You’ve probably had it before. It might even be in your fridge right now: those gorgeous stripes of pink and white, and scrumptious flavour just waiting to be served up. I’m talking about pork belly. “This cheaper cut is about way more than just bacon,” according to Chris van Ouwerkerk, owner of Butcher & Butcher in Charlottetown. Pork belly is most commonly found in Canada in its smoked and sliced form as bacon, but van Ouwerkerk encourages people to give it a try in its unprocessed form. “It has such a deep flavour and soft texture because it’s an underworked muscle and has great fat layering,” he says.It is precisely because of these layers of fat that pork belly can handle a whole lot of punch when it comes to flavouring. From tart juicy notes of acidity to aromatic earthiness, pork belly is a hugely versatile and affordable cut that deserves a place in any omnivore’s repertoire. This month I’m diving into flavours that are both familiar and a bit far flung. One of my favourites from some time spent living in the UK is roast pork with crackling and applesauce. With local skin-on pork currently unavailable on P.E.I., I developed a fun and informal update on those classic flavours with my Cider-braised Pork Belly Sandwiches – perfect for lunch or a casual dinner.I’ve recently fallen head over heels for Asian flavours paired with pork. The fiery chilli and sharpness of vinegar alongside the richness of aromatic sesame and the natural sweetness of the pork makes for a truly sublime combination that cannot be missed. My Sesame Pork Belly Steamed Buns might look intimidating, but so much of the time involved is slow roasting or proving the dough, so any lazy weekend day will work. Do read the entire recipe in advance though, as the timings of the components are important to getting the nicest result. I don’t pretend that this is the authentic recipe, but it’s undoubtedly delicious. Pork belly is gorgeously indulgent and proves that it pays to try some old favourites in new ways. Also, make friends with your butcher. They have a wealth of knowledge and great advice on preparing any cut of meat under the sun. So next time you pay them a visit, save your bacon and try some pork belly!
lb sliced pork belly
bottle /500 Mel's hard cider or soft
tbsp dijon mustard
tsp dijon mustard
sprigs of thyme
tsp ground cinnamon/ 1 whole stick of cinnamon
tbsp apple cider vinegar
slices rye bread
optional: grated cheddar cheese
Pour the cider in a Dutch oven or oven safe roasting dish with a fitted lid and mix in 1 Tbsp of the mustard, cinnamon, thyme, and salt. Lay the pork belly slices in the cider mixture and coat both sides.
Braise in the oven with the lid on for one hour. Reduce to 200 degrees Celsius and continue braising for a further 1 hr and 40 minutes. When finished, remove from oven and rest until slightly cooled, about 20 minutes.
While the pork is finishing up in the oven or cooling, prepare the slaw by slicing the apples into matchsticks and tossing in the dressing of apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp Dijon mustard and tarragon. Toast the rye and assemble the sandwich with the pork, topped with the slaw and some grated cheddar if you like!
Notes: the Normandy Rye from True Loaf at the Charlottetown Farmer's Market is my go-to bread for these sandwiches. Also, if you want to transform this informal meal into something impressive for dinner, cut the pork belly into 3" chunks before braising and serve with seasonal vegetables, like cabbage and celeriac.
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