In the past, cracklings (or pork rinds, if you prefer) were basically a byproduct made from pig belly. And since pork belly was close to worthless, cracklings weren’t regarded much higher. Due to their high amount of calories, they were great for quickly filling an empty stomach. A handful of homemade cracklings, a piece of homemade bread, maybe some chopped onion, and you’ve got yourself a feast –a very budget-friendly feast. But not anymore…
Nobody knows exactly how cracklings became such a highly praised dish. It’s one of those unexplained phenomenons. However, there is an urban legend (there is always an urban legend) from several years ago.
An unknown butcher was unhappy because his cracklings weren’t selling even though they were dirt cheap. (I think they were selling for $2 per pound at the time.) So he thought of a brilliant idea. He raised the price to $12 to pound! Human nature did the rest. People started buying them like crazy. Suddenly, everyone wanted to have some. Other butchers followed this example, and the rest is history. I’m not sure how authentic this legend is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was close to truth. People never cease to amaze me.
Before, you could find cracklings at the farmer’s market and pretty much nowhere else. Rarely anyone was looking for it, anyway. Today, every major retail store has its own brand of cracklings. Wherever you go, there are cracklings in various forms and shapes to be found.
The cheap kind (but still way, way overpriced) are the ones that are not completely dried and have some fat left in them. Some people prefer those, but I find them disgusting – the cracklings, not the people. They are like tiny pockets of fat. When you chew them, that fat spills all over your mouth. And they don’t even make those crackling sounds. I find that unacceptable.
Completely dried cracklings are valued the highest. They have the consistency of regular chips and can be eaten as such. I believe that’s the kind that is responsible for the name “cracklings.” So far, I haven’t been able to find the exact same cracklings my grandma used to make,and I probably never will. Such is life.
They are pretty popular in pubs all over Great Britain, where they serve them as snacks. There is even one Croatian company that exports them to England for an astonishing price of $38 per pound. Now that’s what I call good business. So far, I haven’t found any pub in Croatia that serves cracklings, but I am guessing that it is just a matter of time.