Make Ahead

Potted pig

November 29, 2010
2 Ratings
  • Serves 12
Author Notes

...or, more properly, pork rillettes or confit. I make the rillettes in two phases - slow roasting, and then slow poaching, the former adding a caramelized richness to the meat. The addition of lemon juice cuts lightly (I know, as if!) through the fat. I love this dish because you can make it weeks in advance and refrigerate or freeze - it gets better with time; it is economical, pork belly not being the most expensive cut; and it is very convenient: you put it in small pots for scattering about a large table (or carting off to other tables, in a yellow cab!) or pack it in a larger, shallower dish for central access. It is perfect for picnics, last minute suppers when you have no time to think, or for starting off a festive gathering. - Marie Viljoen —Marie Viljoen

Test Kitchen Notes

With this recipe, the end product is very tasty -- in fact, it looks just like the picture. I took it to a cocktail party and the guests enjoyed it and remarked so. This might be a regional issue, but the pork belly was unavailable at local grocers. It could be ordered a few days ahead, or the author said to substitute boneless pork shoulder and adjust the fat and cooking time. The flavor development is difficult to gauge through the first process of roasting. Next time I would double the aromatics during roasting. I added the sugar to the wine and lemon juice, dissolving it before adding it to roasting pan, because the meat was big and hard to stir around. I’m glad I tried this and am likely to use this method to make something similar in the future. —LobsterBrieAvocadoBreath

What You'll Need
  • Roasting the pork belly
  • 3 1/2 pounds pork belly, with skin
  • 2 cups fruity white wine
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 12 twists of the pepper mill
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 8 leaves of sage
  • 5 juniper berries, lightly crushed
  • 1 cup water, plus extra
  • Making the pork confit
  • Slow-roasted pork belly meat, shredded finely
  • Pork belly fat cut into pieces
  • 3 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed but intact
  • 1 cup fruity white wine
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 6 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 sage leaves
  • 4 juniper berries, lightly crushed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  1. Roasting the pork belly
  2. Set the oven at a low 250'F.
  3. Season the pig with the salt and pepper.
  4. In a roasting pan, make a small pile of the herbs and juniper berries and place the belly on top.
  5. Pour the wine and lemon juice around the meat, avoiding the skin (which you may like as much as I do, as an extra treat of crispy crackling). Add the sugar to the pan and stir to dissolve.
  6. Cook in the oven for four to five hours. Check periodically to make sure that there is a little liquid in the bottom of the pan and top up with water when necessary.
  7. It is ready when the meat is very tender when prodded suggestively with a fork.
  8. Remove from the oven and cool a little, till you can handle it without pain.
  9. Reserve the good pan juices but discard the liquid fat, herbs and berries.
  10. Once you can handle it easily, slide a knife between the crackling and the top layer of fat and remove the crackling, scraping off as much soft fat as you can, and reserve. You will not be using the crackling itself for the rillettes but it seals the fat inside nicely, so is necessary. I break it into bite-sized pieces, sprinkle with salt and serve as a snack with drinks.
  11. The meat and fat are in layers. Cut out the fat layers and reserve.
  12. Take all the meat and chop it finely. You could also shred it so that the long muscle fibers are preserved intact. It's a matter of texture, and I have no preference.
  1. Making the pork confit
  2. In saucepan (with lid) that can accommodate all the meat, put all the fat you have reserved and melt over medium-low heat until more fat runs from it.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, quite gently, not letting the garlic brown.
  4. Add the chopped meat and its reserved cooking juices and stir.
  5. Add everything else except the butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Turn the heat up briefly to allow the wine to bubble and cook off, and then lower the heat again, cover, and cook for a slow hour. The idea is not to let the juices and fat evaporate, but for the meat to absorb every atom of flavor possible.
  7. Taste again, and perhaps add more salt and pepper - you should season quite heavily, as it will be eaten cool, which mutes flavor.
  8. Melt your butter gently in a separate saucepan.
  9. Pack your pork, with its fat, into jars or ramekins, or one larger dish, and tamp down gently. I take the garlic out to keep the texture uniform, but you may leave it in if you prefer.
  10. Top with melted butter till the meat is covered. Because of all the fat, you may only need a tablespoon for each bowl. For prettiness you could press a bay leaf into the butter, but I find that it prevents immediate access to the delicious pig...
  11. When it has cooled, wrap and freeze or refrigerate. It is ready to eat, but really does improve with a few days in the fridge.
  12. Before serving, bring to room temperature and serve alongside crusty bread. No butter required!
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Latin Touch
    Latin Touch
  • mrslarkin
  • LobsterBrieAvocadoBreath
  • MrsWheelbarrow
  • cheese1227

