Pork rinds may not seem like too adventurous a flavour experience to some of you readers, but I’ve been wondering about these things since I was a kid and yet have always found myself just a little too grossed out by them to give them a shot. According to the new Thinking Outside the Flavour Box rules that I just made up now, though, this meant that I had to seek out some puffed pork rinds, eat them, and review them for your entertainment. Of course, since I needed something to wash down the pieces of fried pig skin, I opted for a bottle of St. Peter’s English Ale – as beer and pork rinds is about as rednecky a snack as you’ll ever find.
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Before I dive into my pork-flavoured adventure, I should note that my curiousity surrounding pork rinds steam entirely from an exchange between Donatello and Michelangelo in the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.
I should also note that I’m only now realizing that I tasted a snack called Baconettes in my last TOtFB article. Weird. I must be subconsciously drawn to bacon-flavoured foods. Well, maybe not subconsciously. At least these ones are made with legitimate pig. Check out the ingredients!
That’s right: the only ingredients making up these things are pork rinds, lard and salt. According to Wikipedia, pork rinds are nothing more than fried pieces of pork skin, in this case puffed up and dried. The snack is related to a Nova Scotian treat that I ate once upon a time called scrunchions, which are basically pork fat croutons. I remember loving scrunchions when I tried them, so I hope the Frito Lay version is at least palatable. One more peek at the bag before I inspect the rinds themselves.
“A crunchy, fun snack with a hint of smokey bacon flavour that Canadians love.” The slogan in unclear as to whether Canadians love the smokey bacon flavour, or pork rinds in general. I’m also a bit skeptical as to how much “fun” these pork rinds will turn out to be. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love my crunchy, bacon-y snack foods, but I can’t even remember the last time I described any of them as “fun”. But hey, I’m a Canadian who loves smokey bacon flavour. There’s some promise here.
The average pork rind is about ten centimetres long and weighs maybe a gram. They’re light and full of air, and they definitely have a bacon-y smell to them. Not offensive, but not fresh-smelling either. I’d better get my beer prepped for when I bite into this thing. The beer of choice is St. Peter’s English Ale, which I’ve never tried and was purchased entirely because of the shape of the bottle.
From the St. Peter’s Brewery website: The brewery at St. Peter’s is housed in listed former agricultural buildings which were last used in the late Sixties. They then became derelict but offered a superb site both for a working brewery and a visitors’ attraction. Today, the brewery produces ‘real ale’, Over 90% of this is bottled, the remainder being for cask beer with over half of our bottle volume is exported. Our capacity is now 15,000 barrels per annum (83,000 pints per week). Our oval Bottle is a 500ml copy of one from Gibbstown, near Philadelphia which dates from c. 1770. It was produced for Thomas Gerrard, an innkeeper with a tidewater inn on the Delaware River.
Hey, that’s pretty cool! I wonder if it will taste any good. Time to dig in!
The pork rinds don’t really taste like much beyond salt with a hint of old bacon. They pop on your tongue as they absorb moisture, and the result is very much like eating a large spoonful of dried Rice Krispies while sniffing a piece of week-old jerky that was left on the kitchen counter out of the bag. The pork rinds also leave a greasy, unpleasant coating behind in your mouth, which definitely necessitates a swig of beer.
The ale has a bit too much barley for my tastes, but it’s a perfectly serviceable beer. The flavour completely overpowers the pork rinds, though, and since I wasn’t wild about the pork rind flavour to begin with, I think I’ll probably stick to potato chips when it comes to picking out a snack food in a crinkly plastic bag next time I’m at the corner store. St. Peter’s English Ale will never be my favourite beer in the world, and if I buy it again it will probably just be for the bottle, same as the first time. Still, you can’t go wrong with it, and I would never dissuade anybody from trying it out. Pork rinds, on the other hand, I’d probably advise against in favour of tastier treats.