Porkmeisters has come about as a result of a our deep rooted love & respect for the humble pork scratching. The initial idea was to rate the UK's best scratching and that still is the case. However, we'd be remiss not to consider similar products within the scratching family e.g. pork crunch, which elicit just as good a reaction from a hungry porkmeister.
Not ones to limit our ambition we'll also be sampling & rating other pork products along the way, including sausage rolls & pork pies; but just as importantly our horizons shall be global, not just Bratwurst from Germany, Andouille from France & Kabanos from Poland, but pork products from each continent. We'll even try create our own delicacies at home to add show our commitment to the cause.
We don't think that this has ever been done before and it may take some time, so bear with us. We shall be reaching out to similar fanatics to share our journey, so get in touch if you have a porky tale.
The general consensus of opinion is that pork scratchings originated in the West Midlands or Black Country, in the heartlands of the UK. The Black Country is named after its roots in the Industrial Revolution and continuing role as a centre of heavy engineering and mining which in days gone by was said to cover the area in grime and soot.
Pork Scratchings were a food of the working classes with origins back to the 1800's where families kept their own pigs at home, feeding them up for slaughter. With food scarce no part of the pig was wasted and the fat was rendered down for lard, a by product of this were pieces of skin and fat that would be eaten with bread, simply salted. With time, presumably through trial & error these morsels were baked or fried and the famous Pork Scratching was born.
A gentleman who’s father was working in the Black Country around the turn of the century remembers his father talking about buying little strips of bacon rind that were salt dried and sold in paper bags. Perhaps this was the forerunner of today’s great pork snacks, but we do know that it was the butcher who first realised the commerical potential of the scratching and by the 1930’s they were widely available. One lady from Cradley Heath told how her local butcher would cook scratchings in large aluminium barrels and sell them in quarters or 2 ounces loose. They called it crackling, it was soft underneath and crunchy on top.
Today pork scratchings are big business and over 20 million bags every year are being sold via supermarkets, pubs and a host of other outlets throughout the UK. New products have been developed and added to the range such as Pork Crunch and Pork Crackling. The traditional simple seasonings (salt, maybe some pepper) have also be updated with flavours range from salt & vinegar or smoked barbeque to sweet chilli or carolina reaper chilli. Each of these developments has encouraged new consumers and widened the appeal of this classic British snack from humble origins.
Invented out of necessity it is hardly surprising that the UK isn't the only country to come up with their own porkie snack.
The Americans love “Pork Rinds”, which are particularly popular in the Southern states and whilst often seasoned they can come in flavours such as Salsa & Lime and Cinnamon & Sugar. In Thailand "Khaep Mu" and "Narm Mun Mu" are sold in large bags in markets being very lightly seasoned pork crunch like snacks, the latter including more fat or meat for a heartier snack.
Nearer to home in Europe the Spanish eat a range products made from various cuts of pork rind as part of their famous Tapas appetisers which are often eaten in bars and cafes along with a lunchtime or early evening drink. The "Chicharron" is probably the oldest known example and is something that the Conquistadors took with them and are now popular in many ex-Spanish territories. For example in Mexico, where they are used as to scoop up salsa, guacamole and sour cream.
An alternative theory, probably apocryphal, is that Spanish invented the Chicharron when pigs feeding in an orchard would rub themselves against the trees, to rid themselves of dry skin. One year, when the harvest had been particularly bad, a hungry swineherd noticed the swathes of dry pig skin hanging off some low branches. The hot sun had made it all crispy, and he tentatively tasted it. To his surprise, it was delicious and the rest is history.
We are the Porkmeisters, we are two guys from the West Midlands whose love for all things pork is so profound that we had to share it with the world. The title may be self appointed, but we fully intend to do it justice by sharing our journey with you and hopefully learning from you along the way. We try not to take ourselves too seriously and intend to have some fun with this site, it'd be great if you could subscribe to the newsletter and keep up to date with with the latest news and reviews.
Our thanks go to authors Julie Driver & Alan Barnes whose history on pork scratchings has helped to add some gravitas and accuracy to the information on this page.
Now to the fun bit! As seasoned (get it?) consumers of the magnificant scratching we're backing ourselves to find the best... it may take us some time and it'll be tough, thankless work... OK, who are we kidding this is the bit we're looking forward to.
So how are we going to do it? Quite simple, we going to taste test all of the pork scratching and pork crunch we can find. Sourcing the next pack will be our raison d'etre. We will be found in markets, pubs, butchers, underground carparks with brown paper packages... whatever we need to do to get our hands the best. MD will probably try to make his own at home, because he just can't resist showing off, whilst SM will be happy to eat whatever he produces because (and this may come as a surprise to you) he can't resist pork scratchings.
We are not blinded by our love though, we know that as tasty as they are the pork scratching is not a snack to gorge on, so we will be measured and will consume responsibly (well, reasonably responsibly). We will be consistent in our approach and each review will consider key factors to determine how worthy they are of the title of the best.
So we know what we're looking for, we know where we're going to find them, now we need to let the search begin.
Have a recommendation? Get in touch to let us know.
Want to send us a review of a local gem? Get in touch, we'd love to read it and if it's any good we'll publish it on the site.
Are you a producer? Would you like us to review your perfect pork snack? We'd love to hear from you and we'd be more than happy to give an honest review.
Let the snacking commence!