Pork jowl is a cut of pork from the head of the pig's cheek. Different food traditions have used it as a fresh cut or as a cured pork product (with smoke and/or curing salt). As a cured and smoked meat in America is called jowl bacon or, especially in the Southern United States, or hog jowl. In the US, hog jowl is a staple of soul food, and there is a longer culinary tradition outside the United States: the cured non-smoked Italian variant is called guanciale.
Jowl bacon can be fried and eaten as a main course, similar to streaky bacon, such as in a traditional full English breakfast. Often, it is used as a seasoning for beans, black-eyed peas or cooked with leafy green vegetables such as collard greens or turnip greens in a traditional Southeastern meal.
Jowl meat may also be chopped and used as a garnish, similar to bacon bits, or served in sandwich form. Pork jowl can be used as a binding ingredient in pork liver sausages such as liverwurst and braunschweiger.
Traditions in the US
A Southern US tradition of eating black-eyed peas and greens with either pork jowls or fatback on New Year's Day to ensure prosperity throughout the new year goes back hundreds of years. During the American Civil War (1861 to 1865), the peas were thought to represent wealth to the Southerners, while the Northern army considered the food to be fit as livestock feed only. Pigs (and by extension, pork products) were symbolic of "wealth and gluttony" and consuming jowls or fatback on New Year's Day guaranteed a good new year.
Because pork jowl can be cured, like many other cuts of pork, it has been a traditional wintertime food as it is able to be stored for long periods of time without refrigeration.
- Gillespie, Carmen (2009). Toni Morrison: A Literary Reference to Her Life and Work. Infobase Publishing. p. 343. ISBN 9781438108575. Retrieved July 28, 2012.
- Fabricant, Florence (September 13, 2011). "Pork Jowl With a Backwoods Whiff". New York Times. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
- May, Tony (June 1, 2005). Italian Cuisine: The New Essential Reference to the Riches of the Italian Table. Macmillan. p. 11. ISBN 9780312302801. Retrieved July 28, 2012.
- Hedgepeth, William; Findley, John; Clayton, Al (2008). The Hog Book. University of Georgia Press. p. 23. ISBN 9780820332734. Retrieved July 28, 2012.
- Galiano, Amanda (December 31, 2010). "Hog Jowls and Pork: Explaining Southern New Year's Traditions". About.com. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
- Gold, Jonathan (July 27, 2012). "Counter Intelligence: Next Door by Josie". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
- Cox, Greg. "Little Hen's agrarian accent leaves a mouth-watering experience". News Observer. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
- Credeur, Mary Jane (December 30, 2006). "Eating hog jowls may bring luck, at high price". Union-Tribune. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
- Leada Gore (December 31, 2016). "Why do we eat black-eyed peas, hog jowls and greens on New Year's Day?". AL.com. Retrieved June 1, 2017.