Every decent sized supermarket in Brazil has one – an aisle containing all the salted meats and pig parts. In the image below you can see (from the left) pigs ears, salted pork, pigs trotters, vertebrae, pigs tails, more unidentified salted meat and finally sausages!
Cuts such as these are traditionally used in feijoada, Brazil’s ‘national dish‘. The commonly told story is that feijoada was invented by slaves and made with the offcuts (ears, trotters, tails, etc) that the masters didn’t want. Although almost everyone believes and retells this story, according to various culinary historians it is almost certainly apocryphal: back in the early days of Brazil’s colonisation, not even the slave owners were rich enough to turn their noses up at certain parts of the animal.
When I first tried feijoada it reminded me of the French dish cassoulet, and according to those same food historians, that is where feijoada has it’s origins (along with a bunch of similar Spanish and Portuguese dishes). Read more at the excellent (and sadly now defunct) Flavors Of Brazil.
I like to think I’m pretty adventurous and non-squeamish when it comes to food, but I have to admit I find the ears, trotters and tails a bit yucky. I made a feijoada once and just used more conventional cuts – it was still very tasty, though I suspect there are people who will tell me that using the authentic cuts makes a big difference. Has anyone out there made a ‘real’ feijoada?