Method:   The Salt and Potassium Nitrate cure has some advantages over pickling without nitrate. The meat retains a better color, and the gelatin doesn't migrate into the pickle liquid and jell it up solid. The flavor is also better. No, the saltpeter won't cause your pecker to go flat, that's an old boarding school myth, but English gin will do that. Potassium Nitrate is easy to order on the Internet. In my childhood we could get it cheaply from the local drug store, but I'm not sure that is still possible.
  6. U.S. measure: t=teaspoon, T=Tablespoon, c=cup, qt=quart, oz=ounce, #=pound, cl=clove in=inch, ar=as required tt=to taste
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