29 Reviews

Latin T. April 5, 2011
Nice post! More recipe articles on pig roasting using caja china style roasting box can be found here
mrslarkin December 14, 2010
I have potted my pig!! It looks just like your picture. Tastes delicious but can't wait for it to chill! And I just so happen to have some crusty rolls that I think will be delightful with this. Thanks for a great recipe Marie!
Marie V. December 14, 2010
I am so glad Mrs Larkin :-) Thank you...
Kitchen C. December 14, 2010
I made these over the weekend...wonderful! They actually taste like the supermarket version in france. Just 2 notes: My pork belly didn't shred on its own so i had to spin it through the food processor to get the right consistency. Also, to keep it moist I had to continue adding wine to the pork when it was roasting. will make these again!!!
Marie V. December 14, 2010
Excellent, KC! Thank you the feedback. No, the meat will not shred itself, you must do it, and clearly you did well! Great that you kept topping up the roasting dish with liquid: I love people who follow instructions!
LobsterBrieAvocadoBreath December 14, 2010
I tested this recipe for the Holiday Open House submissions. It is indeed tasty. I had difficulty finding the pork belly meat. I am not super meat replete, so had a bit of difficulty understanding the whole process until I did it. It (and I) were rather a mess. It's a sizable hunk of meat. I would make it well ahead of time the first try, and will probably use more of the aromatics. The infusion of flavors really didn't come together until the end process, but it really has a peasant, comfort-food sort of satiety. I served it with a rustic rosemary italian toast that had a beautiful yellow cast to it. My friends thought it was delicious.
Marie V. December 14, 2010
So glad you enjoyed it.

And yes, as I said before, it improves with time!

I trust you are now replete, with pig, at least :-)
mrslarkin December 12, 2010
Hi Marie, I've got a hunk o' belly that's about 1 lb. 13 oz. What changes would you make to the recipe for this much pig?
Marie V. December 12, 2010
Good question, Mrs Larkin. So 2/3's of the orginal, roughly...

In the initial roasting I think you could lose 1 cup of wine...And I'd cut back on the sugar to 2 teaspoons. And in the confit stage perhaps cut the lemon to 2 teaspoons as well (keep extra on hand in case you like it and want to add more). But honestly, I'd just keep the other herbs and spices where they are. The more flavour this pig packs, the better. I tweak it every time I make it. Just taste at the confit stage for salt.

Let me know!
mrslarkin December 12, 2010
Thanks! And I'd think the roasting would be done a teeny bit sooner? Q: sugar says 1/2 teaspoon in initial roast - so maybe keep as is?
Marie V. December 12, 2010
Probably...test with a fork, but I think you're still looking at 3 hours plus. The salt won't hurt, you can always ease off in the confit stage. If you want to be really safe go for 2/3's of everything.
mrslarkin December 13, 2010
Sorry, one more question: Do you cover roasting pan?
Marie V. December 13, 2010
Nope. I like crispy crackling and the extra browning. If you did cover I think you would have a blonder pig :-)
MrsWheelbarrow December 11, 2010
Christine (cheese1227) brought this to the Food52 DC area cookie exchange today. It was fantastic. Just downright delicious. Everyone raved.
Marie V. December 12, 2010
Cool! Thanks for telling me :-)
LobsterBrieAvocadoBreath December 10, 2010
Hi Marie,
Thanks! It's good to know there is a substitute. I am in Cleveland Ohio (suburbs). We have many fabulous farmers markets, so I am querying about...someone did suggest Asian markets, so anyway....when I get pooped I will run with the shoulder! Looking forward to making it. I cannot tell you how this site has revived my desire to bake and cook. I talk about it daily!
Marie V. December 10, 2010
Glad it helped. I'm curious about whether you have old school butchers in your hood? Or are they the ones who say you must order?
LobsterBrieAvocadoBreath December 10, 2010
Lots of kosher butchers right around me...West Side market would be a likely source. We may make a trip over tomorrow. It's so interesting and will be featured by a local food writer, Laura Taxel celebrating the market's 150th anniversary or some such. We might make a morning of it, Mother Nature willing!!! I am set though...will get comments in by Tuesday...may even bring along to my Christmas party tomorrow ;-P
Marie....HELP! I am going to test your tasty looking recipe, but an not finding a meat supplier. Where. I have one more local market to ask, but the rest have to order it. I sent a note to a farm from our local market....any suggestions? Susie
Marie V. December 10, 2010
Hi - just saw this now, so perhaps too late...

I'm afraid I am only familiar with my local NYC suppliers. Where are you? So it's the actual pork belly you are struggling to find? Hmmmmm.

At a pinch you could substitute pork shoulder, add an hour of cooking time, and keep as much fat as possible after the initial roasting, to add back to the confit. I have done that before.
mrslarkin December 1, 2010 goodness gracious....this sounds real good.
Marie V. December 2, 2010
It gets better every time, mrslarkin. Responds very well to fiddlin' and tweakin'...
cheese1227 December 1, 2010
Excellent. I was looking for a rillette recipe!
Marie V. December 2, 2010
Let me know how it turns out if you try it :-)
lastnightsdinner November 29, 2010
I've never met a rillette I didn't like, and pork belly is just sending it over the top. Welcome back, friend ;)
Marie V. November 29, 2010
Aw, shucks...:-)
Marie V. November 29, 2010
Hahaha...yes, well, it is yum! And if you pot them up in small ramekins, you can only eat so much :-)
aargersi November 29, 2010
Wow. Just wow. Oh and yum. Wow and yum.
healthierkitchen November 29, 2010
You took the words out of my mouth!