cassoulet

Pig Parts and Feijoada

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!

pigs-ears, pig-parts

All the items are just piled up in the open air – there’s no need for refrigeration when the meat is salted like this.

 

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.

cassoulet

Cassoulet, feijoada’s long-lost French cousin. source

 

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?

 

19 replies
  1. Gary
    Gary says:

    I find it easier your way Tom of buying normal cuts of meat to use in a feijoada. Smoked pork bits from the local polish shop and cassava flour from the Nigerian shop. It’s called gari for them…loads of it for a couple of pounds. It’s not the same I know but it’s ok for me if only I could get cachasa here, i’d be a happy chap. Have to use vodka which just isn’t the same….hic

    Reply
  2. Sei
    Sei says:

    Like how a vietnamese pho is made… you cook the broth with beef knuckle, neck, the “nasty bits” to make a complex broth but the mainstream cut served is brisket.

    In the case of feijoada, I think the ears, feet, and snout are essential for a full-bodied flavor. However, I use these cuts purely to give collagen and depth and then take them out at the end, leaving only the crowd-pleasing cuts. Of course, depending on who’s eating there may not even be a need for a meat segregation!

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Wow Sei – you do it properly! Tell me something – do you have to chop up the ears/feet/snout? Or do you just let them slowly stew (whole)?

      Reply
      • Sei
        Sei says:

        Hey Tom,

        Feet/Knuckle

        Cut the feet into 5cm disks. This will aid in the extraction of all that lovely marrow. Parboil them for 2-3 minutes to get rid of the impurities. Don’t worry about any flavor loss as feet don’t impart flavor until they’ve been stewing for well over an hour.

        Ears and Snout

        These are meats that can be difficult get right, but are impossible to deny after you’ve eaten them properly made. Snout is high in fat and ears high in cartilage, terms that sound unappetizing, but arouse delight for the initiated. Grill the ears over a live fire (or a good skillet) to singe off the little hairs. Boil them separately in water until tender. Remove and slice ears and snout into thin strips across the width. Then put them in with the beans when the feijoada has another hour of cooking left. Ears and snout are a good braising meat because they adopt the flavor of whatever’s in the pot, develop a wonderfully “macio” texture, and give body and porkiness.

        Mmm, agora me deu vontade pra feijoada completão.

        Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      I haven’t had tongue since I was a little boy! My grandmother used to serve it and didn’t like it then, but there were lots of things I didn’t like when I was younger. Over the years I’ve conquered most of them (even the dreaded brussel sprouts!). Maybe it is time I went back and gave tongue another chance! 🙂

      Reply
    • Andrew Francis
      Andrew Francis says:

      I really like oxtail. It reminds me a bit of lamb shanks (or rather, the other way around) having to pick the meat from around the bone and with the tendons gone all soft and gel-like. Tongue, on the other hand, I don’t really care for. Maybe I should give it another try but the last time I remember eating it, admittedly in a university canteen, it was as disgusting as I expected it to be…

      As for feijoada, I would say leave the more difficult pig parts for the restaurants. At a place like Bolinha in Sao Paulo, I’m sure they go whole hog (pun intended) but if you’re doing it at home, I would do the easier version. Only a real gastro-fuss would claim that it’s not a good enough feijoada (unlike vegetarian feijoada).

      Reply
      • tomlemes
        tomlemes says:

        Oh man, I *love* oxtail! When I finally tried rabada com agrião with angu I was smitten!

        Vegetarian Feijoada really does sound a bit silly. It may well be delicious, but without the meat it’s just something else isn’t it? So just give it a different name right? 🙂

        Reply
  3. stacey
    stacey says:

    I got to try feijoada on my trip to Rio last year for Carnival. It reminded me of my mom’s ham and bean soup, but with much less broth. I’m not even sure what parts of animals were used, but I would eat it again. It was a lot of food and the three of us didn’t finish it.

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Ha ha! I’ve been there Stacey – if they say it’s for 2, it will actually feed about 4 hungry builders! When it says it’s for 3 it will often feed 5 or 6! Luckily for me, I’m a big fan of leftovers 😀

      Reply
  4. Sheila
    Sheila says:

    Thanks for that! I took a similar photo when we were in Rio in January as I couldn’t figure out what I was looking at. I kept meaning to ask someone but never got around to it, so am delighted to finally find out the answer.

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Ah, pleasure! I often find myself taking photos of things in the supermarket. Even after all this time, I still find things that seem noteworthy/interesting/strange!

      Reply
  5. Malvina
    Malvina says:

    Around here they sell bags of meat cuts all specific to making feijoada. Usually an ear, some knuckles, calabresa, skin and/or fat, and a few other cuts. You just buy the sack and dump it in the beans and stew away.

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      How convenient! I think I have a bit of a fear of having to cut up a snout or a foot or even an ear. Maybe it’s a pale quality of the skin – looks a bit too human. :-/

      Reply
  6. Angela
    Angela says:

    In 1988 and 1989, when I was in Brasil, I had whatever feijoada they served in the tourist areas of Rio, and possibly in neighborhood eateries in Bahia and Foz. This type of cooking reminds me of the cooking in the southern states of the U.S. Traditionally, we use the less fashionable parts of the pig to make the gelatin/broth. And my ancestors used ALL of the pig.

    When we first saw feijoada being served in restaurants early during that first visit to Rio, one of my friends pointed out the collard greens and the similarities to what we put together at home. (I’m from Virginia.) We knew then that we’d eat well in Brasil.

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Hi Angela – thanks for this, really interesting! Feijoada certainly is good eating isn’t it? 😀 It would be interesting to research parallels in food culture across different regions of the world (sounds like my kind of PhD actually!).

      Reply

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