The county of Hanyuan is in the mountains; its inhabitants are mainly farmers and need a high energy intake. In the past, farmers used to butcher pigs during the New Year Celebration (between the end of January and mid-February), but didn’t have fridges to keep the meat. This is why they developed alternative preservation techniques such as this potted pork, a traditional dish of this county which dates back to the times of the Ming dynasty (from the 14th to the 17th century).
To make this preserve, pork meat from traditionally raised pigs is used. The meat is first roasted, so that removing the hair on the skin becomes easier, and then cut into strips. After removing the hair with a knife, the strips are cleaned, cut into small pieces, left to dry inside a mesh container and salted.
In the meantime, the fat necessary to preserve the meat – taken from the pig’s belly and leg – is prepared. The pieces of fat are plunged into boiling water in a pot. The liquid is shaken until it becomes yellow-brown and the water partially evaporates, leaving a very thick liquid.
Now the meat pieces are put in a pan with a little oil and cooked on a high flame, turning them often to ensure they are cooked evenly. When they are almost cooked, the flame is lowered and the meat continues to cook until it becomes brown, but not too dry. It should be tender and well oiled.
The meat pieces are now placed into the traditional clay container; the previously molten fat is added, until all the meat is covered. The pot is then carefully sealed. It can be kept for up to one year.
This potted pork is used in many recipes: it can be seasoned with garlic or roasted and served with mixed vegetables.
Very few farmers still keep pigs and modern refrigeration systems have replaced ancient practices. This is why potted pork is now very rare.