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A dish of chitterlings, also known as chitlins, is not for the weak of stomach. This classic soul food has a surprisingly mild flavor that has little in common with the way it smells while cooking. When served with vinegar and hot sauce alongside collard greens, fried chicken, and cornbread, the end result is delicious.

Chiltins with collard greens and cornbread in a white bowl

The prospect of eating pig intestines does not appeal to everyone. However, things are different in my household. Moreover, I was shocked to learn that it is currently a hip New Year's Eve dish.

History of Chitterlings

We can't take credit for discovering this delicious dish first, you see. Typical soul food has been around longer than the African, European, and Asian versions. Some of the best meals I've ever had were at a Chinese restaurant. However, people have been striving to improve their circumstances for eons, and this is just one more example of creatively making use of food that the wealthy shun.

Chitterlings in a white bowl with cornbread and bay leaves in the background

Preparation Requirements

Ingredients you'll need to make chitterlings
  • Chitlins, or chitterlings, are sometimes difficult to come by. If you can't find them at a Latin or Asian market, have a local butcher order them for you. Since they will decrease in size by half, you will need to prepare twice as many.
  • Tripe doesn't have much flavor on its own, so seasonings are essential. Onion, garlic, thyme, red and green bell peppers, celery, bay leaves, chicken bouillon, and my own homemade Creole seasonings are some of my absolute favorites. It goes without saying that you can tweak them to suit your preferences.
  • Vinegar's acidity kills bacteria, masks odors, and amplifies flavors wonderfully. Cooking chitlins with vinegar is optional; some people do so before they go in the pot, while others do it later. When I do the latter, I thoroughly clean them first.
  • Collards and chitlins benefit equally from a dash of hot sauce. Though I have no qualms about throwing it in the pot, it is typically served as a condiment. Pepper flakes with heat are also useful.

Chitterling Preparation Methods

How to make chitlins-clean them, saute onion and garlic, add veggies and simmer.
  1. It's important to clean chitterlings and trim off any excess fat before cooking them.  
  2. The chitterlings should then be cut into smaller pieces (1-2 inches), placed in a medium-sized pot, and covered with about 2 cups of water -- cooked on high for about 1 hour.
  3. Drain the chitterlings in a colander and throw away the accumulated liquid. Get them nice and clean by rinsing them thoroughly.
  4. Scrub the pot and set it over a moderate flame. Sauté the onion, garlic, and thyme in a tablespoon of oil for a minute. Then, after a minute of sautéing, throw in some celery and bell peppers.
  5. After that, throw in some chitterlings, bay leaves, bouillon, Creole seasoning, apple cider vinegar, and water. Do a good stir, and then season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Put the lid on the pan and heat it over medium. Leave chitterlings in the oven for two to three hours, or until tender. Keep an eye on the pot to see if the water has evaporated, and add more if necessary.

Chitterlings: A Guide to Cleaning and Preserving Them

This is going to take twenty or thirty minutes, so pull up a chair if necessary.

In the first cycle,

It all depends on how well-maintained your chitlins are when you purchase them.  

  1. Put the chitterlings in a bowl of cool water (the kitchen sink works well) and add a tablespoon of baking soda or vinegar. Let them sit for a few minutes.
  2. Trim the excess fat and discard any extraneous ingredients.
  3. Use the water to submerge and revive them for a few minutes.
  4. The chitterlings should be placed in a bowl after the excess water has been drained.  
  5. Dump the used water and give the sink or tub a quick rinse

Wash it again with clean, cool water (no baking soda this time), following the same steps as before. Get a bowl and drain the chitterlings into it. On the second cycle, the water should appear clearer. Get rid of the soiled water and give the sink or tub a quick rinse.

To complete the third wash, simply do a second rinse and dry. When you're finished, your water should be clearer than it was before. The water could be even cleaner, so do it again if you think it needs it.

Advice on Cooking

A bowl full of freshly cooked chitterlings with cornbread in the background
  • When the meat easily separates when the chitterlings are pulled apart, they are ready.
  • It bears repeating that chitlins must be thoroughly cleaned before use.
  • I anticipate criticism because the question of whether or not to pre-boil is divisive. In any case, it's better to be safe than sorry, so I always boil my chitlins in salted water the first time before starting over in fresh water.
  • To achieve the desired aroma, onions are essential for chitlin. It's strange, but maybe it's because onions overpower it.

Instructions for Storing

  • Chitterlings, when left uncooked, can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days, or in the freezer for up to three months.
  • Chitterlings can be stored for up to four days in the refrigerator and three months in the freezer once they have been cooked.

Meals to Complement Chitlins

  • Greens with a Bit of Bite
  • Cast-iron skillet cornbread
  • Fried Chicken from the South
  • Hot Wings
A serving of prepared chitlins
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It's difficult to put into words the flavor of chitterlings or chitlins, a classic soul food that tastes nothing like how it smells when cooking. Serve it with vinegar and hot sauce alongside collard greens, fried chicken, and cornbread for a meal that will knock your socks off.
  • 4 pounds chitterlings, superior cleanliness
  • 4 cups water Separated into two groups of two cups
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Herbs (thyme) freshly picked, chopped
  • 1 Pepper, green bell
  • 1 Pepper, red Bell
  • 1 giant stem celery
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon Bouillon de poulet
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun or Creole seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons Vinegar from apple presses
  • Black pepper that has been freshly ground, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon A dash of red pepper flakes, modify as desired
  • Remove any excess fat and thoroughly clean the chitterlings.
  • The chitterlings should then be broken up into smaller pieces (about 1 to 2 inches) and placed in a medium-sized pot with enough water to cover them completely.
  • Drain and discard the liquid from the chitterlings in a colander. Please give them a good, long wash.
  • Make sure the pot has been thoroughly cleaned and set it over medium heat. Sauté the onion, garlic, and thyme in a tablespoon of oil for about a minute. Then, saute the bell peppers and celery for one more minute.
  • Mix in 2 cups of water, the chitterlings, the bay leaves, the bouillon, the Creole seasoning, the apple cider vinegar, and the seasoning. Mix it all up, and then add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Turn the heat to medium and cover the pot. Chitterlings need about 2 to 3 hours of cooking time to become tender. Make sure the water hasn't evaporated completely before continuing to cook, and if it has, add more.
  • Garnish with hot sauce or crushed red pepper.
  • When the chitterlings separate easily when pulled, they are done.
  • If you don't have hot sauce on hand, hot sauce can stand in for the red pepper flakes.
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