Pork belly is a versatile, economically friendly thing, and rillettes are what I usually make from leftover roast pork belly. Little pots of pork are useful things for picnics, appetizers for a faraway supper party or light (as if) suppers at the last minute. They keep forever in the freezer, quietly getting better all the time. They should be eaten at room temperature.
This time I roasted a piece of pork specifically for rillettes. I like the caramelized flavour that roasting gives to the shredded meat. It is unorthodox - most recipes would have you poach the meat in fat or wine to begin with. I do that in the second phase. I've tried both ways and prefer the roasting method.
Herbs are really up to what you feel like, the season and what you have, but in general this can take a lot of seasoning and flavouring. The lemon helps cut through the fattiness.
For the roasting phase, you need:
1 slab of pork belly, with skin, about 3lbs
2 cups fruity white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups of water plus extra
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
6 branches of thyme
2 bay leaves
6 sage leaves
5 juniper berries
Oven at a low 250'F. Season the meaty sides of the pig with the salt and pepper. In a roasting pan, place the belly on top of the herbs. Pour the wine and lemon juice around the meat, avoiding the skin (which you may like as much as I do, as crispy crackling). Add the juniper berries to the pan, and cook in the oven for four to five hours. Check periodically to make sure that the liquid does not dry up. Add a little water if it gets low.
When the meat is very tender when prodded suggestively with a fork, remove from the oven and cool a little.
Once you can handle it without pain, slide a knife between the crackling and the top layer of fat and remove. What you do with that is up to you. I know what I do. It's an excellent bar snack, broken up and sprinkled with salt.
The meat and fat are in layers. Cut out the fat layers and reserve. Take all the meat and chop it finely. You could also shred it so that the long muscle fibers are preserved intact. It's a matter of texture, and I have no preference. Which might make this situation unique in my life. Ha.
Making the confit -
Slow-roasted pork belly meat, shredded finely
Pork belly fat
3 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed but intact
1 cup fruity white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
6 branches thyme
2 bay leaves
6 sage leaves
3 juniper berries
salt and pepper to taste
3/4's of a stick of butter
In saucepan, put all the fat you have reserved and melt over medium heat until more fat runs from it. Add the garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, quite gently, not letting the garlic brown. Add the chopped meat and stir.Add everything else except the butter. Turn the heat up briefly to allow the wine to bubble and cook off, and then lower the heat again and cook for a slow hour. Taste, and add more salt and pepper - you should season quite heavily, as it will be eaten cool, which mutes flavour.
Melt your stick of butter in separate saucepan. Remove the garlic cloves from the meat and discard. Pack your pork, with its fat, into jars or small bowls and tamp down gently. Top with melted butter. You may only need a tablespoon for each bowl. When it has cooled, wrap and freeze or refrigerate.
If we eat these at home I sometimes make a jolting little flatleaf parsley and raw onion salad with lemon juice and salt tossed over. The shock of ascorbic acid and the cut of the lemon and onion are a perfect foil for the fatty, rich pork.