This recipe starts with a long brine in apple cider and spices, to layer flavor early in the process. I then layer in more apple flavor in the braising liquid by adding apple brandy and cider vinegar. I specify American apple brandy because it's fruitier than Calvados, which tends to be more nuanced and subtle. —adashofbitters
1 3/4 - 2 pounds
hard apple cider
mustard seeds, freshly ground
juniper berries, freshly ground
grapeseed oil, separated
chicken or pork stock
American apple brandy (for example, Laird's)
If pork belly still has skin on one side, score through skin in a diamond pattern, to allow brine to penetrate into meat.
Combine apple cider, salt, sugar, mustard seed, and juniper berries in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer to dissolve salt and sugar, and remove from heat.
Place brine and pork belly into a plastic bag. Store in refrigerator for 8-24 hours. Turn the bag over two or three times to redistribute brine.
Remove belly from brine, rinse off any spices that cling to it, and dry it well with a paper towel.
Heat 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil in a skillet over high heat. Add belly and sear on all sides.
Allow belly to cool, then add it to a slow cooker. Divide belly into two or more portions, if necessary, to fit. Add stock, apple brandy, and apple-cider vinegar. Liquid should not cover belly, so use less stock if necessary.
Cook on low heat for 6 or more hours, or until internal temperature of pork reaches 160° F.
Remove pork from braising liquid. Cut into serving-sized portions. Heat remaining grapeseed oil over high heat and sear belly pieces on all sides.
Place cabbage and apples in a saucepan. Ladle enough pork braising liquid over cabbage and apples to cover. Braise until just soft.