Rillettes, confit, pates, pastes - aren’t they all the same thing? Is there an actual difference, or are they all just a bunch of fancy terms everyone just goes along with cause no one wants to ask and seem silly? Well, as much as we love joking about culinary snobbism and whatnot, as it turns out, all of the aforementioned terms are different and genuinely have a reason for existing. So, let’s start by dissecting the most mysterious one, shall we?
Now, what are rillettes?
Well, apparently, before it becomes attributed to the actual product, rillette is a method of preservation. The seasoned meat is cooked in fat on a low temperature for a long period of time - up to 10 hours - before being shredded, covered in fat, and sealed in sterile containers. Even though it was originally made with pork - after all, even the word itself is derived from “rille,” which is French for a slice of pork - today, rillettes cover more diverse territory, and you can get your hands on just about any type of meat preserved in this traditional French way.
As is true for most national dishes, people in different regions of France make rillettes in different ways. While the overall experience might be similar, there still are a few characteristics that convey the origins of the product and give all of them a unique feel. For example, pork rillettes made in northwestern parts of France like Anjou and Tours are differentiated by their richer texture and enticing bronze color, while the seemingly identical product from Sarthe can have a drastically lighter color and more of a rustic texture with larger pieces of pork (so, I guess not identical at all)!