Dehydrated pork crackling. Picture: Twitter
Dehydrated pork crackling. Picture: Twitter

Traditional pork crackling should be seasonal, say Chef James Diack

By Lebohang Mosia Time of article published Oct 3, 2019

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If you’re a believer of Johannesburg’s fast-evolving food scene, then you’ll know that Chef James Diack is the driving force behind three of this city’s most popular eateries: Coobs in Parkhurst, Douglas + Hale in Parktown North and La Stalla in Melville. With the opening of Il Contadino last year, Diack solidified his position as one of the city’s beloved bistro boys.

This restaurateur and food pioneer was raised in Magaliesberg, on Brightside Farm, which is managed by his mother, Janet, and provides 95% of the produce served at each restaurant. “Over zealous about seasonality and sustainability, the Brightside team is devoted to traceable provenance, by providing a world class root-to-leaf dining experience,” affirms Diack.

Slow roasted pork shoulder with crispy crackling. Picture: Supplied

While many restaurants, farms and butcheries claim to be sustainable and organic, here is a little tip to help you establish whether they are or not. We all love crackling; that crispy, fatty piece of deliciousness served alongside a pork belly dish, or as a bar snack. Well, did you know that the type of crackling you are given, should differ by season?

According to Chef James Diack, Joburg’s pioneer of provenance and owner of The Brightside Group, “If you are being served a fatty, crispy crackling in winter, then the pig is unlikely to be from a local, organic farm but somewhere it is being overfed or injected with hormones to make it taste great.”

It’s simple really; pigs foraging for food at a legitimate, organic farm during winter will be much leaner than the ones who are grown in mass-scale slaughterhouses. The leaner the pig, the less fatty its crackling.

Slow-braised pork shoulder with pork crackling. Picture: Twitter

“Because all our pigs come off our family farm in the Magaliesburg and grazing conditions are less bountiful in winter, the layer of fat on them is a lot thinner. So, to ensure all The Brightside Group’s restaurants offer a great crackling experience in winter, we serve a dehydrated version called a crackling puff. It is still crispy and delicious and avoids the chewy disappointment that comes from attempting to cook regular crackling with half the fat,” says Chef James.  

Brightside Farm, where James was raised, is run by his mother, Janet, and provides 95% of the produce served at each restaurant thus, the name The Brightside Group.

So, for next winter, consider yourself a little more educated and opt for the butcher or restaurant supplying you with the leaner pork. Its not only better for your health, but for our planet’s sustainability too. 

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