Caillettes are small sausages traditionally made around France during the fete du cochon – the day of the pig slaughter. They typically contain belly and shoulder meat mixed with pig offal and cabbage, wrapped in caul and baked in wine or stock. They’re pretty much the French version of the traditional English faggot, but with a little more vegetable content (not altogether surprising really).
I’m a huge fan of the English-style faggots. On my last trip to the UK I visited friends in the Forest of Dean, West Gloucestershire, and my way through many a plate of this piggy treat. The English usually serve them with onion gravy and mash, while the French will eat it hot or cold with crusty bread (again, no surprises there). They’re basically the tastiest rissole you will ever find.
This is a great way to utilise pork offal. Pork offal has a very strong taste, and eaten alone it can be a bit much for the non-offal inclined. By combining it with the other cuts and all the herbs and spices, the flavour of the offal is not overpowering and is rounded out beautifully. The pig’s heart, liver and kidneys give a moistness and amazing depth of flavour to these little bundles of joy.
My version below is not so traditional in that I prefer to cut out the shoulder meat and just use the belly. I add a few more spices as well to give it that little kick, and true to form, I cook the little buggers in beer. These guys are brilliant straight out of the oven, and are even better the next day cold and sliced on a piece of lightly toasted sourdough.
Bière de garde, a dark Belgian Trappist Ale, a Belgian Blond or an English Ale
Caillette in beer. Makes 12-15
1 ½ cups chard, chopped
500g pork belly, minced
200g pork kidneys, finely chopped or minced
1 brown onion, finely chopped
½ bunch parsley, chopped
4 sprigs thyme, leaves only
3 cloves garlic, minced
50ml tokay (or similar)
good pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
caul fat, soaked in cold water
1 × 330ml bottle Belgian Blond (not the low carb rubbish, real blonde)
Pre heat oven to 160ºC.
In a bowl mix together all the Caillette ingredients and mix with your hand to combine. Make sure you season them well.
With wet hands, shape the mixture into 12-15 even balls. Lay the caul out on your chopping board and cut it into 10cm squares. Wrap each ball in caul fat and place them seam side down in a baking dish that’s just big enough to fit them snuggly.
Pour the beer over the Caillettes until just covered. If you don’t have quite enough beer top it up with water.
Bake for 45 minutes or until nicely browned.
Remove from the oven and serve with loads of crusty bread hot or cold.