The History of Pork Scratchings (1800s)
The History of Pork Scratchings is clouded in mystery, but the consensus of opinion is that pork scratchings originated in the West Midlands or Black Country, England. The Black Country refers to a region covering most of the four Metropolitan Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton, and is named after its roots in the industrial revolution and the continuing role as a centre of heavy engineering and mining which in days gone by was said to cover the area in grime and soot (which is black).
It would seem that Pork Scratchings were very much a food of the working classes with origins back in the 1800's when it was produced as part of the tradition of families keeping their own pig at home then feeding it up for slaughter. Not wanting any waste, all the parts of the pig would be used if possible. Not just the offal would be used (which these days can be seen as a delicacy epitomised by the London restaurants, St. John & Hereford Road), but the skin would also transform itself from waste to wonder.
The past production of pork scratchings (1930s)
Butchers started selling Pork Scratchings in the 1930s, calling it Crackling (A word synonymous with pork scratchings in the UK). Sometimes hot (temperature wise), if you arrived soon after they had been cooked, but more often than not, they were served cold in a small paper bag. A tradition that still continues to this day, with the exception of the paper bag, being replaced by the shelf life giving properties of the plastic bag. Butchers scratchings are invariably a little bit hairy, randomly sized, with a soft fatty underneath and fresh crunchy on top.
A more modern production of pork scratching (1960s)
In modern times the fine layer of hair is removed from the skin by burning, however, this is not 100% effective and some pieces still have the hair attached. This definitely makes these snacks, not for the faint-hearted or weak stomached. A Hairy Pork Scratching can be loved or hated in equal measure. This is often the straw that breaks the camel's back for people who were wary of this delicacy from the beginning. They may try a scratching but will blurp at the thought of eating a hair.
A very recent history of pork scratchings production (gentrification / 2000s)
Recently pork scratchings have had a bit of a revival. During the time I have been building this site, they have gone 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 home made type bag with a bread bag top thingy, to now being found in supermarkets, to posh triple cooked and flavoured varieties. It seems that everybody is making them these days. I think the recent craft beer revival has 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 scratchings is not far behind.
The BBC have been talking about them (Radio4 interviewed me about them). Some people are even eating them as a diet food if they are on the keto / low carb diet.
When once we thought the days of the humble pork scratching might be numbered and they could be consined to history, today a revival is definately underway.
What are Pork Scratchings?
Pork Scratchings are not the same Pork Rinds or Pork Crunch, even though they all are snack foods made from pig skin.
Pork Scratchings are made from deep-fried pig skin. They are cold, heavy, hard and have a crispy layer of fat under the skin. Sometimes there's a little bit of meat and if you are really lucky you might find a few hairs. Pork Scratchings are generally simply flavoured with salt and maybe some other basic seasoning. There are varieties that have additional flavourings, like you may expect from a packet of crisps.
What is Pork Crackling?
Pork Crackling (not the type you have with your roast pork) is a sub-type of pork scratchings, these are cooked twice or sometimes even three times. This makes the skin lighter, more bubbly, less dense. The fat layer is also cooked in such a way as to make the fat lighter and less oily. Pork crackling are pork scratchings that your nan could eat, because you don't really need teeth like Jaws.
What is Pork Crunch?
Pork Crunch (UK) or Pork Rinds (USA) have no meat, no fat, no hair, it's just the pig skin that's fried which then 'puffs up', they are then salted and/or flavoured.
The Wikipedia Pork Scratching Page
The original version of the Wikipedia pork scratchings (if you ever saw it) may have seemed very similar to parts of this original page, and that's because it was, and I wrote it. As you will be aware the Wikipedia is susceptible to change by anyone, so the page I originally wrote has been improved upon.
|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 Black Country: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Country
The History of Bar Snacks: https://boakandbailey.com/2015/01/whats-history-bar-snacks/
Mr Porky FAQs: http://www.mrporky.co.uk/faqs/
Foods of England - Pork Crackling: http://www.foodsofengland.co.uk/porkcrackling.htm
Foods of England - Pork Scratchings: http://www.foodsofengland.co.uk/porkscratchings.htm
Are pork scratchings going posh?