We've eaten a LOT of pork lately. It's totally my favourite meat, especially since moving back to the UK, where the free-range stuff is so darn tasty and affordable. Since our porky outing to the farmers market last weekend, I've also picked up some nice cuts at Waitrose and have done a little experimenting.
I have wanted to try confiting pork belly in olive oil for a while now and finally decided to give it a go the other day after stumbling across a similar recipe on Great British Menu last week.
This is definitely a weekend endeavour because you need to start pretty early in the day, but it's worth the time it takes. There's not really much effort or expertise required, just a little patience and quite a lot of olive oil, which can be re-used if you filter it out afterward.
I wasn't sure whether to post this, because it wasn't a 100% success. The crackling wasn't ready in time to serve with dinner and the meat was a little on the salty side.
But I committed to posting the good and the bad, the successes, the failures and the in-betweens, so here we are. The first few bites of pork were groan-oh-my-GOOOOD tasty, but by about halfway through, the level of seasoning starts to feel a little much.
I'm going to do this again, no doubt, but I think next time, I'll leave the salt on for maybe seven hours instead of 12 and I'll shave most of the fat off the skin before I roast it.
I wont bother with the recipe per se, but I will show you what I did and how it all worked out. If my next endeavour works as well as I think it might, I'll post detailed instructions, as this has the makings of a show stopper (If I could be bothered to plate better and get a camera instead of using my iPhone....)
So here it went:
I bashed up 100g of Maldon sea salt with 5 halved cloves of garlic, a large sprig of rosemary, some thyme and black pepper corns.
I sprinkled approximately 1/2 of this mixture into the bottom of a baking dish, then sliced the skin off a 1kg (2 lb)pork belly and pressed the meat down onto the salt mixture.
I sprinkled the rest of the salt mixture over the pork and rubbed and pressed it well into all the nooks and crannies, covered it and put it in the fridge over night (12 hours)
I then rinsed the meat well (perhaps not well enough? maybe I should have used warmer water to get rid of more of the salt?) and I patted the meat dry before putting it back in the (cleaned) baking dish and pouring a little over a litre (2 pints) of olive oil, enough to completely sumberge the meat.If you have a lot of room around the meat in the pan, a clean, empty jam jar will take up some room so you don't need to use as much oil.
I roasted this for 4 1/2 hours at 90C (194F) until tender but not flaking-falling apart.
Then I drained off all of the oil* and put the meat between two layers of parchment paper in the baking sheet, with another baking sheet on top, weighted down with a granite pestle and mortar and some canned tomatoes for two hours.
One hour before I wanted to eat, I took the meat out of the fridge so that it could come up to room temperature and I cut the meat into 4 serving- size pieces.
(The meat did not shrink much- the picture to the right was taken in a larger baking dish, so it looks a lot smaller.)
I put the skin (scored on both sides) between two pieces of parchment and baking trays, rubbed it with salt and weighted it down with the same mortar, pestle and canned tomatoes (20 minutes later, the oven door was blown open and the interior of my oven and everything in it was splatted with crushed tomatoes :-) and I roasted the skin at 200C (400F) for what was supposed to be 40 minutes, but ended up being closer to 90, in order to get a perfectly crisp crackling. I know this method is successful because I've seen it done and even chatted with the tutor at my cookery class. I have done some research since and think that I needed to trim off most of the subcutaneous fat before roasting. I'll let you know how that turns out.
Right before serving, I brought some of the confit oil up over a fairly high heat in an iron skillet and I seared the pork on each side for about 2 minutes, creating a golden crust and warming the meat through completely.
To serve, I made some carrots cooked in reduced chicken stock and honey, scattered with fresh mint and roasted some new potatoes with their skins on.
* To filter the oil, let it settle for a while in a tall jug or pitcher, so that the liquid that has come out of the pork collects at the bottom. Pour the oil through a funnel lined with dampened paper towel into a bottle (label it so you don't mix it up with other oils) and be careful not to pour in any of the liquid at the bottom. When you get to the last inch or so of oil, it might be easier to use a spoon. The pork liquid will coagulate into a jelly at room temperature, so that makes it easier to keep it separate. Keep the porky jelly to flavour soups, and sauces but be careful not to use too much, as it is salty.
You can now use the filtered olive oil in any other cooked dish and it will be fine for several weeks if you keep it in the fridge. It will have a garlicky, herby flavour, so keep that in mind when adding it to dishes.
If you have any crackling advice for me, or have tried this method for cooking pork and have had similar or more successful results, I'd love to hear about it.
Have a brilliant weekend!
PS. I had another sourdough success!! This time following HFW's River Cottage method. Absolutely fantastic bread, we couldn't stop eating it!