Rillons is a specialty of the Loire region of France, particularly of the Vendôme area in the northern Loire valley.
It is cubes of meat, usually pork, preserved in fat.
These are served with crusty bread or toast points. Some people like them with a glass of white wine for breakfast.
They can be served hot. You can just heat them up in their own fat, or flame them in brandy, which helps to cut through the richness of the fat. If you aren’t melting the excess fat off by heating them, then scrape off the excess fat off by hand before serving them.
To make Rillons, pork is cut into 2 to 2 1/2 inch (5 to 6 cm) cubes, and put in a covered pot. Sometimes the bone is left in for flavour. The meat is salted, and then sometimes let stand for a few hours before cooking. Seasoning can include salt, pepper, spices such as allspice, herbs such as bay leaf and thyme, etc. The meat is then baked or simmered until cooked and tender.
Traditionally, the pieces of meat are then put into a small jar or crock (any bone still in at this point is removed.) The rendered fat from cooking them is then poured through a sieve over them until they are covered.
Rillons d’oie is Rillons made with boned goose meat instead of pork.
Good pork cuts to use are fatty pork belly (“poitrine de porc”) or pork shoulder.
Rillons can be used as an ingredient in other dishes.
Even after the Rillons are gone, the flavourful lard is good to use as a frying fat for potatoes or other meats.
Rillons can be kept refrigerated for weeks if kept thoroughly covered in the lard.
Literature & Lore
Rillons, Rillettes, they taste the same
And would by any other name,
And are, if I may risk a joke,
Alike as two pigs in a poke.
The dishes are the same, and yet
While Tours provides the best Rillettes
The best Rillons are made in Blois.
There must be some solution.
— Richard Wilbur, Poetry, “Rillons, Rillettes,” The New Yorker, January 29, 1966, p. 28
“Rillons” is an old French word that means a small piece of pork.
Aka “rillauds”, “rillots.”
Fearnley-Whittingstall, Hugh. Easy does it. Manchester: The Guardian. 19 April 2008.
Willan, Anne. “Rillettes and Rillons” in French Regional Cooking. William Morrow and Co., Inc. 1981.