Hog jowls, a traditional Southern favorite, are most often fried like bacon, then served with greens or used to flavor soup or stew. Although jowls have a flavor similar to bacon, they are fattier because they consist primarily of fat and cartilage. Braising, or slow cooking in liquid, is an effective cooking technique because it breaks down the tough fibers to reveal tender, succulent meat. Prepare two jowls per person because hog jowls are fairly small.
Braising for Tenderness
Rinse the jowls thoroughly. Don't trim the skin or the fat.
Place the pork jowls in a deep baking pan, then pour in enough broth or stock to cover the jowls plus about 1 inch. Add vegetables such as garlic, onion, carrots, celery and turnips, if desired.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover the baking pan tightly with aluminum foil, then braise the jowls for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, or until they are tender.
Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of one of the jowls to be sure the meat is cooked to a minimum temperature of 145 F.
Remove the jowls from the oven and allow them to rest for 3 minutes, then serve.
Frying for Crispness
Trim the tough skin from the jowls, then cut the them into slices or chunks.
Place the jowls in a cold pan, then turn the heat to low. Starting the jowls in a hot pan increases the chance of scorching.
Fry the jowls slowly. Stir the strips or pieces when they begin to shrink and curl.
Spoon some of the melted fat into a glass or metal container if the skillet fills up with grease. You can also draw out the melted fat with a turkey baster. Discard the fat or save it for cooking.
Fry the jowls until they reach the desired level of crispiness, then let them drain on a thick layer of paper towels. Transfer the jowls to a plate, then serve.