Citizens – I am currently visiting the Ivory Towers of Cambridge University in the UK, whose distinguished colleges date back to the year 1209. 🙂
In celebration of this most English of towns, I decided to post my version of one of the most iconic British recipes – roast pork with crackling!
Crackling refers to the skin, which is incredibly crisp – it is in theory a simple dish to make, but there are so MANY parameters needed to guarantee that awe-inspiring skin!
For one thing, there are several possible cuts of pork that can be used for this dish – all with skin on, of course. Some use loin, or shoulder – I go for the ultimate with the belly, which is where bacon comes from. It’s that combination of super-crisp skin combined with fatty, melting meat that makes this so good!
Second, try and use an heirloom pork belly if you can get it – Berkshire (aka Kurobota) is the pig that was actually used originally for this dish, and is becoming more common and available. It’s light years more flavorful than the lean and dry pig meat we are sadly foisted with in most markets.
To achieve super-crispy skin, the meat and skin must be bone-dry. I use a combination of kitchen towels, air-drying and a blow-dryer (!) to make this happen. Trust me, it’s worth the slightly ridiculous process! I also pour smoking-hot fat over the skin to open up the slits in the skin (which helps the fat render out) and get the crackling nicely browned during its initial blasting in the oven.
I differ from tradition slightly with my use of not just the classic salt/pepper/fennel trio by adding in a touch of cumin and ajwain (an Indian spice that tastes like a combination of thyme and oregano). Ajwain can be easily purchased on Amazon here – it is not only delicious but according to Indian Ayurvedic medicine, it helps with the digestion of fat. If you prefer not to use these spices, omit them and increase the salt/pepper accordingly, but the flavor complexity they add is truly worth it.
Another non-traditional but very helpful step I use is a quick bath of cider vinegar after the first roasting period. This is an old Southwestern French trick for helping skin puff up and crisp during roasting – it also adds a great tang to the meat and sauce.
I further amp up the flavor quotient by putting slivered garlic and sage into the slits in the skin – this is non-standard but really adds a lot to the final result! Skip it if you’re not in the mood to do so.
Served with roasted apples and shallots plus mashed potatoes, greens and apple sauce, this is truly a dish to remember!
Without further ado – here is my recipe!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
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