Growing up I always heard that once you get past the smell, you got it licked. Now I find out that it’s ‘Once you get past the smell, you’ve got it eaten’. What is ‘it’ you may wonder. Chitlins (Chitterlings) what else. You say, “I’ve heard of them, but have no idea what they are”. Others may say, “I know what they are and I’ll never eat them.”
Chances are if you have ever eaten a smoked, Polish, kielbasa, bratwurst or many other types of sausage, you’ve eaten a chitlin. The chitlin may not have been cooked with onions, potatoes, peppers, cloves and various other ingredients and spices, but none the less a chitlin. A chitlin is made from a pig’s small intestine. Your typical sausage casing is generally a ‘natural’ casing (chitlin), which is edible. Some casings may be made from an edible plastic, from collagen (inedible), or fibrous (inedible).
The first thing to remember in cleaning chitlins is that if not cleaned properly, you will have a bitter aftertaste in your mouth. Even when cleaned properly, you may still have a barnyard aroma and aftertaste to some extent. If you insist on beginning with plain intestines, know that it will take lots of time to properly clean them. Different people clean them in different ways, but here are some steps to follow if you are new to this.
- Examine each chitlin and run under cold water. Remove and discard all foreign material by using a small soft brush.
- Boil the chitlins in clean water for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Remove any remaining membranes from the chitlin. Chitlins should retain some of the fat, so leave some fat on them.
- Rinse the chitlins in several (at least 3 to 4) changes of cold water until the water no longer feels greasy or is cloudy.
- You should have clean chitlins. Use them in your favorite recipe.
Be aware that the Virginia Department of Health recommends that you buy and use pre-cooked chitterlings (chitlins) to avoid bacterial contamination and illness. Here are their recommendations for cooking chitlins:
- Wrap the container containing the raw chitlins in plastic wrap when thawing in the refrigerator
- Keep children out of the kitchen until the chitlins are pre-boiled and the kitchen is thoroughly cleaned.
- Handle raw chitlins as little as possible until they have been pre-boiled.
- Keep raw chitlins away from all baby food and formula.
- After touching the chitlins, wash your hands with warm water and soap, and clean under your nails.
- Clean sinks and all places that were touched by the chitlins or their juice with hot soapy water or a chlorine bleach solution.
- Wrap all waste properly and throw into an outside garbage can.
- Clean all pots, pans, buckets and utensils in the dishwasher or in hot soapy water.
- Wash dishcloths, towels or sponges used in cleanup in hot water.
Which ever you use, once you get past the smell, you’ve got the fixins for a good meal.
Keep your fork