As we’re now into the second week of January, I guessing that it’s safe to assume that everyone has abandoned all resolutions of eating better and getting healthy, correct? Excellent, because I’m here to talk to you about pork belly. Anyone still labouring under delusions of virtue, don’t worry, this post will still be here when you rejoin us.
For those still with me, here’s why I think that this is an entirely appropriate time of year to be eating sticky, unctuous, sweet cured pork belly: In almost all cultures, the darkest part of winter is marked by some sort of festival that revolves around a meat-laden feast. A big practical reason for this is that, historically, surplus livestock needed to be slaughtered while they were still fat from the autumn harvest in order to save having to feed them with the dwindling winter stores. And when you’ve got a whole pig or a whole cow that needs eating, might as well invite the neighbours round to give you a hand and make a party out of it. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that shortly after all the good food is eaten and gone comes the date for making resolutions to eat less.
If it’s to last more than a couple of weeks, the meat would have needed cured to keep it edible. And my god is it edible – the curing process draws out water and concentrates the porky flavour. This is what makes bacon a sacrament rather than just mere food. What once was done out of necessity, now is done for flavour.
The striations of fat in the pork belly gives it a self-basting quality that makes it my favourite cut not just of pork but possibly of any animal at all. And this is the best way I know to cook it – supercharged with the flavours from the cure, honey glazed and slow cooked to create a sweet, sticky, meltingly tender slab of meat.
Sweet Cured, Slow Roast Belly of Pork
- 1.5kg pork belly, skin removed, with or without ribs
- 100g soft brown sugar
- 50g sea salt
- 5g coriander seeds
- 5g black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves, chopped
- Chicken stock
For the glaze
- 70g Honey
- 15g Mustard
- 30g Demerara or soft brown sugar
- Dash of soy sauce (optional)
Combine the sugar, salt, coriander seeds, peppercorns and bay leaves in a bowl to make the cure. Coat the pork liberally on all sides with cure (you may not need all of it), place in a ziplock bag or a non-reactive container and leave in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Preheat oven to 135C/Gas mark 1
Remove the pork and rinse off any cure left on the surface under cold water. Pour chicken stock into a casserole/roasting dish to a depth of about 1cm. Put the pork rib side down into the dish, cover with a tight fitting lid or foil and put in the oven for 4 hours.
Mix all of the ingredients of the glaze together. Remove the pork from the oven and set it on a board. Increase oven temperature to 200C/Gas mark 6. Drain the juices from the roasting dish and reserve. Coat the pork with the glaze all over the top and sides. Put back into the dish along with just enough of the juices to cover the base of the dish. Roast uncovered at 200C for 20-40 minutes, until the glaze darkens a little and goes glossy. Remove from the oven, slice and serve.
Tips for Geeks
- Roast Pork Belly – Eat Like a Girl
- Making Bacon – Tim Hayward (the article that first got me curing my own pork)
- The Art of the Cure