Pork Belly, Sherry, Baby Apples

SLOW ROAST BELLY PORK WITH SHERRY GRAVY AND BABY APPLES

One of the highest forms of praise in our kitchen is when Emily refers to a dish I’ve made as ‘your’ dish. She grew up with fantastic home cooking and will often list ‘mum’s dumplings’ or ‘nanny’s steak and kidney pudding’ as top food memories. So, when she recently described our go to pork roast as ‘my’ slow roast belly pork, I was quietly chuffed.

I bought a scored joint of bone in belly from the fantastic Tancred Farm Shop, who also supply markets and small delis around the county. Alongside their pork they specialise in mutton, goat and lamb. I recommend visiting their farm shop near York where you’ll be greeted by Fizz the farm collie,  can have cream tea overlooking the duck field and feed the kid goats before browsing their wonderful shop. When not shopping in Saltaire, they are a go to source of brilliant meat and unusual cuts.

The apples here are intended as a hot alternative to apple sauce and make use of super sweet baby apples found nestling amongst my mother in law’s bountiful apple crop of 2015. They were so good, they went on to accompany our Christmas goose last year as well.

There’s a huge range of pork belly recipes out there and I certainly can’t claim this to be the authority on how to treat the cut. However, the basic steps of this recipe are simple and have always guaranteed me very tender moist pork with well puffed, crispy crackling.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

  • 1kg bone in belly pork
  • 1 brown onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 4 baby (ping pong ball sized) apples
  • 1 bulb of garlic 
  • sea salt flakes 
  • fresh black pepper
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • 1 pint of good chicken stock 
  • 1 glass of medium dry sherry
  • 2-3 tablespoons of sherry vinegar
  • 1 sprig of bay leaves 
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped thyme 

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 250c. Meanwhile, into a roasting dish suitable for oven and hob which snugly fits the joint of pork, break up the garlic and roughly chop the root vegetables. Tear up the bay leaves and add the thyme. Lightly oil and season the vegetables, tossing them to coat. They are now the trivet on which your pork will roast.
  2. Thoroughly dry the fat on your belly pork and very lightly oil to help the seasoning adhere. Season generously with salt, rubbing into the scored cracks. Season the other sides of the joint normally with salt and pepper and place the meat on top of your vegetables. Please the roasting dish in the oven on the middle shelf for 45 minutes or until the skin is well puffed and blistering.
  3. Remove the dish and reduce the oven to 160 degrees. Deglaze the roasting dish with sherry, taking care not to moisten the pork far. Add the chicken stock and return to the oven for three hours, keep checking the liquid level and top up if it falls below the bottom edge of the pork joint.
  4. Lightly oil and season your apples and place them in a heavy bottomed roasting dish into which they fit snugly. Place in the bottom of the oven for the final two hours of the pork cooking. The apple skin will tear and blister, turning golden, the fruit becoming tender and intense.
  5. When ready to remove your pork, place it on a board in a warm place to rest for 60 minutes whilst you make the gravy. Remove the vegetables from your dish and skim off the excess fat with a spoon and folded kitchen towelling. Place the dish over a medium high heat and reduce by about half until you have a smooth and velvety consistency that coats the back of a spoon. Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt, pepper and the sherry vinegar before stirring in a knob of cold butter.

Serve with mash (spud or celeriac) and blanched and buttered kale. Baby pears would also work in place to apples.

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