Pork belly is an extremely fatty cut of meat. Cooking the belly slowly allows the fat to render down; this rendered fat then helps to baste the meat.
Turning up the oven towards the latter stages of cooking results in a crisp skin, not dissimilar to that of cracklings, or skin, on a pork roast.
While Wade Murphy, executive head chef at The Lodge at Doonbeg in County Clare, Ireland, likes to serve this roasted pork with caramelized quince, you could also serve the pork with baby potatoes, roasted with lots of butter and parsley, and Savoy cabbage, sliced thinly and sautéed with spring onions and small pieces of diced apple.
For the pork:
- 2 ½ pounds (1 ½ kilograms) deboned pork belly
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- Salt, preferably Maldon
- 1 onion, thickly sliced
- 1 carrot, roughly chopped
- 1 stick celery, roughly chopped
- About 1 ½-¾ cups (400 milliliters) hard cider, preferably Magners or Bulmers Irish Apple Cider
- 2 cups (500 milliliters) beef stock
- 1 bouquet garni (2 sprigs fresh thyme and 3 parsley stems wrapped in cheesecloth)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cloves
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the quince:
- 2 quinces
- 3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons hard cider (see above)
For the pork:
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit/230 degrees Celsius.
Using a very sharp knife, score the skin of the pork at 5 millimeter intervals. Take care not to cut all the way through the fat to the meat. Boil a kettle full of water (about 10 cups) and pour it over the skin. Throw away the water and pat the pork dry. This will help the skin crisp up during the cooking. Rub the pork with the canola oil and sprinkle with salt.
Place the vegetables in a roasting dish and put the pork on top, skin side up. Pour the cider and stock around the meat. Add the bouquet garni, bay leaf, and cloves. Season with salt and pepper. Roast the pork in the center of your oven for 20 minutes, or until the skin is brown and crisp. Reduce the oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit/140 degrees Celsius and cook for another 2 ½ hours. If the meat begins to get too brown, cover it with foil to prevent it from getting any darker in the last 45 minutes.
Remove the pork from the oven, transfer it to a plate, and leave in a warm place to rest. Strain the contents of the roasting dish through a fine sieve and place in a pot. Bring it to a boil over high heat and reduce the liquid, skimming all the time, until the sauce thickens and becomes syrupy, about 8-10 minutes.
For the quince:
Peel the quince and cut in half. Cut each half then into 3 slices and remove the cores. Melt the butter and the sugar in a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Place the quince in the pan and pour over the water and cider. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and cook very slowly for 1 ½ hours. Occasionally stir the mixture to make sure it is not burning. Cook the quince until it is very soft but still holds its shape.
Remove the lid from the pan and increase the heat for 2 minutes, stirring all the time. The quince will caramelize and all the liquid will evaporate. Keep the quince mixture warm.
To serve, carve the meat into thick slices and place on a serving dish. Pour over the reduced sauce and serve with the caramelized quince.