One thing I learned from making red beans over the years is that it’s a labor of love. There’s more to it than quickly gathering some ingredients together and dumping it into a pot. I’ve learned that just like gumbo or jambalaya, the secret to a great pot of beans is building up the flavors.
To acquire that authentic homestyle flavor of red beans, the essential ingredient is pickled pork.
The only way to describe it is that its pork shoulder preserved in a brine that consists of salt, sugar, seasoning, and vinegar. The process of pickling pork began back in the days before refrigeration. Since New Orleans is hot and humid, and to not waste any of the meat, the pork was pickled as a way to preserve it from the weather and to prolong its use.
For those of you that have never tried pickled meat before, don’t think that it’s going to add a pickle flavor to your beans – there’s no dill flavor here – but it will add a unique vinegar flavor that you can’t get any other way.
The added seasoning and depth of flavor pickled pork brings to the pot makes me wonder why I waited so long to try it. And it’s not just red beans that pickled pork works with, you can also use it in a white beans recipe or even with smothered cabbage.
With pickled pork being a staple to the New Orleans Creole and Cajun cooking, you can purchase pre-packaged pickled pork from almost any supermarket in southern Louisiana. One of the more popular brands is Savoie’s or Richard’s. If you’re not in southern Louisiana and pickled pork is unavailable to you, you can always order it online at CajunGrocer.com.
To get that amazing authentic red beans and rice, you need that pickled pork seasoned flavor. But to be honest, ordering it online can be expensive – not generally for the product itself, but for the cost of shipping. And if you’re like me and simply can’t just drive a thousand miles or so to southern Louisiana and New Orleans (though I would in a heartbeat), the only alternative is to make it at home.
Who did I turn to for help in creating that pickled pork flavor at home? Our friends at Camellia Beans. They have a great recipe on their website called the 7 Day Pickled Pork.
Before we get started, there are two bonuses to this recipe that I want you to be aware of.
1: Homemade pickled pork is way easier to accomplish than you think and we’ll go over that in the next section.
2: It’s not that expensive in the end because you’ll end up with about 4 pounds of pickled pork for about $15-$20 worth of ingredients. Compare that end price to the price of purchasing a 1-pound package online plus the added cost of shipping and waiting for that package to arrive.
Like I just mentioned, the entire process is pretty simple. In a nutshell, you’re cutting the pork into 1 or 2-inch cubes, coating them in a rub, and letting the pork sit. Then, you make a quick brine and let it sit until it cools. Then, you combine the coated pork and the brine and let it sit for a week. After the 7 days, you drain the brine and separate the pickled pork into 1-pound bags.
First, you start out with your pork shoulder. I use a Boneless Pork Shoulder Butt Roast, usually around 4 pounds. When all is said and done, I’ll have four one-pound bags ready to use for four different meals.
First, trim the pork shoulder of any excess fat. Cut the pork into 1- to 2-inch pieces. It’s a tedious process and the longest step you’ll have to complete (besides waiting and watching the fridge for seven days as the pork slowly pickles).
Mix together the rub: brown sugar, kosher salt, and cayenne pepper.
Have 2 large ziplock bags ready (and make sure there are no holes in the bags since we’ll be adding the brine to it). In small handfuls, dip the pork into the rub and make sure that they are lightly coated, then shake off any excess. Repeat this until all of the pork chunks have been coated.
Then, set aside and let stand for about two hours for the pork to get to room temperature and the salt rub to kick in.
In a large saucepot, combine the apple cider vinegar, water, sliced onions, garlic, mustard seed, and bay leaves, and over MEDIUM-HIGH heat, bring to a boil; simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off the burner, set the pan aside, and let it cool down.
Once the pork has sat for two hours and the brine is now cool to the touch, carefully pour the liquid into the two ziplock bags. Once all the liquid is in the ziplock bags, squeeze out as much air as you possibly can and tightly seal the bags. To avoid any messy spills or mishaps, place the bags in a large bowl and refrigerate. The pork will sit here for 7 days, but you need to flip the bags once a day.
Once the 7 days are up, get your pickled pork, along with another large empty bowl. Drain the brine from each of the bags into your sink – you don’t need it.
I have a food scale that has a small bowl on top and this allows me to put a ziplock baggie in it. Regardless of how you do it, eye it if you need to, but evenly split this large batch into two. This will give you two, 1-pound bags of pickled pork. Repeat this with the second bag.
In the end, I had four roughly 1-pound bags.
Amazing. Simple. Not hard to do at all, right?
That’s one month of pickled pork that you can add to your red beans every Monday. It will last two weeks in the fridge, so, keep out what you plan on using right away and freeze the rest until their time has come.
Here is the red beans and rice recipe I’ve been using with pickled pork: New Orleans Style Red Beans and Rice with Pickled Pork.
Before you actually use the pickled pork – whether it’s fresh or thawed from being frozen – you’ll want to rinse the chunks off before using it. This will wash away any extra mustard seeds that still linger around. Also, if you think that the vinegar flavor is overpowering, rinsing it beforehand will also reduce that, as well.
And that’s it. Camellia Beans 7-Day Pickled Pork recipe.
If you make this, please let me know what you think of it by tagging me on social media (#redbeansanderic), messaging me, or leaving a comment below.
What’s your favorite recipe to include Pickled Pork? Let us know in the comments below.
This recipe is from the Camellia Beans website. For their detailed directions on preparing this recipe, go to their website at https://www.camelliabrand.com/recipes/seven-day-pickled-pork.
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