Soused pig’s trotters

Panamanian Souse

One of the main reasons for writing this blog is to share my food-related heritage, and Souse (or Sao, as we usually call it) is part of it. I loved it when I was young (er) and to me it is tied to late nights, music and laughter, because I solely ate sao in parties…I can’t recall my mother ever making it at home.

This dish became part of the Panamanian cuisine thanks to the Jamaican men that were recruited as workers for the construction of the Panama railroad since the early 1850’s. Their wives and descendants introduced us to a whole new world of flavors and ways of cooking that truly enriched our culture.

Souse is a type of pickle made by fully cooking the meat and then marinating it for a long time in a solution made of fresh lime or lemon juice, vinegar, salt, minced hot pepper, onions and cucumbers.

Souse can be made out of various parts of a pig, cow and chicken. Pork Souse is made with the ears, feet, knuckles and shoulder of a pig. Beef Souse is made with the heel of the cow and the face which becomes gelatinous when cooked. And chicken-foot Souse is made with the feet of the chicken.

The version with which I’m familiar is the one made with pork feet, here’s the recipe.


  • 1 kg of pork feet
  • 1 cup of cooking juice
  • 1 cup lemon or lime juice
  • ¼ cup wine vinegar
  • Hot peppers chopped to taste*
  • 2 cups onions sliced
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 cups cucumbers sliced


Wash the feet and remove all the hairs on it (I know this sounds a bit disagreeable, but is a necessary step. The ones I bought were already cleaned and vacuum-packed, so that was a relief …)

To cook the feet we have to put them in a big pot with slightly salted water, bring to a boil and let them boil for 10 minutes, and then change the water and boil again in clean salted water for another 10 minutes, after that time, change the water again and cook in boiling water until soft. That will be like 45 minutes or so (or 20 minutes on a pressure cooker). Drain and save 1 cup for the marinade.

In a big salad bowl, pour water, cooking juice, onions, cucumbers, lemon juice, vinegar, hot pepper and the pork feet. Stir well and allow it to marinate for at least 4 hours (more or less) before serving.

To avoid curdling of the sauce, is best to serve it at room temperature, because souse is served along with some of the juice, onions and cucumbers.

*Hot peppers: In Panama we use a kind of pepper called “ají chombo”, a variety of chili pepper also known as Scotch Bonnet. I didn’t have any, so I used “guindillas”. I guess that’s why my sao wasn’t as good as the one from Panama…Or maybe is just because I wasn’t there!



26 thoughts on “Soused pig’s trotters

    1. Hi Patrecia!
      I’m sorry that you think like that… But, hey! Is a free country, so thank you for giving me your opinion. I assure you that despite its appearance, it is actually pretty good… 😉

  1. That sounds amazing – another great pigs trotter recipe for me to try! In the UK we eat “soused” herrings (arenques) which I think involves marinating raw herrings in vinegar and spices…Mad Dog, where are you? I am sure you know more about this than me! But it struck me that the names are similar and both recipes involve marinating in vinegar/lemon….

    1. Ha ha – I’m in Barcelona cooking some strange things I found in the Boqueria 😉
      Great recipe Giovanna – I love trotters too!
      I believe soused herring originally comes from Holland but it’s very popular in Germany and Sweden. It’s a method of preserving and I’d imagine that a similar process is used here for meat.

      1. ¡Hola MD! Ahora estoy intrigada sobre esas cosas extrañas que has encontrado en La Boquería…
        I’m glad you liked it. I was a bit nervous about it, because it is probably not a very popular dish…
        ¡Gracias por tu comentario! 🙂

    2. See? Trotter sounds sooo much better than feet… 😉
      The soused herrings are like the boquerones, only bigger, right? The flavor I mean.
      Hehe, I was about to tell you that MD was in BCN when he answered. I wonder what “strange thing” is he cooking…
      Yes, both recipes sound similar, only the meat changes.
      ¡¡Gracias por tu comentario Tanya!!
      Un abrazo 🙂

  2. As a Northern European by birth, the fish varieties of the dish are well known and loved. Had never thought of the ‘meaty versions’ but have already bookmarked this for a weekend trial – thanks 🙂 !

    1. Thank you for your comment, Eha! And for being willing to try it someday 😉 We were talking about herrings before and how similar this recipe is to that one…
      Have a nice day and let me know if you like it!

  3. I grew up in rural eastern North Carolina, where pickled pigs feet were found in most country stores, in gallon jars right next to the jars of pickled eggs, and hoop cheese. The reality of “Souse” is that it’s been around at least since the middle ages originating in Europe. It apparently does differ from place to place a bit, although, seems to be very connected from it’s origin. My granny ate “Souse Meat” all the time…which in other parts of the country is called: “Head Cheese”…or “Scrapple”…What granny made, and ate every winter @ hog killing time, was more pickled ( than the ones called head cheese etc.) and served cold, or at room temperature, and consisted of many parts of the pig…excluding ears, brains and eyes…Papa on the other hand…had Pork Brains and eggs at least once a month…
    I settled for Sausage and Eggs…or, Captain Crunch…thank you very much…
    Although, I did eat my fare share of Pickled Pigs Feet back then…and I STILL love Liver Pudding…
    ~Happy New Year~

    1. Hello! I’m so sorry it took me so long to answer your kind comment…
      I agree with you, sausage and eggs are more than welcome and a lot less messy to prepare 😉 But once every blue moon… souse!
      Thanks for your comment; I really enjoyed reading about your Granny and Papa 😉
      PS: Captain Crunch is almost a delicatessen over here… is like 15 $ per box!!

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