The History of Pork Scratchings (the 1800s)
The origins of Pork Scratchings are shrouded in mystery, adding an air of intrigue to their history. According to popular belief, these delectable treats first emerged in the West Midlands, specifically in the region known as the Black Country, located in England. The term "Black Country" commonly refers to a geographical area encompassing the four Metropolitan Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, and Wolverhampton. It derives its name from the area's industrial heritage and its association with heavy engineering and mining during the industrial revolution.
In those bygone days, the Black Country was known for its pervasive grime and soot, which lent it a distinct black appearance. This gritty backdrop contributes to the lore surrounding the birthplace of Pork Scratchings, highlighting the historical context and the region's industrial past. The specific details of their inception may remain elusive. Still, the connection between the Black Country's heritage and the creation of our favourite savoury snack adds an intriguing layer to their story.
Working Class Food
Pork Scratchings have a rich history deeply rooted in the working-class culture of the 1800s. Originating from the practice of families raising their own pigs at home and subsequently preparing them for slaughter, these delectable treats emerged as a creative solution to minimize waste. In an era when every part of the pig was valued and utilized, Pork Scratchings became a testament to resourcefulness and culinary ingenuity.
During this time, families took great pride in rearing their own pigs, ensuring a sustainable source of food for their households. When the time came for slaughter, it was essential to make the most of every portion of the animal. As a result, the tradition of transforming pork rinds into crispy, flavorful snacks was born.
The popularity of Pork Scratchings quickly spread among the working classes, who appreciated their affordability, satiating nature, and savory taste. These humble snacks became a staple in taverns, public houses, and local gatherings, providing a simple yet satisfying treat for hardworking individuals.
Today, Pork Scratchings continue to be cherished as a testament to the heritage and resourcefulness of the working classes. While their origins may lie in a bygone era, these crunchy morsels have transcended social boundaries and are enjoyed by people from all walks of life. Whether as a nostalgic reminder of the past or a tasty indulgence in the present, Pork Scratchings hold a special place in culinary history, showcasing the time-honored practice of making the most out of every part of the pig.
Meat, Offal, By-products
The primary part of an animal used for food is meat, consisting of the muscular tissue. Additionally, there are other parts of the animal known as Offal, which include various organs and tissues. Offal encompasses a wide range of components, such as blood, brain, chitterlings, heart, kidney, liver, lung, trotters, snout, spleen, pancreas, testicle, tongue, tripe, intestines, hooves, horns, hide, and sweetbread. It is worth noting that certain organs, like the heart, kidney, and liver, are commonly used in British cuisine, while others such as spleen, testicle, and hooves are less popular.
Traditionally, animal skin has been utilized for leather and vellum. However, preparing the skin for these final products requires extensive processing.
Necessity is the mother of invention, resourcefulness and ingenuity led to an innovative approach in the Black Country, where individuals discovered a way to transform an animal by-product into something remarkable. By cooking the skin in its natural state—separating it from the meat, cutting it into pieces, and boiling it in the animal's fat, the skin could be turned into a culinary wonder.
A Model Heart
The past production of pork scratchings (the 1930s)
In the 1930s, butchers introduced a delectable treat known as Pork Scratchings to the public. These crunchy delights were often referred to as "crackling", a term synonymous with pork scratchings in the UK. Initially, they were sometimes available hot or warm if purchased immediately after being cooked. However, more commonly, they were sold cold in a small paper bag.
Even today, if you know where to look, you can find freshly made butcher's scratchings. Both long-established and contemporary butchers proudly offer scratchings over the counter. The only notable change from the 1930s is the packaging - the paper bag has been replaced by the convenience of plastic bags, ensuring an extended shelf life.
Butcher's scratchings possess a distinctive charm. They come in random sizes, often a bit hairy, with a soft, fatty underside and a satisfyingly fresh and crunchy top. Each piece exudes a homemade quality that adds to their appeal.
A slightly more modern production of pork scratching (the 1960s)
Pork scratchings gained prominence as a retail offering in the 1960s when mass production took hold. The manufacturing process involved the supply of skin to the manufacturer, who would then cook it in large quantities.
To remove the fine layer of hair from the skin, a burning method was employed. While this technique was not entirely foolproof, resulting in some pieces retaining traces of hair, it was the prevailing method. The skin was subsequently "boiled" in lard or the fat obtained from the pig.
During this time, pork scratchings were not readily available for general purchase. Instead, they were discreetly tucked away behind the bar of the pub, awaiting their next intoxicated victim. They were an authentic pub snack, accompanying the likes of peanuts and crisps, offering a satisfyingly crunchy and indulgent experience.
Oh No, A Hair!
The presence of a solitary hair on a pork scratching can truly test the fortitude of those who indulge in these snacks. It becomes a love-it-or-hate-it scenario, with some individuals embracing the idea while others recoil in disgust.
For many, the discovery of a hair becomes the tipping point, causing those wary of this delicacy to hesitate or even stop eating altogether. The mere thought of consuming a hair elicits a reflexive aversion. However, as the night progresses and a few more pints are consumed, the initially hesitant individuals often find themselves drawn back to the bag of scratchings. Though it's highly unlikely there will be any left at that point, the allure remains strong.
