Make Ahead

Potted pig

November 29, 2010
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

  • Serves 12
  • 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
In This Recipe
  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!
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