Saturday, May 26, 2012

Going Whole Hog

Well, not really WHOLE hog, just the belly of the beast. Yep, last week we cured, rendered, smoked or ate 20 pounds of pork belly. Now before you get on your high horse about how unhealthy that is, let me tell you that it wasn’t all consumed in one sitting. But I have found that when I am doing anything homemade, more is better. Like canning. Why make 5 jars of jam, when 10 jars are just as easy. Same thing with the belly.

It all began because we ran out of our home-cured bacon. Bacon that we not only enjoyed as a breakfast item, and in soups and other savory dishes, but also in bacon fat caramels. (More about that later.) So it was time to rub some belly and get the smoker out. And because we donated homemade bacon (and a box of those delish bacon caramels) to a fundraiser, more was required. We also share the bounty with Brilliant Daughter and Electrician Son.

So, two 10-pound pork bellies made their way to my kitchen. I cut the choicest 5-pound slab for my first foray into pancetta, for which I will dedicate a whole post to next week. Then I cut four slabs for bacon, and had one small slab leftover that I slow-roasted.

I wrote a post about “Makin Bacon” last year, when we first started making our own. We have since graduated from a repurposed Weber to an electric smoker that belonged to my godfather and is probably 15 years old. It takes a bit less tending and has 3 racks, making the smoking process more efficient and the end result is just as good.

As for the slow-roasted pork belly, I can tell you it’s not for everybody. Butcher Son’s girlfriend doesn’t like fat, and there is definitely a good amount on a belly, so we made it on a night when she wasn’t sitting at the dinner table.

The slow roasting, with nothing more than a few herbs and a finishing glaze, completely changes the texture of the fat. It just melts in your mouth. One caution: you cannot eat much of this and a small 1.5 pound slab feeds 6 easily. It also needs to be served with a starch, like rice, couscous, polenta, potato.

While it takes a significant amount of time to roast pork belly, it is so worth it, and requires no tending. You rub it up, stick it in the oven and voila! Topped with a Makers Mark bourbon glaze and you have one delicious serving of heart-clogging proportions.

I found the recipe on the Maker’s Mark site, which encourages cooking with bourbon, obviously. But the glaze added just the right amount of flavor and complemented the pork perfectly. 

So next time you are feeling adventurous, stop by your local butcher (there is a really cute one at Robert’s of Woodside!), and pick up some pork belly for dinner.

Slow Roasted Pork Belly

1/2 cup Maker’s Mark® Bourbon
2 pounds pork belly, skin on
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
2 tablespoons garlic, crushed and minced
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons sherry or apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 275°F. Using a sharp knife score the skin of the pork belly in a checkerboard design.

In a bowl combine the salt, pepper, sage, thyme and garlic. Rub the pork belly on both sides with mixture until evenly coated. Place pork belly in a roasting pan skin side up. Place in the oven and bake for 3-1/2 hours, turn oven to broil and cook for 10-12 minutes until the skin puffs up evenly. Remove from oven and let rest for 30-40 minutes at room temperature.

Using a serrated knife, cut the meat into 1/2-inch-thick pieces and reserve.

Place the honey, Maker’s Mark® Bourbon, vinegar, butter, salt and pepper in a large sauté pan. Place over medium high heat and reduce by a third. Place the pieces of crispy pork belly in the pan and increase to high heat. Cook until syrupy and glazes the pork belly. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Plate the meat, drizzling the remaining sauce atop and on the plate.

No comments: