1 piece of pork belly (doesn’t matter what size, enough to feed your hoarde)
1 750mL bottle of apple cider
Pre-heat the oven to 160C.
1. Pat the skin dry with paper towel. If it’s got petruding hairs, either blowtorch them or shave them off. Yes, that is a thing.
2. Score the skin with a sharp knife – a medium-sized one, so that you have enough control over it. Score across-ways, at 1cm intervals. This will ensure you have good sized crackling pieces and make it easier to cut into portions later. Try not to cut down into the flesh, as this will dry it out while cooking. You’re essentially aiming to cut down to the fat only.
3. Rub the skin with salt. I haven’t put an amount in the ingredients, because I haven’t a clue how much. What you want is enough salt to help dry the skin out, but not so much that the crackling will later be a salt-lick instead. You want it nicely seasoned. Some say you should leave the pork in the fridge at this stage for a few hours, or even overnight, to ensure good crackling. This may be true, but you also run the risk of drying out the meat as well. I say go straight to the next step.
4. Put a splash of olive oil in a roasting tray (or pyrex dish, as I have). Place the pork belly in, flesh side down.
5. Pour in the cider up to the top of the flesh, where the thick layer of fat starts. If the liquid is covering the fat, it may not render as well. Of course, I have never tried it any other way, so I have no idea.
6. Put in the oven and bugger off for four hours. Read a book. Catch up on Twitter. Spend time with your child. Write a blog post about your latest cooking adventure. Have a wank. Whatever you prefer. Just ensure you can check back on your pork belly occasionally to ensure it hasn’t caught fire.
7. Also ensure the cider hasn’t dried out. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t stay level with the fat, but the flesh may dry out if it evaporates completely. If it gets low, just pour more in (this means I wouldn’t recommend drinking the leftovers until AFTER the pork has cooked).
8. After four hours, you will notice the skin and fat on the top have not yet turned to crackling. “WHYYYYYY?!”, you cry! Because the temperature of the oven is not yet hot enough. This is the time to crank it up to 11! I mean, 240C.
9. At this point, I highly recommend you hang around like a mother with a newborn to ensure the crackling doesn’t burn. Why a mother would be putting her newborn in an oven, I have no idea, but someone should report her to the authorities. Anyway, I recommend putting a timer on for 5-10 minutes, and checking the crackling by tapping it with a fork.
10. Once the skin has become delightfully crisp and the meat looks cooked (one should hope so, after 4 freakin’ hours), take the pork belly out to let it rest on top of the stove for 10 minutes (I’m assuming you have a all-in-one stove thing like I have. If stove top and oven are separate, you’re dead to me). Once the meat has rested, use the scoring as a guide and cut the belly into 4cm strips.
11. Most importantly, drink the rest of the cider. If there isn’t any left, then you are a very silly person.
If you’re so inclined, you can do as I did and serve it with duck-fat potatoes, sauerkraut and gravy made with good ol’ Gravox and some of the pan juices.
If you’re after something green as well, I highly recommend brussel sprouts cooked in butter.
I also reserved the pan juices in a container and put it in the fridge. Once the fat has solidified, scrape it off and you’re left with cider and pork jus. Ohhhhhhh, yeeaaaaah. *Homer Simpson-esque drool*
This is my own, original, recipe. Reproduce without permission and I’ll fuckin’ cut ya!