“Slaughter a pig and portion the carcass into eight pieces. Stir-fry four qian of salt for each piece of pork and meticulously rub them with the salt such that not a speck of the pork’s surfaces are left unsalted. Next, hang the salted pork pieces high in a windy but shaded located. If by chance one finds insects or maggots chewing on parts of the pork, simply apply sesame oil to these parts.
Fengrou is best eaten during summer. To prepare, first soak the dried pork overnight in water before cooking. Note that one should not use too little or too much water when cooking. Rather, use just enough to cover the piece of pork. When cutting, use a sharp knife to shave the pork into thin slices against the grain of the meat.
The Yin residence makes this item so well that it is often sent as an Imperial tribute item. Even the fengrou of present day Xuzhou cannot compare with it. As for how they make it so well, no one knows.”
Fengrou translates literally to “wind pork”, which describes this method of dry-curing pork by exposing it to cool wind. Although, this is a pretty typical way of making cured pork (and meats) in Chinese cuisine, what is interesting about this recipe is that it uses of ALL the parts of the pig to make fengrou, not just the more popular ham and belly. The eight individual parts of the pig likely consists of the four legs and the four portions of the main carcass. Due to the different amounts of exercise the muscle gets and their different curing and drying speeds, the flavours and texture of each of these parts must have been quite varied and would have made for some fun eating.
Also interesting is the method Yuan Mei prescribes for dealing with the bits of the pork infested by maggots: simply brush off the nasty little white wrigglers and rub sesame oil on the previously infested patches of pork. The possibility of insect infestation hints that fengrou can be made earlier in early autumn when the weather is warmer and insects are more prevalent. Either that or the bigger pieces of pork being cured are more easily insect infested? I’m also curious on what purpose the sesame oil is supposed to play. Perhaps preventing that spot of pork from drying out too fast? Or a deterrent to insects looking to lay more eggs on you chunk of pork? Whatever it is, it’s better than the organophosphate pesticides some unscrupulous modern manufacturers use to ward off insects and preserve their rather toxic wares.
As for why Yin household’s fengrou was so fantastic it may be due to terroir: the way the pig was raise or the coolness and humidity of the location and wind that dried the pork. It could also very well be the skill of the person making it. Or a combination of the both perhaps?