At Rich-Harris’s house, no holiday table is complete without chitlins, even if it’s a labor of love to feed them to her extended family. “I have to make at least six to eight buckets,” she says, “and every bucket takes at least three hours to clean.” Start with one bucket, as this recipe calls for; Rich-Harris prefers the “red bucket” Smithfield brand, which is available at Walmart. She warns against falling for the precleaned hype. “Because there’s still stuff in there,” she explains. “I’m paying this money and you supposed to already done cleaned them?” And, she adds, don’t be in a hurry when you begin.
- "I use lukewarm water," Rich-Harris says. "I don't like using cold water 'cuz they greasy. I let them sit in there for about an hour. I start peeling [the fat membrane] off, but I don't peel a lot of the lean off. Then you gotta turn them. Then I take them from one side of the sink to the other. Then I look at them to see if they're OK, and I give them several checks. I give them like about three washes. I can't see washing them six times, because now you're taking the taste out of them."
- Place the cleaned chitlins in a large stockpot; Rich-Harris says a turkey roaster works well. Add enough water to cover them. "It's like cabbage," Rich-Harris explains. "You don't need a lot of water because they already got water in them."
- Add the remaining ingredients to the pot. Simmer on low for about four hours, stirring every 15 minutes to ensure the chitlins aren't sticking to the bottom.
- "You know they're done when they got that cooked look," Rich-Harris says. "Nice and brown, and nice and chewable. A lot of people like hot sauce, but I like sweet potatoes with mine."
Mecca Bos is a longtime Twin Cities based food writer and professional chef. She spends her time precariously balancing between the two. Thinking of travel and tacos are hobbies.