In this recipe, pork belly is slow-cooked in a bath of flavoured water until fork-tender. You can slow-roast the belly without water, if you like, but I prefer this method because you end up with a great bonus: a lot of rich, jellied, aromatic stock, which you can use in soups, stews and gravies.
Take the dish out of the fridge an hour or so before you serve it, so the mixture can be easily spread. Clarify the butter if you have the energy (see recipe) but this isn't necessary if you intend serving this within a day or so; the purpose of removing the milk solids from the butter in olden times was to prevent it from becoming rancid.
You can add as much or as little seasoning to this dish as your tastebuds demand: I prefer to keep the spices in the background. It does, however, need a lot more salt than you would think. Lovely with fresh bread or Melba toast, a few crunchy little gherkins and a dab of wine jelly.
Potted Pork Belly
one 1.5 kg pork belly
2 bay leaves
2 medium carrots, snapped in thirds
a sprig of thyme
a few parsley stalks
an onion, skin on, sliced
4 whole cloves
flaky sea salt
milled black pepper
1 tsp (5 ml) ground mace (or nutmeg)
cayenne pepper, to taste
2 tsp (10 ml) chopped fresh thyme leaves
½ cup (125 ml) butter
Preheat the oven to 130 ºC. Put the pork belly, skin-side up, in a deep roasting pan. Pour in just enough water to barely cover the belly: the fat should be poking up out of the water. Add the bay leaves, carrots, thyme, parsley stalks, onion, peppercorns and cloves (but no salt). Cover tightly with a double layer of tin foil. Place the dish in an oven heated to 130ºC, and bake for 5-6 hours, or until the pork meat is so tender you can pull it apart with a fork.
Remove the belly from the pan, pull off the skin and discard it. Strain the stock through a sieve into a clean jug. Allow the belly to cool for 15 minutes, then pull the meat into shreds, using two forks or your fingers, and discarding any silvery bits of sinew, but retaining any soft white fat. Now coarsely chop the belly meat: it should look like mashed tuna. (You can pound it to a smooth paste, if you like, but don't put it in a food processor, which will ruin its texture). Place in a bowl.
Add the salt, pepper, mace, cayenne pepper and chopped thyme, tasting the mixture as you go along until it is seasoned to your liking. Mix well and pack into a shallow terrine dish or individual ramekins. Pour just enough warm stock over the meat to moisten it well - it should not feel wet or saturated. Press down well and allow to cool.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and skim all the white foam off the top. Remove from the heat, allow to cool for a few minutes, and then strain through cheesecloth or a fine sieve onto the top of the potted belly. Place a bay leaf or a sprig of thyme on top, and press down well. Refrigerate.
Serves 6 as a starter. Print Friendly