Pork scratchings are notorious for their ability to challenge and captivate, sparking varied reactions among those who encounter them. It is a testament to the complex and intriguing nature of this amazing pub snack.
a pork scratching with one single long hair
A very recent history of pork scratchings production (gentrification / the 2000s)
Recently pork scratchings have had a bit of a revival. During the time I have been building this site, they have been transformed from endangered species to totally commonplace. From small bags only found behind the bar on pub snack cards or if you lived a little further up north, the more homemade type bag with a bread bag top thingy, to now being found in almost every supermarket and convenience store, to posh triple cooked version and a myriad of flavoured varieties.
It seems to me that everybody is making pork scratchings these days! I think the recent craft beer revival has had something to do with this. If people are willing to put their hand in their pocket for a craft beer, then a £2 bag of pork scratchings can't be far behind.
Once we thought that the days of the humble pork scratching might be numbered, and they may be consigned to history, today a revival is definitely underway. The rise and rise of luxury pork scratchings have seen us go from a few simple added flavours to bags containing a pot of apple sauce, to fresh chilled versions available in the supermarket, to the now-infamous pork scratching advent calendar! ubiquitous is the word we are looking for,
What are Pork Scratchings?
Pork Scratchings are a distinct British snack, differing from Pork Rinds and Pork Crunch, even though all three are derived from pig skin. Made through a process of deep-frying, Pork Scratchings are served cold and are characterised by their substantial weight, hard texture, and a crispy layer of fat beneath the skin. Occasionally, you may find a small amount of meat attached, and if you're particularly fortunate, a few hairs may also be present. While traditional Pork Scratchings are primarily seasoned with salt, some variations include additional flavourings, akin to what you might find in a packet of crisps.
What is Pork Crackling?
Pork Crackling, distinct from the variety served with roast pork, is a specific sub-category of the British snack known as Pork Scratchings. Unlike traditional Pork Scratchings, Pork Crackling undergoes multiple cooking stages—often two or three—to achieve a lighter, airier texture. This process also renders the fat layer less dense and oily, making the snack easier to consume. Because of its softer texture, Pork Crackling is often jokingly referred to as the Pork Scratchings that even your nan could eat, eliminating the need for teeth as strong as those of the James Bond character 'Jaws'. Typically seasoned with salt, Pork Crackling may also feature additional flavourings, much like its relatives, Pork Scratchings and Pork Crunch.
What is Pork Crunch?
Pork Crunch, known as Pork Rinds in the USA, is a popular snack made exclusively from pig skin. Unlike its British relatives, Pork Scratchings and Pork Crackling, Pork Crunch is devoid of meat, fat, or hair. The skin is first boiled to remove any impurities, and then it undergoes a frying process that causes it to 'puff up,' resulting in a light, airy, and crispy texture. This unique preparation method distinguishes Pork Crunch from other pork-based snacks, making it a popular choice for those seeking a lighter alternative. Typically seasoned with salt, Pork Crunch can also be found in a variety of flavours, ranging from spicy to smoky, much like its British counterparts. Due to its low carbohydrate content, it is often considered a suitable snack for those following a ketogenic or low-carb diet.
What are Leaf Scratchings?
Leaf Scratchings are a unique and rare by-product of the lard-making industry, specifically derived from the 'leaf' of the pig, which is the tissue surrounding the kidneys. This type of lard is considered superior to other forms, and during the clarification process, residual tissues and bits of meat are left behind. These remnants are then compressed and cooked to create Leaf Scratchings. Unlike traditional Pork Scratchings, which are crispy, Leaf Scratchings have a flaky texture and boast an intense, porky flavour that is reminiscent of Parma ham. Due to their scarcity, Leaf Scratchings are seldom found in retail shops and are rarely available even in specialised butcher shops. They represent the rarest form of scratchings, offering a unique gastronomic experience for those fortunate enough to encounter them.
The Wikipedia Pork Scratchings Page
The original version of the Wikipedia pork scratching page (if you ever saw it) may have seemed very similar to parts of this original page. That is because it was, and I wrote them both. As you will be aware the Wikipedia is susceptible to change by anyone, so the page I originally wrote has been improved upon.
Click here to visit the Wikipedia Page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pork_scratchings
|Colombia||Chicharrones, Chicharrón Toteado (exploded pork crackling), Chicharrón Cocho|
|Quebec||Oreilles de Christ (Christ Ears)|
|Mexico||Chicharrón or Chicharra|
|United States||Pork Rinds, Cracklings|
|Serbia||čvarci, Duvan čvarci|
|Spain||Cortezas de Cerdo, Chicharrones, Torreznos, Cotnes|
|The Netherlands & Belgium||Knabbelspek (nibbling bacon)|
|Austria & Germany||Grammeln or Grieben, Schweinekrusten (pig crusts)|
|United Kingdom||Pork Scratchings, Pork Crackling, Pork Crunch|
The History of Pork Scratchings by Openshaws:
The Black Country:
The History of Bar Snacks:
Mr Porky FAQs:
Foods of England - Pork Crackling:
Foods of England - Pork Scratchings:
Are pork scratchings going posh?