Cookbook Confessions: Sweet and Sour Pig’s Feet

Cookbooks from the Texas Collection on campus contain millions of recipes from years past. Photo credit: Sarah Jennings

By Sarah Jennings, Reporter

After discovering the wealth of vintage cookbooks in the archives of the Texas Collection, cooking the weird, old recipes and sharing the surprising results in a regular column seemed like the logical thing to do. Welcome to Cookbook Confessions.

Follow the recipe to get the same, delicious results. Photo credit: Sarah Jennings

Flipping through a cookbook from 1949, I couldn’t ignore a recipe for Sweet and Sour Pig’s Feet. Eating crazy food is one thing, but cooking—and, well, touching—such a unique meat is a whole different challenge. At the risk of losing roommates and burning a bridge with all Lariat readers, Sweet and Sour Pig’s Feet won out as the perfect start to the cookbook column.

In the foreword to “Out of this World Recipes,” the ladies of St. Anne’s Guild of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Waco state, “We have endeavored to meet the needs of simple cookery, and to lift the everyday cookery out of the commonplace.” This recipe was exactly that. It was simple, but far from commonplace. With ingredients like soy sauce, cornstarch and black beans, there was no telling what it would taste like.

You don't have to go far to find pig's feet. Pick some up at the local grocery store. Photo credit: Sarah Jennings

Finding the ingredients was the first challenge. A quick search on the HEB app confirmed pig’s feet are indeed available. Hormel Foods sells them semi-boneless and pickled, which is certainly not what the author of the cookbook, Mrs. Charles Higgins, had in mind. Fortunately, life in 2015 is very different than the 1940s. Higgins and her neighbors likely used every part of the animal as a result of living through the Great Depression and war rationing. Now, instead of matter-of-factly buying the feet from the local butcher, it required a hunt through the canned meats and international foods section. Of course, a funny chat with the H-E-B cashier was inescapable. Not many 21-year-olds buy pig’s feet at 9:30 p.m. on a Tuesday.

Once back home, the worst part was still to come: unscrewing that jar and getting my hands dirty. After serious contemplation over whether or not to don latex dishwashing gloves, the lid was off. Two lumps of meat—and some bone that definitely looked like hoof—lay on the cutting board. It was all downhill from here.

This was a first for boiling meat, and the aroma was not good. But once the sugar, the Lawdry’s seasoning—which served as substitute for gourmet powder—and soy sauce began to simmer, the smell improved. Forty minutes later, the pig’s feet dish looked like soup. The food was…delicious. The appearance? Far from appetizing. However, some arranging on a bed of quinoa made the dish almost tempting.

This recipe was a victory for the taste buds. That’s not to say it’s Pinterest-worthy though. Don’t dare trying to impress a roommate or significant other. However, should a whole pig turn up randomly in the backyard, this is a fantastic solution to a very real problem. Overall, a search for something wacky, something that no one would eat in the 21st century, produced a surprisingly tasty dish. Perhaps this city girl is ready for a homesteading lifestyle after all.