A staple of the holidays in the South are chitterlings, pronounced chitlins.
Growing up, of the animal parts, most Southerners would eat souse and scrapple, and chitlins. Souse is, of course, a head cheese made of the brains of a pig. It is eaten as a cold cut, and is in a sort of jelly, from the natural gelatin in the meat, I think, though I am sure they had to add more.
Some of the packaged sandwich meat brands sold souse as part of their product line. It is now totally out of fashion and I wonder if any brands still sell it. As I child, I could stomach it, but that was about it. Scrapple (pork brains), however, is a different story. Prepared well, it can be tasty, though the idea of it will kill the taste for most.
In the South, chitterlings (or chitlins) were eaten mostly by the servants, as they were given the offal. With the new awareness of soul food, suddenly these brands are becoming favored regional traditions, sort of a delicacy. Chitterlings (pronounced chitlins) are still popular, though do not appear on many restaurant menus. Nevertheless, there are strong brands, each having a following in different parts of the U.S. Note: they must be cleaned and officials recommend that they be boiled, so as to prevent dangerous bacterial contamination. They are, after all, a pig’s intestine.
Here, some of America’s best known chitterling brands, in no particular order.
- Uncle Lou’s Super-Clean Chitlins are from Cincinnati, Ohio. The brand dates from 1887, and come from a non-Southern perspective. Says the website, “As chitlin users know, preparing chitlins has always been a very long and tedious process. Typical chitlins take a very long time to clean and end up with very little usable product. “Uncle Lou” created a chitlin that takes very little time to prepare and cook.”
- Chicago’s Moo & Oink sells chitterlings, all hand cleaned, which seems to be a new culinary standard. They sell them in pails, including five and ten pounders. A 4.5 pounder has all fat and membrane removed. Their they say that “Everybody has a favorite chitlin recipe. Some like them boiled, others fried — but everyone likes chitlins from Moo & Oink.”
- Shauna’s is a true African-American brand of Chitterlings. Her Shauna’s Hand Cleaned Chitterlings are sold nationwide, but based in Maryland.
- Smithfield’s food service division still sells chitterlings. We seem to remember that Armour and Gwaltney used to sell them in white pails, but have not seen them lately.
- Queenella: We found them recently at Sav-a-Lot on Bee Ridge Road in Sarasota.
Tomorrow: The history of Rapa Scrapple of Delaware.
Editor’s Note: Please read comments below on the quality of different brands. Our readers have very different ideas.