Monday, December 26, 2016

Ponce Bourré

Recently, I came across George Graham's Acadiana Table blog "Ponce Upon a Time" where he wrote about Ponce Bourré. It took me all the way back to my childhood.

When I was just a young boy, six or seven, my father would have a boucherie. He would choose one of his pigs and butcher it. The event usually took place in February or sometimes in March depending on the weather. Since we had no refrigeration, it had to be cold outside. He would invite one of the neighbors, and they would usually bring a pig to butcher too. There were two ways to kill the animal with which I was familiar. One was to hit the pig in the forehead using a heavy object like a hammer or post. The other was to shoot the pig. My father preferred shooting it because it insured that the animal would not suffer from a misplaced blow. After the pig was downed, my father quickly gathered as much of the blood that he could to be used to create blood boudin, which is another story I will share sometime in the future. The pig carcass was then immersed in boiling water and the skin shaved carefully. The skin would be used to make cracklings and to render lard for cooking. Everything on that pig was used. The tail and the ears, considered delicacies, were roasted over an open fire by the kids and eaten on the spot. The intestines, heart, liver, hooves, everything, was cleaned, used in a dish, or saved for future use. Absolutely nothing was wasted.

One of my favorites was the pig stomach. Daddy would clean it carefully, rinsing it several times in clean cold water. Then he would cook up some onions, peppers (at least one Jalapeno to spice it up a bit), celery, garlic, whatever we had available, and add that to a mixture of cooked ground pork, and rice. To that he would add fresh parsley and green onion tops. Then he would stuff the stomach and sew it shut with butcher's twine. He had a small building outside that he used to smoke sausages, hams and other meats. He would place the stuffed stomach in there for most of the day.

After the boucherie was complete, and everything was either being smoked, wrapped up in freezer paper, or placed in some sort of brine for later use, it was time to celebrate. Daddy would grab the Ponce Bourré from the smoke house, and Momma would place it in our old blackened pot along with some vegetables (carrots, potatoes, celery, onions—again whatever was available) and about a couple of cups of some kind of broth—usually something that came from the pig. She would cover the pot, place it in the oven, and cook it for at least a couple of hours. To this day, if I close my eyes and think about it, I can remember the succulent smoky aroma that filled the house as it cooked. When it was done, my mother, sister, neighbors, and I would wait patiently, mouths watering, while my father sliced the ponce into quarter-inch slices.

Since those days, I've eaten my share of Ponce Bourré, but something was always missing, and I've finally figured it out. It's the ritualistic experience of raising, killing, cleaning, and cooking the pig. The ponce was reward for a job well done.

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If you're interested in the recipe for Ponce Bourré, visit Acadiana Table. Graham has a good recipe in his blog for Sweet Potato Ponce. There are also other recipes on the internet if you google it. Alternately, if you find yourself in Louisiana around Lafayette, Scott, Sunset, Eunice, Ville Platte, or Church Point, Graham also has a list of places that offer it. You don't even have to kill the pig.

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