It’s All About The Crackling – Slow Roasted Pork Belly Scented with Fennel

Everyone loves great crackling – good crackling is crispy and light, its sinful, delicious and very moreish. Everyone also seems to have their own special theory  on what it takes to achieve sublime crackling. Personally, I think it’s all in the preparation of the pork belly in the first place. Once that’s taken care of – the rest of the dish is a snap – put it in the oven and virtually forget about it for a few hours if you can ignore the wonderful aromas wafting through the house. I like to roast pork belly using fennel with my aromatics – to maximise flavour I like to also use a herb and spice rub taking care to season the pork flesh only.

Preparing the Pork Belly in 3 easy steps

My secret to sublime  pork crackling can be summed up  in three words – scoring, blanching, drying

For the very best crackling you need to start this recipe the day before. But I must confess that on occasion I have been caught out, and have only allowed about two hours for the pork belly to dry in the fridge after blanching.

  1. Scoring. Starting the day or night before take the 2 kg  piece of pork belly. Using a very sharp knife (a stanley knife is perfect for this job) score the rind without cutting through to the meat – vertically, horizontally or even in a criss cross pattern, it really doesn’t matter. This allows the heat to render the fat beautifully. If you cut too deep and reach the meat, you will allow juices to escape as well which gives a less tender and luscious end result. If you prefer you can even ask the butcher to score the pork  for you. How easy is that.
  2. Blanching. Boil a kettle. Place the pork belly skin side up on a wire rack in a baking dish (or even the kitchen sink as I like to do) and pour over the entire contents of the kettle. This blanches the pork rind.
  3. Drying. Pat dry with paper towels and place covered in the refrigerator over night.

Slow Roasted Pork Belly Scented with Fennel

Serves 6 -8

2kg piece boneless pork belly; scored, blanched and dried
1  tablespoon salt, for rubbing into the scored rind

For the herb rub

4 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
3 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tablespoon sea salt flakes

For the aromatic bed of vegetables on which the pork belly will roast

2 brown onions, peeled and cut into thick slices
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into chunks
1 fennel bulb, cut into eighths
Sprigs of rosemary
1 long red chilli, deseeded and cut lengthwise into strips

Preheat oven to 220C

Place rosemary, garlic, fennel seeds, olive oil and salt in a mortar and pestle and grind to a paste. Rub all over the flesh(not rind) of the pork belly. Rub scored rind with 1 tablespoon of salt. Set aside.

Arrange the onion, carrot, fennel, chili, and rosemary in a roasting pan and sit the pork belly on top skin side up. Roast at 220C for 30 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 170C.  Roast for a further 21/2 -3 hours until pork is tender and cooked through, and rind is crisp. Timing will depend on the thickness of the pork belly.

If you are having trouble with the crackling, turn the oven back up to 220C for the last 20 minutes of roasting. If all else fails, place the pork under a hot grill for a few minutes to crisp up the crackling. Be warned if you resort to the grill, you will need to watch the pork closely in case it burns.

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4 Responses to It’s All About The Crackling – Slow Roasted Pork Belly Scented with Fennel

  1. Suzanne Caldwell says:

    Hi I like the idea of blanching that works well however the problem I have is the conflicting idea of using oil or not to use oil with the salt, gets very confusing, what is your reason for not using the oil?
    I have used the method from another recipe which recommends a nest of foil to sit the pork in on top of the onion and apple chunks that is a good idea and works well. thanks for your help Suz

    • When I roast other cuts of meat I always rub a little oil over the whole joint to start the browning process. The pork belly is fatty on its own and is slow roasted for such a long time that it really shouldn’t need any more oil for the crackling to crisp up. Especially after taking the trouble to blanch and dry it. I’m not an expert. just someone who loves to cook. My gut feel? Adding just a little oil to the rind shouldn’t make too much difference. Just be careful not to overdo it. I might just try it next time to see for myself. The worst that can happen is the crackling might need a few minutes under the grill. Hope that helps. Now I’m intrigued.

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