The crackling, popular delicacy showing the dominican culture to the world
In Rotterdam, Holland, it has become fashionable among the purely European public. Crusty and tasty pork skin and fat that are fried at high temperatures to turn into cracklings.
It is a traditional Dominican dish, especially in Villa Mella, a popular place at the north of Santo Domingo, which even holds an annual festival dedicated to this product because it has been known since the 1950s, precisely due to its tasty preparation and accompaniments like fried sweet potatoes, fried plantain or cassava.
In Villa Mella, a pound of cracklings costs around DR$180.00 y $200.00, about 4 euros. “I learned this trade from my parents who learned from my grandparents. It is a tradition that we, the villamelleros, must keep, but unfortunately, young people don’t want to spend their time doing this job”, says John Gabino, one of those who makes fried food and keeps the tradition.
For its preparation, cut pork ribs into strips about 10 centimeters long. Then, put them into a casserole or cocotte fully covered with water. When the water starts to boil, put the lid on and cook at low heat about an hour or wait until water totally evaporates. Afterwards, remove the lid and let the pork ribs render in their own lard. Cook the pork skin until crispy and golden.
The history of crackling begins when African native were brought to the New World and used to raise pigs. Actually, there are versions that all the plain land located on the bank of the rivers Isabela and Ozama was used for raising pigs at that time. Originally, cracklings were made for rendering fat to get lard. For its preparation, the pig fat was chopped. It was put in a pot with salt, water and some chopped meat was added. In fact, the so called cracklings were the fried pork fat that had rendered the excess lard and was strained and stored in special cans.
The cracklings started selling for the Patron Saint’s Day of Holy Ghost in 1927 during Horacio Vazquez government. As these celebrations were held during a whole week, those people who went there, needed food and drinks. Its easy preparations at a low cost became this dish very popular.
The word crackling has spread all over Spanish speaking countries in order to give a meaning to these different forms of seasoning and heating pork until red hot. José Martí emphasized the exquisite taste of the different native dishes he enjoyed during his visit to the country to take Máximo Gómez out of his retirement and bring him back to Cuban War of Independence, “how good is that little frying pan to fry my cracklings”, he said.
The cracklings can be obtained from other animals like cow, chicken, fish and lamb. García Márquez openly recognized his weakness for chicken cracklings just like Rafael Ansón, President of the Royal Academy of Spanish Gastronomy and Latin American Academy of Gastronomy.