You should know by now we are a huge advocate of a complete nose-to-tail approach to incorporating animals in our diet. This includes meat, fat, organs, connective tissue, and, yes, skin.
Should we eat skin?
In fact, skin is not only incredibly nutritious but, when prepared properly, can also be delicious! That is why we are super excited to announce that beginning this week, we have pork rinds on the menu at the Modern Stone Age Kitchen!
Why would you want to eat skin? Let’s take a “skin deep” dive and find out…
The varied traditional uses of skin
Animal skin has been used for a variety of utilitarian and dietary purposes throughout the past. Once the fat, meat and connective tissue are scraped off of animal skin it can be dried to make rawhide. Rawhide can be used to make drums, as a “canvas” for artwork, folded into containers such as parfleches, stretched over wooden frames to make different traditional boats such as kayaks and coracles (years ago we made a coracle in our backyard with students using a cowhide and sailed it on the Chester River), and cut into strips and used to create super strong lashings and ropes.
In fact, some Viking ship riggings were fashioned from ropes made entirely of walrus skin and I used Yak rawhide to construct a bow string during the Siberia episode of the Great Human Race.
Rawhide can also be chemically and physically transformed into leather through the tanning process and then tailored into all sorts of clothes. This was traditionally accomplished using a variety of mediums including the brains of the animals, eggs, or even tannic acid derived from oak bark, but is now accomplished usually done using harsh chemicals (that is what caused the pollution that the movie, Erin Brockovich starring Julia Roberts, was based on).
Skin can also be boiled and the liquid left behind reduced to produce a fantastic glue known as “hide” glue which is used for all sorts of purposes. It is still used today by some of the world’s best woodworkers, cabinet makers and book binders. In fact, some of history’s most famous books were bound using hide glue. A fun, macabre fact since we are on the topic of bookbinding is that the practice of anthropodermic bibliopegy, or covering books in human skin, was more common than you might imagine! I even saw a bible covered in human skin in person once.
Okay – let’s get back on track…
Skin can also be used as a fantastic food source. And, if we look hard enough it is not difficult to include skin from a variety of different animals in our diets today.
- Sardines, anchovies and many other tinned fish usually contain skin.
- Many fish and chicken recipes and dishes come with skin on.
- And, it is very easy to get cooked pork skin in the forms of chicharrones, pork rinds, back fat cracklins and, one of my favorite dishes of all time, pork skin braciole.
I realize most of us usually leave the skin behind, but should we eat this skin? Absolutely!
We can also get many of the nutritional benefits from skin in gelatin and bone broth made with a ton of connective tissue or even skin thrown in the pot. That is why we alway add feet and whatever scraps of skin we have when we make our bone broth. Including properly prepared skin from healthy animals in our diets is:
Not all pork rinds are created equally…
Where they come from
As with all other foods the source of the ingredients and the manner in which they are prepared makes all the difference. Most pork rinds today come from the skin of pigs that lived on swine CAFOs, or, concentrated animal feedlot operations for pigs. The nutritional and flavor quality of the skin is directly related to the quality of the pig’s life, manner in which they were slaughtered, and how the skin was treated once it was removed.
No doubt, skin from pigs raised and slaughtered more humanely and prepared in a smaller facility that cares about the health of its customers on a “craft” level is superior to the standard industrial food system pork rinds.
Equally important is how they are cooked.
First, there is no reason whatsoever to bake pork rinds.
It makes an inferior product, and animal fat is an incredible source of high quality nutrition. Not only should we consume it, but since the skin already contains fat, eating a baked pork rind in an effort to cut down on the consumption of fat is a pointless endeavor.
So, that leaves us with frying. I am a firm believer that we should cut ALL industrial nut and seed oils out of our diets, especially ones that have been heated. So, deep frying in oil is a definite no no. Instead, pork rinds should be fried in their own fat, lard. That or tallow are the best options.
What is added to them?
Finally, be careful of the artificial flavorings and preservatives added to the pork rinds at the end of the process. This is where all sorts of dangerous chemicals and food additives can sneak in. Pork rinds should be seasoned with salt and, if flavored, done so using truly natural seasonings.
Nutritional Value of Pork Rinds
Pork Rinds Recipe
Our primary goal is to empower you to prepare the most incredibly nourishing foods for your families at home. So, here is the recipe for making pork rinds if you want to do it yourself:
- Remove as much fat as possible from skin.
- Boil for 2 hours
- Let cool completely, Scrape off remaining fat. Cut into smaller pieces (approximately ½ x ½ inch)
- Dehydrate completely in lowest oven setting possible (170 degrees) overnight
- Deep fry in 375 degree animal fat (lard or tallow)
- Sprinkle with salt while still warm and season to taste
Making the pork rinds are easier than you can imagine so give it a go any time you have any pig skin lying around. Once you finish dehydrating the skin it can be stored in an airtight container indefinitely and fried whenever you want some fresh pork rinds. One note of caution, I was overzealous one day and tried to make venison “rinds” and it was a complete disaster! I scalded the deer skin, scraped off the hair, boiled it, dehydrated it and fried it. What did I find out? Yes, it can be done, but they looked and tasted horrible! Better to make rawhide and leather products from your deer skin!
Drop us an email to let us know if anyone wants a brain tanning class this year! We are working on adding a variety of primitive technology classes to our offerings.