The authentic Le Mans Rillettes have become a classic of friendly parties in the Pays de la Loire region. With a smooth texture similar to pâté or terrine, the Rillette is widely eaten as a appetizer - spread on a crisp slice of French bread - or in sandwiches for snacking. The original recette de Rillette from Le Mans, based on pork meat, is one of the most traditional recipes in France.
The Rillettes de Porc from Pays de la Loire have been a tasty, refined pork preparation for many years now. The production in Le Mans still respects the authentic techniques of cooking rillettes.
To make this rich French terrine, cooks and charcutiers (porkbutchers) from the Sarthe department start by cubing and salting the pork meat - generally pork belly, lean raw ham and lard. Baked "au bain marie" or cooked over low flames in a large pot with fat and seasonings, the Rillette gets its tender texture thanks to a very slow cooking (for 4 to 6 hours).
Then the meat is traditionally drained, shredded and compressed. This compression consists in packing the meat into small bowls or "terrine pots" and weighting it for several hours. The ultimate stage is to keep the preparation in the fridge for a few days, with a layer of fat covering the meat, enhancing the flavours of the Rillette and making the terrine moister.
Because of its creamy, smooth interior similar to pâté, the Rillettes used to be called "the poors'pate" in the Northern regions of France. The authentic recipe from Le Mans made out with larger pieces of pork provides rich and fine Rillettes with a rustic texture.
These Rillettes Sarthoises are actually less coloured than the neighbouring regions' production.
For instance, Rillette from Tours and Anjou are famous for their bronze colour achieved during the cooking process - for which they are called "brown jam" in the Northwestern France.
In France, the Rillettes are generally enjoyed chilled, spread lightly on crackers or French crusty farmhouse bread. In baguette with gherkins or other pickles, Pork Rillettes make a perfect, delightful fast food!
Nowadays, the Rillette can be made out from a wide variety of meats such as goose, duck, chicken and rabbit, and industrial rillettes also include anchovies, tuna and salmon versions.