Being of Filipino descent, the craving for pork hits hard and often. We take pig seriously, but until someone can tell me how to make lechon in an apartment kitchen, I’ll have to settle for something more manageable.
Whenever squares of pork belly lie in the fridge, my gut instinct tells me to consult the Chinese. Only recently have I realized that our neighbors across the pond revere Wilbur as much as we do. Fergus Henderson’s and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s homages to all animals snouted and hooved are as enjoyable to read as they are to cook from. When they say kill it and use the whole thing, they mean it. Now that’s something I can relate with.
There are no weird or nasty bits here, though. Just the tame stuff that BLTs are made of. The belly is brined with juniper berries, cloves, peppercorns, and bay leaves, presumably to thoroughly season instead of prevent the meat from drying out. Short of dipping the belly in a drum of napalm, you’d be hard-pressed to overcook something that is half lard.
After roasting for two hours, the skin wasn’t as crackly as I wanted it to be. The solution? Grab heatproof gloves and broil inches away from the heating element. Consider wearing protective eyewear as it puffs and sputters.
recipe adapted from Fergus Henderson’s The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating
Crackling Pork Belly Roast
makes 4 to 6 servings
Juniper berries, peppercorns, cloves, and bay leaves for the brine.
4 to 5 pound piece of skin-on pork belly, preferably including the ribs
For the Brine:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
10 ounces / 280 grams salt (see notes)
12 juniper berries
12 black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
4 quarts of water
For Roasting the Pork Belly:
2 onions, peeled and chopped
a splash of olive oil
a pinch of salt
- Don’t turn your pork belly into a salt lick. The original recipe specifies a volume measurement for the salt (2 1/4 cups of coarse sea salt). Depending on the coarseness and brand of salt you use, the actual weight could vary significantly. Consult this helpful guide on brining (PDF file) to determine the amount of salt you’ll need. I used 2 cups of Diamond Crystal kosher salt for the 4 quarts of water needed in this recipe.
I own a box cutter, but it’s not for opening packages from Amazon.
- Brine the pork belly. Place all of the brine ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil over high heat to dissolve the sugar and salt. Pour the brine into a non-reactive container (such as food-grade plastic or stainless steel) and allow to cool completely. Place the pork belly in the brine. If necessary, pin the meat down with a small plate to keep it fully immersed. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF / 190ºC with a rack in the upper third of the oven.
- Drain the pork belly and pat dry with paper towels. Using a very sharp knife or box cutter, score the rind.
- Rub the rind with the olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Place the chopped onions in the center of a roasting pan or cast iron skillet and set the pork belly on top.
- Roast the pork belly at 375ºF / 190ºC for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- If the rind is not crisped to your liking, broil the pork belly under high heat. Move the belly around as necessary to evenly crisp the skin.
- Let the pork belly rest for 15 to 30 minutes before slicing.
Fill in the blank: The secret way to a Filipino’s heart is through his / her ___.