Higher Up On That Hog: Serving Pig in Louisiana

The lowly pelican is prominently featured on the Louisiana state flag. While this unique Gulf Coast bird is ubiquitous along the state’s waterways, is it really the most popular animal? It turns out the the pig has a better case for state exaltation. Consider all the Cajun dishes that feature the other white meat.

Since Louisiana’s early days, pork has reigned supreme at pig roasts, believed to have been hosted by Native Americans, although they can also be traced to African, French, German and Spanish cultures. A wooden frame was built for smoking the meat over an open fire. The group of people who eventually became known as Acadians or “Cajuns” spent difficult years finding a permanent home. In the early 1600s, they were transplanted from rural areas of western France and sailed to coastal Canada to establish the French colony called Acadia. Thousands relocated to southern Louisiana, where Cajuns developed their unique lifestyle. The most notable aspect of Cajun culture is found in their cuisine, which mixes influences from other cultures within Louisiana, specifically Spanish, German, Italian, Creole, Native American, African and French. Even though Louisiana natural bayous and coastline demanded fishing, the main source for meat became the pig.

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Boudin is a savory combo derived from a variety of pig parts, including liver and intestines. Once the chopped-up boneless pork meat is cooked, seasoning, onions and cooked rice are mixed in. Boudin resembles a sausage, though it includes the addition of seasonings and rice as filler. To further change the dish, you can squeeze the meat out of the casing, form it into a patty, pan fry on both sides and serve it with a fried egg on top. Louisiana cane syrup is often drizzled over the treasured snack. Variations of boudin have been created, as it can be smoked or fried as a “boudin ball” similar to a meatball. Boudin is so versatile it has appeared in Vietnamese dumplings and Texan kolaches.

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Cracklings, cracklins or gratons are made from either pork skin or pork belly and fried until crispy. They turn golden brown on the outside and are tender inside, like a pork French fry. Adding crackling bits to a cornbread batter is popular.Twice-fried cracklings get a generous sprinkling of cayenne pepper. 

Grillades are cuts of pork marinated in spices and herbs for grilling or slow cooking. Added to grits, it becomes a popular Southern brunch dish. 

Hogshead Cheese is a Cajun pork pâté that really isn’t cheese but rather a meat jelly. A variety of pig parts, such as the head and pig’s feet, are boiled for hours to prepare this jellied meat, which can be sliced and served on crackers.

Jambalaya is a one-pot dish that includes meat and rice. Anything goes in the pot, usually andouille, chicken, beef, ham, pork bits or shrimp along with vegetables, spices and rice.

Ponce is the stomach of a pig stuffed with sausage meat. Also known as gog, hog maw or chaudin, it resembles a roast and may be cooked in an oven or smoker. 

Roux is the glue for many Cajun dishes. The captured hog lard acts as a thickening agent for gumbo, fricassee, and etouffee. The best roux ingredients are equal parts hog lard and flour.

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Tasso is a smoked Cajun ham made from the pork shoulder and cured in a salt box. Some versions are smoked and heavily spiced. Once the ham is chopped in smaller pieces, it makes its way to gumbos an jambalayas.