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Danny’s Belly of Pork slow roasted on a bed of Bramley apples recipe

Danny was upbeat as he swung his car into the space front of the butcher’s shop.
“Let’s stop mourning Fred’s old shop closing and enjoy the search for a new butcher. It could be fun.”

The Chicken Lady had reminded me that there was a good butcher in Fordham, a fifteen minute drive from Cheveley. This shop specialises in free range local meat. Some of their cattle graze on the stud farms that surround our village.

We stepped over the threshold past a long fringe of spiced beef and hunks of biltong.  This was an unusual sight in a village butcher’s shop in the heart of a small Cambridgeshire village. We were surprised to learn that there is a relatively large population of people from southern Africa in these parts.

“I’d like to buy a whole belly of pork, please.”
“We have just one left!”
The joint was much smaller than those that we bought from Fred’s and the same price (£10). But this was organic, free range, locally sourced pork. As we had some old friends coming for supper on Sunday evening we dived in and bought it. At 2.3 kilos (bones in), we discovered that this would have fed six hungry people with second helpings. The ordinary pork belly shrinks a lot when roasted. Are the ordinary joints injected to plump them up?

The recipe below is D’s standard recipe but he added the twist of slicing some cooking apples from the garden laying them in the nest beneath the joint and adding some raspberry vinegar to the cooking juices underneath the joint for the last hour or so. The plan was to make an apple sauce by spooning the mush from underneath the meat into a blender, minus apple skin. Somehow that step was forgotten as the wine and conversation flowed.

The cooking apples and vinegar tenderised the meat still further and kept it succulent.  As the belly weighed more than double the joint in the original recipe, he thought that it might need more time but four hours was fine.

He put the cooked joint under a low grill for a few minutes to encourage the crackling to bubble. It tasted amazing. Melt in the mouth and full of flavour. If in funds, we’d now buy free range pork belly for a roast every time or save up if we needed to.

I can’t wait to try bacon cured from free range pork. It would still be much cheaper than the ‘decent’ bacon available in the shops. I reckon that it might not shrink so much when it’s cured and smoked.  I’ve ordered an ordinary pork belly and now plan to buy a hunk of free range to compare and contrast.

 

Danny’s Belly of Pork slow roasted on a bed of Bramley apples recipe
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 4 hours
Total time: 4 hours 15 mins
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • These quantities are for a 2 kilo (approx) joint. Halve them for a 1 kilo joint.
  • I – 2.5 kilo joint of belly of pork
  • 15-20 leaves off a sprig of rosemary
  • 3 large cloves of garlic sliced (or 3 small for a smaller joint)
  • 2-3 cooking apples (ideally Bramleys) cut into 1 cm slices (skin on but not the cores).
  • 2 tablespoons of raspberry vinegar
  • Enough foil to form a nest for the joint to sit in
Instructions
  1. Place the pork, crackling side down, in roasting pan. Distribute the rosemary and garlic evenly over the base of the belly. Then add your layer of sliced apple. Place the foil over and press it down so as to keep the herbs and apple layer snugly in place.
  2. Turn the whole lot over, crackling side up, and form the foil into a snug nest, with walls, around the joint, leaving the crackling exposed and ensuring that the fat from the crackling will drip into the foil nest.
  3. Roast at 140c (fan) for 3 hours and then turn down to 130c (fan) for another hour (4 hours total).
  4. These are our fan-assisted oven temperatures
  5. so you may wish to adjust for a conventional oven, but not by much I think. Maybe +10% maximum.
Notes

The oven temperatures are for a fan assisted oven, adjust as necessary. If you are cooking on an Aga, use the slow oven but you may need to put the joint into the high oven for ten minutes at the end to get the crackling to bubble and crisp, or pop it under the grill.
The purpose of the foil nest is to prevent the juices from drying out and to ensure that the base of the joint cooks in its own juices.


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24 Comments

  1. magic cochin

    Hi Fiona and Danny – I predict you’ll be converted to free range pork! Since I’ve been buying free range Gloucester Old Spot pork which a darker and full of interesting porky flavours, the ‘ordinary pork’ taste bland by comparison. And the crackling is in a league of its own!!!!!

    Looking forward to you expert findings!
    Celia

  2. Jane aka:aromatic

    Sounds absolutely delicious!!
    Will most certainly be trying Danny’s recipe out..
    Jane xxx

  3. kate (uk)

    Sliced apples under pork belly is really good- try some chunks of sweet white onion or shallot too, makes an apple sauce with onion , lovely.

  4. honestly, once you go free range/organic you never go back. Pork was one of the most noticeably “improved” meats when my husband and I went organic, from being something we rarely ate as it was often bland/dry, it has become a firm favourite, saved up for, savoured….a good cut is the shoulder, its cheaper than many and very ample/tender.

  5. Absolutely. We save for Gloucester Old Spot from our local Farm Shop (voted best in the country last year by the way) and the taste/quality is second to none. It does spoil you…
    Thanks again for all your lovely recipes. This it yet another one to try!

  6. We have a farm near here that raises GOS but they won’t sell they bellies because they make them into bacon to sell. I’ll have to keep hunting because this looks delicious.

  7. City Mouse/Country House

    I think there is nearly nothing better together than pork and apples. This looks like a really neat recipe. I imagine the subtle amounts of the rosemary and raspberry vinegar must be wonderful. I think I can almost smell it now.

    Also – Thanks for the tag! I *finally* got around to posting it today.

  8. I never tire of reading article and recipes about pork, especially belly (the best part) – verrrryyy nice, guys.

  9. We were also converted to organic, freerange pork when we bought half a pig from a small family company called Number One pig- they have their own site. It was fun to use Hugh’s ( of River Cottage fame) book to use every part of the pig we received -even the head!

  10. yep, do do do consider buying a whole or half pig, it is soooooooo much fun

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