Scratching around for descriptions


Happened to mention on Twitter today that I was eating home-made pork scratchings. We all have our vices, and although it’s years since I bought one of those strange small square bags from behind the bar, pork scratchings still have a corner (a small one) of my heart. I’d never tried to make them before, but faced with the wobbly fatty bit from a piece of ham I’d just cooked, I thought, why not give it a go? So I stuck it in a medium oven for an hour or so to let it crisp up, cut it into slices and let it cool.

What I ended up with was admittedly rather like chewing – or rather trying to chew – through deep-fried tortoiseshell. Dentists everywhere would have filed it under ‘Avoid’ but it did at least taste like the real thing. Then came a tweet from the chief twitterer at Enotria – ‘Can we have a tasting note please?’

How do you describe the flavour of pork scratchings? Wine’s a doddle in comparison. The formula for a wine tasting note is to take 2-4 fruits of roughly similar character, sprinkle on some flora and – if you’re feeling game – some fauna (along method of cooking), add in a couple of sensory pleasures (or displeasures) and finally finish with the finish.

Other subjects aren’t quite so easy. I remember several years ago going to an egg tasting at the Cordon Bleu School in London. Yes, an egg tasting. Someone was launching something called the Four-Grain Egg, which was basically a barn egg from hens that had been fed on four particular grains – oats, barley, rye, wheat or something like that. The Four-Grain Egg was up against some battery eggs and som M&S free range eggs, and the blind tasting competition ran to three disciplines – I think scrambled, hard boiled and soft boiled. When the cosies came off at the end of the event, there was a unanimous winner that had come top in each instance – the battery egg. And in last position each time was the free range egg. Cue cries of, ‘Cor guv, strike a light,’ from the Brits and exclamations of, ‘C’est pas possible!’ from the bevy of toques.

But during the judging process, what was the most popular descriptor of the various egg concoctions? ‘Creamy’ certainly featured a few times, as did ‘soft’. But the most often used word was – wait for it – ‘eggy’…

Which brings us back to the very crunchy pork scratchings. They were a touch sweet, not a little briny and just a bit fruity. But the word I’d used to sum them up would be – you’ve probably guessed already – ‘porky’. OK, it’s about as inspired as ‘eggy’ but can you describe them any better?

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4 thoughts on “Scratching around for descriptions

  • Mark

    Oh, but you can do tasting notes on pork scratchings. A friend of mine (wine-taster by profession, regular beer taster, too) regularly submits his tasting notes for me to add to the list at, though I admit to not keeping them up to date.

    With UK scratchings it tends to be the seasoning that gives the flavour, but I’ve found Spanish ones don’t have the seasoning, revealing, ‘in the buff’ a variety of odours and flavours. Not all ‘porky’.

  • Simon Post author

    Mark, I sit corrected and enthralled by the site – any ideas as to why the Midlands is such a scratching stronghold? Also love the banner ad at the bottom of one of the pages for ‘1 Tip of [sic] a flat belly’ – strategic product placement at its most inventive…