Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. Mr Leopold Bloom dreamed, hankered, pined and lusted after rillettes. Lusted and craved, much like his vague lusts for the fragrant French girls he imagined gliding around the markets, the boucheries, the charcuteries of the belly of Paris the ventre de Paris as some might say. Some more refined than he, refined in the tastes of the European if a taste for sickly liquorice absinthe can be considered refined maybe not around here of course. A cup of tea was refined around here and of course it is. Refined is relative.
Molly knew things. Secret things mainly. Unspoken things. Unthought things. Molly knew the recipe for rillettes and it was hers and would never be his. Not never. Maybe Boylan knew it. Maybe he didn’t. You shouldn’t ask if you don’t want to know the answer. Mr Bloom did not ask. Not out loud.
Mr Bloom sat at the table. Black, it was, black it is and black it will be. The dust motes drifted, danced and sparkled. And so he sat. In a reverie. A rillette reverie. It’s going to rain isn’t it. It always does.
Mrs Molly Bloom emerged dazed, rumpled, ruffled and hazy with the reek of her bed. Her pit. Not his. Not anymore. Not really. Things change. Not always for the best. Things are. They just are.
The cupboard’s contents clattered, clinked under Molly’s touch. Squat jars. Thick glass and nearly empty. More cost. He couldn’t buy them anymore. The price was too high for his nerves. From foreign lands, he knew, hot foreign lands. Damp ones too. But why are they so expensive? For jars that were nearly empty when you bought them. But their smells. Of dirt, of sharpness. Like old sweat and like gin. Bars. Spices and Bars. Never mind that. Bars. Later. Jars. Now.
What is it? Juniper Berries. How many? Ten. Black gin berries. Juniper Giniver. Matt. Are they blue or black? They are in the mortar, like in a chemists. With what now? More berries, peppercorns this time. Another ten, rattling into the mortar. Black again. Molly’s arms tensed and she leant over the mortar, pestle gripped and she ground, the squeak of the dust of the shattered dry berries under her weight, knuckles white teeth gritted jaw tense.
Meat, pork meat, white grey pale and wet looking slobbed on a plate.
– Belly Pork she says
Fat is there, fat is good no matter what people say, ‘specially the doctors the quacks the mountebanks always talking fat and diet and sugar talk talk talk. The grave’s waiting anyway. Black, cold, silent, peaceful, welcoming. Piggy’s dead. Piggy for eating. Man’s best friend is Piggy, specs broken or otherwise.
More than two pounds there, maybe more than a kilo too but only just. But weighing is not for cooks says Molly. She cooks with her instinct her intuition her brains. It’s the other things she does with her body. Not things for Mr Leopold Bloom Esquire. Rillettes are for Mr Bloom. And only them. She has the knife, long, thin whip bladed knife, sliding grinding on the steel and now she’s at the meat, slicing fat and meat together long strips thick though like an inch or maybe more. Two. Who knows? No one. That’s who. People make their own decisions. Can’t stop ‘em. That’s what they do.
Clank. Big black metal clank. CLANK. And some scraping. Molly has the big oven pan. Slopping the sliced meat in there. And the ground up black berries. Now the leaves. Pretty little thyme leaves, that’s the smell of grandad’s shed. And the bricks around it. Hot and lots of ants. Smell stays with you. Smelled thyme many times since but it’s always back there and then they take me. And thick, tough shields of bay leaves. Zulu shields. Three of them. And salt. A lot of salt. Shuts them doctors up doesn’t it. Fat and salt.
Now a glass of white, hay straw wine and dry as a bone desiccated and dusty like old saints and martyrs. And a glass of water. Crystal sparkle from the squeaking tap but maybe metallic from the pipes maybe. Hands into that meat now, forearms deep into the chopped flesh, breathing deep and mumphing grunts. Bloody Blazes. Don’t think. For another time. Mixing, melanging the stuff together.
Oven’s hot. Dry blast as she tugs the door wide. Gaping. Like hell in there. Death again. Death and graves and hell. It’s coming. Not now maybe. Rillettes will push us all closer to the grave. Inevitable.
– Oven’s not hot she says. That’s a low oven.
Mr Leopold Bloom’s mouth opens in understanding assent. No noise, just a mouth breathing gape. Not a word. He waits now. Waits. For hours. Four hours. Legs stiff. Backside numb. Numb bum like mother says. Molly’s back in bed. Sighing, snuffling and snoring as she sleeps.
Holy holey colander is over the old yellow finely cracked earthenware bowl. The meat tips, splats, spatters in and the fat begins its dripping. Quick thick trickle. Molly’s pressing now, squeezing that fat out. Her arms are strong and her fingers coated in threads of meat. She pushes her fingers into her maw, sucking and licking fat tongued greasy lipped. Leaving the fat and the meat to wait. Always someone waiting.
– We need the fat she says like a secret
The meat’s back in the pan and she’s over it. Forks in her fists. Two of them one in each mitt, concentrating, face low, hot and shining with sweat over the heat of the pan. Shredding, pulling tearing but not pounding or mincing or blending. Oh no. Not for our Molly. None of that. More of the tasting salty peppery gentle spicy.
She has pots does Molly. Clean pots and jars. Not little spice jars at too much money for grocers. Big pots, stoneware and some Kilner jars, she calls them. She clatters and then packs the pots with the shredded meat. Light packing, like for an overnight stay, she says and she laughs. Right at Mr Leopold Bloom. Right in his face. And then soothes him with a wink.
She’s heating the fat again, slick, sliding, shining fat and drip drip drip she trickles the fat over the jars sealing them, covering the meat in its caskets, its funeral urns and so they cool in the shadows, sealed, lids of fat lids of waxy crinkling greaseproof paper and lids of glass.
OK, if you can’t be bothered with that verbose nonsense, here you go
Slice 1kg of skinned and boned belly pork or shoulder pork into pieces and place in thick casserole, adding a 1 tbsp of salt, 3 bay leaves, a tablespoon of thyme, ten ground up juniper berries and 10 peppercorns and 125ml of dry white wine and the same of water. If you fancy, you can also add a couple of cloves of garlic. Mix it all together and cover, placing it in a low oven at 150C for three or four hours or until the pork is tender. Drain the fat from the meat and then shred finely with a pair of forks. Taste for seasoning.
You can add the seasoning after the shredding if you prefer but it may well be a good idea to heat the meat gently to make sure the flavours are fully mixed and amalgamated into the meat.
Pack lightly into Kilner jars or something similar. Warm the reserved fat and pour the fat through a sieve. Half an inch [1.5cm] of fat will preserve the rillettes for six months and maybe more.
Serve rillettes with good bread or toast and cornichons and plenty of country wine. And to hell with the doctors.
p.s. I got the picture of the pot of rillettes from the rather excellent Going for Seconds blog. http://goingforseconds.wordpress.com/2009/03/24/the-glory-of-rillettes/