Last year a friend and I cured a whole Berkshire pork belly. We smoked most of it to make traditional American bacon, but some of it we simply roasted in an oven when it was done curing. All of this glorious pork in our freezer supplied our kitchen throughout the winter. This recipe is one of the things I did with the unsmoked portion of the belly. It uses cider three times: as a braising liquid, to build a pan sauce, and as vinegar to pickle the onions. If you can't find cured pork belly, ythe recipe will still be great with regular smoked slab bacon. (See the original version of the recipe here: http://consumed-i-this.tumblr.com/post/66954237/appetizer-for-loren-braised-berkshire-bacon) —Michael Hoffman
4 as an appetizer
Pickled Red Onion
medium-large red onion, sliced thinly parallel to the root end
red wine vinegar (or as needed)
apple cider vinegar (or as needed)
granulated sugar (or to taste)
cured (preferably heirloom) pork belly (smoked or not), sliced into 4 half-inch slabs
plus 1/2 cup fresh apple cider
medium onion, roughly chopped
medium carrot, roughly chopped
medium celery rib, roughly chooped
granny smith apples, cut into quarter-inch rounds
moutarde al'ancienne (or other whole grain dijon)
tangles of picked red onion (recipe above)
In This Recipe
Pickled Red Onion
Use the handle of a wooden spoon (or similar implement) to gently pack the sliced onion into a jar. For best results, choose a jar small enough to be completely filled with onion.
In a bowl, mix together an equal proportion of the two vinegars so that you have more than enough liquid to fill the onion jar halfway. Add the sugar and whisk to dissolve. Fill the onion jar a little more than halfway with vinegar mixture. Top off with water until onions are fully submerged. Seal the jar and turn it over a few times to mix.
Let the onions sit at room temperature for at least one, and preferably four hours or more before use. Make sure to taste the onions halfway through the pickle to see if you like the level of acidity. If not, pour out some liquid and replace either with water or with vinegar. Refrigerate leftovers for a week or more.
Place the bacon, 2 cups of cider, mirepoix, pepper, cloves, and cinnamon stick in a medium sauce pan. Top off with cold water so that the ingredients are covered by about an inch. Bring to a gentle simmer and simmer uncovered for two hours or until tender.
Use a slotted spoon to gently remove the bacon from the liquid. Pat the slabs dry, and reserve them. Strain the braising liquid and reserve it. (You won't need nearly all of it for this recipe, but for heaven's sake, don't toss it out! One dish you could make with it is bacon-onion soup, like this: http://consumed-i-this.tumblr.com/post/70765765/what-am-i-going-to-do-with-all-of-this-bacon)
When you are almost ready to serve the pork, get a heavy skillet very hot with a little neutral oil. Sear the bacon slabs hard on both sides. Remove them from the pan and set them aside somewhere warm, seasoning them if they need it.
In the same pan—which, should now be coated in delicious rendered pork fat—sear the apples hard on both sides. You want them to be tender, but not mushy, and to get some color. Remove the apples and set them aside with the pork.
Deglaze the pan with the remaining cider and an equal amount of braising liquid, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon as the juices reduce. After a minute or two on high heat, stir in the mustard, and continue to reduce until saucy.
To plate, lay down some of the pan sauce, top it with a slice or two of the apple, then a slice of pork belly, and then some more sauce. Finish with a tangle of pickled onion.