Pig Feet - [#420, Trotters]
Pig feet are widely used throughout Europe, Asia, Mexico and parts of South America, both to add body to soups and stews and served on their own, or they may be pickled. They are one of the most prized parts of the pig. The photo shows the common form, just the foot, and the long form with hock. Feet run from 6-1/2 to 9 inches long and weighed between 14 ounces and 1-1/2 pounds. The "long foot" was 10 inches long and weighted 1 pound 11 ounces, but they can be longer and heavier. Photo © cg1.
Pig feet in the markets are from the hind legs - those from the front legs are small and mainly used to produce gelatin. Pig feet have very little fat and are almost all bone and protein.
More on Cuts of Pork.
Buying: Pig feet can generally be found in ethnic markets (except those serving primarily Jewish or Muslim communities, of course). They are particularly common in markets serving Chinese, Southeast Asian Latino or Southeast European communities. They are also popular in France, but we have no identifiable French communities around here. I have seen them in a regular supermarket but this is very rare.
Many markets pre-cut pig feet in various ways and pack them in foam trays. Other markets display them whole, but you can ask the meat man to cut them as you want them - there should be no charge for this - in fact, the meat men around here usually repeat the question to make sure I really do want them uncut.
Prep: In North American markets pig feet are sold fresh, thoroughly cleaned and ready to cook. Sometimes there are some hairs - just use your razor to shave those off (yes, the one you use on your legs or beard (generally gender specific)).
In Europe, particularly the British Isles, pig feet are often heavily salted and will need to be soaked at least overnight before cooking. Ignore that instruction for fresh American feet.
If you have whole feet and need them cut, Short Feet you can easily cut yourself. Use a razor sharp Chinese cleaver knife, driving it through with a soft faced mallet. In Long Feet the bone gets pretty hard at the big end. My cleaver knife, made in Massachusetts from the finest carbon steel long before Nixon opened trade with China, can take it, but if yours is from China, perhaps not.
Cooking: With lots of tendons and connective tissue, pig feet are generally simmered for some time. This may be from 1-1/4 hours for pickling to 2-1/2 hours in soups and stews or 3 hours if they are to be boned. Pig feet are often fried or broiled lightly brown before going on to the simmering stage.
Some French recipes call for simmering slowly for 6 hours (or even more) before boning, but I find this excessive and have no trouble removing the bones after 3 hours of simmering. Maybe they have tougher pigs in France.
Health & Nutrition: Pig feet are low in fat and (the edible parts) are very high in protein, particularly Collagen in tendons and skin. This is considered by many authorities to be very good for joints and skin health. Protein has 44% of the calories of fat for the same weight, about 113 calories per ounce.