While still cycling in the Loire, open a bottle of Pinot Noir from the Nederburg 56 Hundred range and serve a classic from the region:
1 kilogram boneless, skinless pork shoulder, cut into 3-centimetre chunks
Salt to taste
½ cup (120 ml) vegetable oil, duck fat, or lard
4 bay leaves
6 fresh thyme sprigs
2 large shallots or 1 large onion, very roughly chopped
4 medium cloves garlic, split in half
Freshly ground nutmeg to taste
Adjust the oven rack to a lower position and preheat the oven to 275⸰F. Season the pork gently and pack into a deep roasting pan or casserole dish. Pour the oil over the pork, and if using the duck fat or lard, heat until just melted before pouring it over the chunks. Nestle bay leaves, thyme, shallots and garlic in with the pork. Cover the pan tightly with aluminium foil, transfer to the oven, and cook until the pork is completely tender and shows very little resistance when pierced with a knife (about 3 hours, but it could take a bit longer.)
Remove from the oven and using tongs, discard the bay leaves, thyme, shallots and garlic. Set a large strainer over a heatproof bowl and carefully pour the pork mixture into it. Reserve the drained fat and juices.
Transfer the pork chunks to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. (If you do not have one, use a potato masher and a large bowl. You could also use a food processor, but only press the pulse button to avoid overworking it into a paste. See the note, below.) Turn the mixer on to low speed and gradually increase the speed to medium, allowing the pork to break down and shred. Slowly drizzle in some of the fat and juices, a few tablespoons at a time, tasting in between each addition until the mixture is as loose and creamy as you like. Add the ground nutmeg and season to taste with salt (the mixture will get blander as it chills, so add salt quite aggressively).
Carefully pack the mixture into jars, spooning it in a little bit at a time and making sure to remove all air bubbles. Smooth the top of the mixture with the back of a spoon, wipe the rims of the jars with a clean cloth, then pour a thin layer of the fat and juices on top of each one. Close the lids and refrigerate for at least two hours and up to a week before serving – with toast, baguette or crackers, and with cornichons or sliced dill gherkins.
Note: Classic French Rillettes are not a pȃté as you will find to your peril should you ever use the term in France! Rillettes are long, slow-cooked meats with only a few herbs and little seasoning added. What is created by the slow cooking is akin to pulled pork, with, however, a softer flavour.