Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Not on the list: Pork Belly Confit

We're "supposed" to be curing our pork bellies and making them into pancetta. Been there, inhaled that. Yes, homemade bacon is a snap, and better than any you can find in your local refrigerated meat section Make it! Well, really, I've only made guanciale, which is the same thing as pancetta, only made with a pork jowl, rather than a belly. If you have a farmers' market near you, and there's a pig farmer there offering up jowls, go get one. Or more. they freeze beautifully, and, oh yeah, you're going to be curing it so it'll keep for - well, who knows how long, because you'll have licked the unctuous opaque remnants of jowl fat off your fingers in no time. This keeps guanciale from going bad.

Anyway, instead of the pancetta'd belly, I'm offering up my pork belly confit. This is filigree for the gilt on the archetypal lilly (and by lilly, I mean pasture-raised pig). Fat on fat on fat. Fried in the fat of the fat. I cannot endorse this more strongly.

Here's how I did it:

Here's the belly. A smallish piece, a mere pound and a quarter or so. You take your meat, and steep it in a brine made of salt, spices - cloves are classic, but I used star anise, black peppercorns, bay leaf, parsley, I forget what else, and loads of salt. All of which is boiled in ample water, cooled, to then provide an overnight bath for the belly.

Next, you take the belly, dry it thoroughly, and then slooooowly poach it in a bath of its own goodness - that is, several cups of lard rendered from the self-same pig (or any other pig - or duck fat. Schmaltz would work, and I've heard tell of canola oil being used *shudder*)

Now, you take the poached pork (5 hours of poaching in a 190ยบ oven) and remove it from the pan. Put it in a solid container (ceramic is classic, but I've got mine in a tuppereware kinda thing) and then pour the cooled (but not solid!) fat over the belly. Then, put a cover on it (saranwrap is fine) and flatten the whole thing with a heavy can or similar weight. You want a flat, even block of pork surrounded completely by fat. Then, store the whole thing in a cool place - like your armagnac cellar, or a stone-paved pantry, or a corner of the garage. Mine's in the fridge. I trimmed up some of it to even the thing out, and then fried it up - - like this.

You should try this. I mean, if you like exceptionally good, rich, toothsome, flavor bombs of meatiness. Otherwise, make it anyway, and impress your friends with the brick of pork belly in your garage.

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