2 lbs Fresh Pork Belly (3 lbs, if bone in)
A scant amount of vegetable or olive oil
2 Carrots, peeled and medium diced
2 Stalks of Celery, medium diced
1 Large Onion, peeled and medium diced
2 Bay Leaves
4-6 Sprigs of Thyme
2 12oz Bottles of Hard Cider
1 Qt Chicken Stock (Roasted if you can get your hands on it)
2 Cloves of garlic
• If your Pork Belly is in one large piece, cut it into 4 portions. If the bone is in, just leave it whole. If you took the steps to cure the Pork Belly before hand be sure to thoroughly wash it off and dry it completely before moving forward.
• Score the top, skin side, of the Pork Belly in a criss-cross fashion. This is going to help render some of the fat out in the initial searing of the belly. Using a sharp knife cut the skin side to just below the top layer, penetrating the fat. Heat a large heavy pan, preferably the pan that you are going to use to braise the meat in. You’re going to need something large enough to allow for each portion of Pork Belly to have its own space without crowding the pan too much. It will also need to be deep enough to allow for the braising liquid to come 3/4 of the way up the side of the Pork Belly.
• Add just enough vegetable or olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of your pan.
• Place the Pork Belly into the pan, scored skin side down. Brown the meat over a medium to low heat allowing for the fat to begin rendering off. When the Pork Belly has a dark golden brown and crispy skin flip it over and sear the bottom. Using tongs, sear each raw side. This important step of searing the meat ensures that it will stay moist throughout the coking process. Remove the seared Pork Belly and reserve for later.
• Add the diced vegetables to the pan. There should be enough fat left in the pan to cook the carrots, onions, and celery. Sweat over a low heat until the onions begin to turn translucent.
• Smash the cloves of garlic on your cutting board using the palm of your hand. This will leave them whole while allowing you to easily remove the skin. Add the cloves to the pan. Turn the heat up to high and deglaze with the hard cider, being sure to scrape all of the pan drippings from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the cider by half the volume.
• Add the pork back into the pan, skin side up. Add the bay leaves and sprigs of thyme (Whole).
• Add just enough stock to the pan allowing for the tops of the Pork Belly to be exposed. Bring to a boil and cover. Place in a 300-degree oven for 3-4 hours until the meat is fork tender.
• When done, remove the pork belly and place on a sheet pan. Place under a broiler and crisp the skin. About 2-5 minutes. Watch carefully so that you don’t burn. Strain the cooking liquid to remove the vegetables and herbs. Skim the fat and return to the pan to reduce. Simmer the braising liquid until it thickens, about ½ to ¾ of the volume.
• Serve the braised Pork Belly with the reduced sauce.