Cracking crackling

What can you get for £3.50 these days that will feed everyone? Not an awful lot unless you are prepared to put just a little bit of effort in… and when I say a little bit of effort that’s all I mean. That and planning to start things maybe 5 or so hours ahead. When  I went North, one of the things I did was go to the  butcher’s and I got a lovely piece of rolled belly pork.

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Belly pork… with crackling…. that has to be good. And the effort involved?

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Pat it dry… and then rub salt in the scored skin. The butcher will do that for you to save you having to run amok with a sharp knife – and let’s face it, he will have sharper knives than you will. Then, put the oven on as high as it can go and get it really hot. Only when you are sure that the oven is heated properly, put the pork in and let that meat sizzle! What you are doing is making a start on the world’s most delicious crackling!

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See? Half an hour or so and it has started to brown and crisp. There’s your  effort… you turned the oven on and kept an eye on the time. Now you can turn the oven down to 120 degrees or so and just leave it to cook slowly for the next 5 or so hours.

You can do what you like for a while then although, I suppose, you do need to think of vegetables to go with it. Not too much work there, either……I decided that shallots and apple would be just the thing to go with the pork – the shallots would be lovely, cooked slowly till they were soft and savoury and some apples (scrumped from my aunt’s tree) added to it to sharpen things up a bit and offset the richness of the pork… and maybe some roast potatoes just to make it all come together?

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       I’d also bought some broccoli that I thought might come in handy … well, I do so love it and if I slide some on the Bear’s plate, he will make a vague attempt to eat it … and I was thinking that maybe steamed and with a sprinkle of oil and lemon juice on? Hmmm? See that WOULD be nice, wouldn’t it?   

We have rosemary and sage growing in pots on the balcony so I went and got a few snippets, stripped the leaves from the stems and chopped it roughly

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 Then I peeled the shallots and the apples, sprinkled them with some salt, oil and the herbs… oh and a red onion peeled and quartered (well, it was just sitting there, asking to be included)

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The potatoes were put in round the meat about two hours before we were ready to eat (remember this is a low oven you have the meat on so they will need a bit longer to cook) … I’d normally steam them and peel them and then roast them in hot fat but all this carry on with my poor old arm meant that I was taking short cuts. They could get in there alongside that meat and cook alongside it.  And cook they did…….

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The broccoli….steamed for 4 minutes then sprinkled with oil and lemon juice…. salt and pepper…

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And now things were coming together.

The pork had been in for 5, maybe 6, hours… it had had that scorchingly hot start that makes all the difference to the crackling and then it had the rest of the time, cooking gently, the fat slowly basting the meat until it was soft and tender.

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Get that out and let it rest while you turn the heat up on the vegetables in the oven to get them beautifully coloured

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Then… slice your meat

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The crackling… oh my word… the crackling………..

So there you have it. Minimal work,  just a little bit of preparation – again, for less than a fiver you have a meal that would serve 4 easily and even leave some meat over for sandwiches the next day. Or, if you were any kind of a friend, you would make sandwiches for your friends who were drooling over this……and had had to listen to you crunching on the crackling.

So… get cracking for the best crackling ever! The meat’s not bad either 😉

7 thoughts on “Cracking crackling”

  1. ahhh bolams’s when you mentioned your fave butchers I did wonder it it was them.

    I go with in inlaws as often as I can and yes they are fab (have a lush cafe too)

    I LOVE cracking but am useless at making it 🙁 Never tried it with belly before though.

    I’ll give it a try and hope it turns out better than my first attempt at the the bread 😮

    (which was an epic fail…it didn’t rise at all I don’t think my kitchen was warm enough due to a window being left open all night 🙁 )

  2. You can’t fault George, can you? He does all the traditional cuts and his prices are amazing – I was going to link this to his website but it is still under construction.
    I should meet you there next time, looby, in the cafe!
    The trick with the crackling is to get the first half hour done in as hot a heat as possible and after salting the skin well.

    All hail to George Bolam, a traditional butcher!

  3. Pork is a bargain… and it is so delicious when it’s cooked well. Start it off hot, for lovely crackling, then leave it down oh-so-low to get the fat rendered out and the meet so meltingly soft. It will be fabulous!

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