Piftia (in Romanian) or pork jelly is one of the dishes my mother makes admirably. It's always delicious, clear, beautiful and very well balanced in taste. I "stole" from her all the little secrets and tricks and I really recommend trying this recipe.
Apparently, jelly is a simple food, but this is only true if you want a gelatinous broth with a strong garlic smell. In our home, boiling piftia is a very well planned and structured process, with mandatory steps and rules to follow. The aim is obtaining maximum of taste and color, a masterpiece, just from boiling some meat and bones.
I don't recommend using a pressure cooker. Yes, the meat is done quickly, but the juice won't get to extract all the flavors from it and won't be the same as prepared in the slow cooking process. My mother's jelly usually simmers for 5-6 hours over a very low heat and the meat is literally melted and blended in with the rest of the ingredients.
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Place the pork knuckle and the trotter in a bowl or saucepan. Usually, to boil faster, cutting the trotter in half lengthwise is recommended, but not mandatory.
Pour cold water to cover well and leave in a cold place for 8-10 hours.
My mother usually does this step a night before boiling the jelly.
Next morning, drain the water, thoroughly wash and clean the pork rind (with a knife) and the meat.
If somehow you have not very clean trotters, singe briefly over an open flame before soaking them in water.
Move the knuckle and trotter into a large, deep saucepan. Pour enough cold water to cover completely.
Place the pot over heat and, when it starts to boil, add 1 tablespoon of salt, mix well.
This will help the foam rise to the top.
Skim off scrupulously all the foam coming at the surface of the water.
Then make a low heat, cover the pot with a lid, not completely, leave some space on a side, and cook the meat for 2 hours.
So, very important rule - the jelly should simmer over a very low heat, barely bubbling.
When boiling, the knuckle can come out of the soup, I recommend turning periodically on the other side.
It would be ideal if you used a very high pot and, this way, you wouldn't have to worry.
After 2-3 hours of slow cooking, add in the onion, the carrot (it will give the broth a nice yellow color and extra taste) cut in halves, 5 cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves and 15 black peppercorns.
Cover the pot partially with the lid. Let simmer for 2 hours.
The cooking time may vary. You'll have to look at the meat to decide whether you cook it a little more or not.
Usually when making jelly, it literally falls off the bone, it's very soft and tender and the juice is clear and fragrant.
My mother always tells me to stop right after I turn off heat. So I listen to her. I usually turn off the heat, cover the pot with a lid and allow the ingredients to blend and the flavours to infuse for 1-2 hours.
After this time, remove the meat and vegetables from the soup. Let cool a bit, so that they are neither completely cold nor hot.
Season with salt and crushed garlic, to taste.
Advice - never put garlic in the hot soup, it will burn and lose its flavor. Also, pork jelly is good when the garlic flavor and the salt taste are a little stronger than you prefer. After it turns into jelly, all tastes will be perfectly adjusted.
Mix well then strain the soup through a sieve lined with gauze (I took it from the pharmacy and folded several times).
I recommend using a spoon to collect the fat that accumulates on top. I pour everything into a large cup and allow 5 minutes for the fat to rise. It's easier for me to collect it from a smaller surface.
Pick off the meat from the bones and tear to smaller pieces. Arrange in deeper plates, boxes, dishes, bowls, whatever you like to use for jelly.
Pour the juice over the meat to cover it completely.
Refrigerate the jelly and leave until completely gelled. Cover with cling or lid only after it has gelled, so as not to damage the beautiful mirror-like surface while still liquid.
If you want to take out of the mold after gelling, just dip the plate in a bowl of hot water for 2-3 seconds, then turn carefully.
Serve and savour, it's a delicacy, elegant, clear, delicious and deserves all your attention and effort.
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