I have early memories of Saturday morning breakfasts of SPAM. Salty, meaty, fried and curled up around the edges. I liked it then, but years later, out in the wilderness, I tried again and almost choked at the salt content. It drowned out any flavor the meat particles once had and made me thirsty for an entire day. Still, I couldn’t help but appreciate the survivalist capacity of SPAM and that iconic can-well traveled, dust covered, nostalgic, and dinged in ways that suggest a storied past.
Years later, I was in a gas station in Hawaii and very hungry. Under the heat lamp were the usual choices-hot dogs, burritos, and then SPAM, served over sushi rice and with a sliver of seaweed holding it together. I had heard about this this East- -meets-tinned-meat staple known as masubi. It seemed like the safest choice of the light bulb- cooked buffet. It had a sweet teriyaki sauce that balanced out the salt, and despite my biases, I enjoyed it. SPAM utilizes pork trim that normally goes to waste, so it was an early adaptor in our growing awareness about food waste. I set out to make my own SPAM, with less salt, but still using parts of the animal that are normally wasted. So I made one out of pig trotters, and a salmon SPAM from collars, bellies and tails.
Step 1: Buy Pig Trotters
This is not as easy as one might think. Using trotters for SPAM was first suggested to me by a butcher at the Ferry Plaza Market. However, the butcher told me they were out, as all the chefs wanted them. I felt a little smug. I was out there sourcing alongside top chefs in San Francisco. When I was finally able to get some, the butcher advised me: “Just cook them for a good, long time until the meat falls from the two bones going through the hooves.”
Step 2: Slow Cook Pig Trotters
Put them in a big stock pot on low heat. I added some salt- (if you can get ahold of Morton’s Meat Curing salt, that will make it more pink, like original SPAM), bay leaves, paprika, salt & pepper. I let the pig hooves simmer for about 4 hours. I was expecting the bones to slip out, leaving a pork belly-like mass behind.
Step 3: Make a Mess
When I took one out, the bones didn’t slide off fatty, meaty flesh. So I worked out the two biggest bones, that were encased in thick skin. Even when I had them removed, still, no meaty reward, just more bones that resembled toes. Yes, pig toes, with gristle and bones and padding. I was out of my league. This was a skill learned from hard knocks during the Depression or by chefs working their magic. I didn’t know what I was doing-besides making a huge, greasy mess. I put it into a Cuisinart and blended it. The more it blended, the more I realized that I didn’t ever want to eat this. I certainly didn’t want to give the fatty, gnarly, thick skin ground into a paste to other people. (A hand cranked meat grinder would work better). So I compromised and ran out and bought humanely raised, local, organic ground pork and mixed it 1:1 with the trotter gurry.
Step 4: Mix With Ground Pork, Shape and Freeze
Next, I mixed the trotters with ground pork. I also added some sage leaves, pepper and about a tablespoon of chili flakes. I divided it into half and packed each into plastic bag, and then put into a bread pan. I then placed these into the freezer so that it’s frozen into shape.
Step 5: Slow Cook in Sous Vide or in Oven Double Broiler
I cooked this in a Sous Vide machine for four hours. This might be the only reason people aren’t breaking their teeth on the boney-bits. However, you can also use a good meat grinder, and then DIY Sous Vide it by filling a baking pan with water and then placing the SPAM inside to bake at a low heat. (See salmon SPAM Instructable for doing this). I’ve also heard that you can use a dishwasher to Sous Vide, but that’s an entirely different Instructable.
Step 6: Let It Sit in Fridge Overnight
I put it in the fridge overnight, and the next day took it out for a look. It was the right shape, the hue almost pink, and the gelatin from the pig hooves seemed to bind it all together. There was a layer of fat congealed on the outside, but you just call that lardo and consider it a delicacy.
Step 7: Slice and Cook It
Get oil or butter really hot, and flash fry it for 20 seconds on each side.
Step 8: Make Masubi
For the masubi, make sushi rice. If you can’t find it, try Calrose medium grain. You can add a little saki and piece of kombu to the cooking rice if you’d like to flavor it a bit. When it’s done, put it into a bowl. If you have a sushi roller, use that to roll it into cylinders. If not, you can try to use some wax paper or your hands to make rolls of rice.
Slice your SPAM and put it on the rice. I added a little seaweed sauce made with kombu, sesame oil, onions, shitake mushrooms, tamari, ginger, honey and red pepper flakes. Let it simmer for 45 minutes. When the sauce cools a little, puree it. This stuff is good on everything. A more in-depth Instructable is coming on this. While this sauce was cooking, I put a few pieces of kombu in to soak up flavor and to soften.
Step 9: Tie Up Masubi With Kombu
Take a few large pieces of kombu and cut them into thin slices. Use these to tie up the rice and SPAM.
Step 10: Serve
Assemble and serve. Wait until people have already chewed and swallowed it before you tell them they are eating trotters.