What Are Chitterlings?

What Are Chitterlings?

You may have seen advertisements for Chitterlings in a red bucket or seen signs for “Chitlins” (which is what we called them), or even heard some people talk about eating “wrinkles”.
Chitterlings are basically pig intestines (from the small intestines),  and it’s like okra or brussel sprouts people either love them or hate them, no middle ground on this one.

Now after you said “ugh”, there’s history to this. First off, many places in the world eat chitlins, including South America, the UK, France and they are very popular in Asia.

Here in America the reason it’s a southern/”soul food” staple is because back in the slave days we were given the not so great pieces of pork. The feet, tail, ears & chitlins. All those are now in the soul food cookbook.

My late father (pictured proudly with a pot of chitlins), cooked every part of the pig except the squeal and he enjoyed it as well as my brother, me not so much. It wasn’t historical or heritage for them, it was dinner. So I’ve been around a lot of chitlins and it was my job to clean them.

Let me explain the different types of chitlins you can buy, first is the most popular and accessible and that’s the “red bucket”. This is usually Swift or Farmland brand, they are frozen, not that clean and out of a ten pound pail, about 1/3 cooks off. So you end up with a little over 5 pounds or so.

You will spend some time with your hands in cold water “cleaning” them, basically pulling the white crap off of them so then they are ready to cook. They are also the cheapest.

Next are so called “cleaned chitlins”, the Aunt Bessie’s brand is most popular, they come in 5 pound bags rather than the 10 pound red bucket variety. Let me say this from personal experience, they are “cleaner” than red bucket but you still need to clean them just not as much. They are the most expensive as well and still a little cooks off, you may lose about a pound or so.

Lastly are fresh and loose chitlins, for this you need to go to a good urban grocer or meat market. The old Moo & Oink used to do this and I believe the Dixmoor Meat Market at 147th & Dixie Highway (just east of Interstate 57), has them.  I'm also told the several Petes Fresh Markets on the south side has a good chitlin selection too. Literally you buy them by the pound and it’s a better chitlin, still have to clean them (not as much as red bucket), a little but bigger and fresher.

Now no matter what kind of chitlins you cook they will smell. And I don’t mean like you cook cabbage and it smells a little. I mean like someone came to your house, fell behind your couch and died and you didn’t find them for two days.

I’ve cooked and have had food from around the world and only Durian (a special fruit from the Philippines and Southeast Asia), smells worse.

My father tried cutting an onion in half and putting in in the chitlins to help the smell and then put white bread on the lid and still it’s not pleasant.
If you can cook outside, do it, if you can cook at someone else’s house, even better. Most people just basically boil them with seasonings but some people fry their chitlins.

Almost every chitlin eater I know has hot sauce (preferably Frank’s), as their condiment of choice for chitlins.

And yes I plan to make a pot of chitlins in a few years so my son can experience them. But I will cook them outside, with bread on top and an onion inside.

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