My husband Jason and my brother Alec are allies. Each the youngest of three, they speak a common language, one I’m not too sure I approve of. In addition to their inability to find humor in the harmless practical jokes I may have played on Alec when we were kids (maple syrup in the water bottle we used to comb our hair, for instance), they also prefer the canned, gelatinous abomination known as cranberry sauce over fresh, whole fruit.
I’m in no way a purest. My Aunt Ali’s cranberry, walnut mold is the sentimental favorite, but the foodie, hipster compotes I’ve been cooking down since my mid-twenties deliver equal satisfaction. Still, despite my best efforts, because of Jason and Alec, I am forced to open one solitary can in an otherwise farm fresh meal preparation. Until this year.
If there is one way to win over men with food, it’s a really fatty piece of pork. I promise, one mention of pork belly, and your father, brothers and uncles will gladly turn off the game and come running to the dining room table.
Pork belly took me a couple tries to get right. A lot of fat will render out, so don’t rush the initial searing. There are a couple inches at the end of the piece of pork belly that are almost entirely fat. Save those for later. Finally, when you sear the meat before serving, pat it dry and cook it over relatively low heat to prevent the fat and sugars from burning.
Braised in cranberry apple cider, the pork is flavorful and tender. Tart-sweet, orange-infused cranberry is the perfect foil for rich, fatty pork. This round goes to me. Now if I could only get them to eat beets…
Cider Braised Pork Belly
*Begin the pork two days ahead of time, letting it dry marinate overnight and braise for several hours the following day.
- 1.5 – 2 pounds pork belly
- 1 tbs coarse salt
- 2 tbs Spanish paprika
- 1 tbs ground Aleppo pepper (or 1 tsp cayenne)
- 1 tbs fresh-cracked black pepper
- 2 large shallots, minced
- 2 tbs red miso paste
- 2 cups cranberry-apple cider (or 1 cup apple cider and 1 cup cranberry juice)
- 1/2 cup sherry
- 1/4 cup Autumn Apple Vinegar*
- 2 tbs maple sugar
- 1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
*My seasonal favorite from Sapore Oil and Vinegar. You could substitute sherry vinegar.
- Mix together salt, Spanish paprika, hot pepper and black pepper. Rub pork belly with rub and refrigerate overnight, up to 24 hours.
- Warm a dutch oven over medium heat. Meanwhile rinse dry rub from pork belly and pat dry. Cut pork belly, the short way, into 1″ strips.
- Sear pork belly on all sides, starting with the fat side down. The fat will produce some smoke so get ready to fan your alarm.
- Pour off all but 2 tbs fat and sauté shallots until soft. Add miso and cook 1 minute longer. Add cider, sherry and vinegar to pan. Bring to a boil. Add pork belly, cover and simmer over low heat for 2.5 – 5 hours, until fork tender.*
- Remove meat from braising liquid, pat dry. (Move onto next recipe or see the next step to serve separately.)
- To serve the pork belly on its own, slice in serving size piece, and sauté over medium heat for 1 minute a side before serving. Be careful not to burn the fat.
*Braising the meat longer makes it more tender, but it was delicious at 2.5 hours. You can also braise it in the over at 200 degrees for 4-5 hours.
Cranberry Compote With Pork Belly
- 1 tbs butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 star anise
- 3 cups fresh, whole cranberries
- 1 cup maple or brown sugar
- 1/2 cups apple cider
- 1/4 cup ruby Port
- 1 tbs Orange Oil*
- 1 1/2 pounds Cider Braised Pork Belly (recipe above)
- 1 tbs Autumn Apple Vinegar
*You can substitute Sapore’s Orange infused oil with two 2″ pieces of orange zest.
- Melt butter in a 3 qt sauce pan over medium heat.
- Add shallot and sauté until soft., 3-5 minutes. Add star anise and cranberries and sauté for 3 minutes longer.
- Add sugar, cider, Port and orange oil. Turn heat to medium-high and cook until liquid reduces to a thick, jammy glaze.
- Slice pork belly into 1/2” strips. Sauté over medium low heat for 1-2 minutes a side being careful not to burn the fat. Add Autumn Apple Vinegar and reduce, turning pork belly to coat.
- Serve pork belly pieces over the compote.