With a rolled pork belly taking up space in my fridge and no freezer, I had to deal with it rather quickly so on Friday evening, I rubbed with a mix of salt, black pepper and hot smoked paprika, set it in a roasting tin with a generoius amount of cider in the bottom, covered it in foil and slow roasted it (about half an hour on high to get it up to temperature, then two hours at around 180 and another two hours at low), checking every hour or so that it didn’t run dry. I let it cool, transferred the liquid into a mug, wrapped the meat in foil and stored both in the fridge overnight.
The next day, I took off the skin, flattened it out and put it in the oven at its lowest setting to dry out, turning up the heat to maximum about half an hour for dinner to let it crisp up.
About an hour before serving, I cut two generous slices off the roll and let them come to room temperature. I took off the fat that had settled on top of the mug with the roasting juices, and fried the slices in that fat over medium heat until nicely brown on both sides.
During the afternoon I had made an apple and rhubarb sauce (inspired by the one that was served with the ears at Pig Shop) by stewing apple and rhubarb chunks in cider and then blitzing.
I served the meat wtih the sauce, a glug of the reheated roasting juices, Jersey Royals and asparagus fried in the meat pan (yes, I know no shame) with two slivers of crackling on top. The meat was very tender, the crackling crunchy and everything else worked very well together, too. I was very happy with it all, especially as I went simply by instinct with no recipe.
I had another two meals from it and had thinly sliced leftovers in a bun for lunch today.
As part of the 2015 Eat Cambridge food festival, Pint Shop ran an event called Pig Shop, an evening of pork and beer, introduced by author and journalist Andrew Webb.
After a aperitiv in the shape of a “Pint Shop No. 1” and an introduction by Andrew, Stuart and David of Barker Brothers Butchers demonstrated how to make sausages and how to butcher a pig’s head.
Afterwards, we all had a go at making sausages and butchering half a pig’s head. I didn’t join in the sausagemaking but did butcher a pig’s head with varied results as it’s definitely not easy. I did get enough meat out of it for a decent meal, though.
Then Stuart Barker showed us how they break down a whole side. This was most impressive, even for a task they do several times a week, and he slowed down for us so we could see where and how he was cutting.
Watching and helping with this butchery had made us hungry so we were very keen to sit down and await the meal the chefs in the Pint Shop kitchens had prepared for us:
Crispy Pig’s Head, apple&rhubarb sauce (beer: Moor Revival): Some of the ear pieces were better than others, the best ones were like really good crackling. The rhubarb in the apple sauce added a good edge.
Cured and hot smoked bath chaps, whipped lardo on toast, pickles (beer: Beavertown Applelation): Great combination of soft, crunchy, sweet and tart.
The first highlight: Pork shoulder & Ogleshield nuggets (beer: Siren&Elusive Dinner for Four). So soft and juicy on the inside and crunchy on the outside, with the Tewkesbury Mustard creme fraiche a perfect foil.
Then, the centre piece, a whole suckling pig, slow roasted, pulled and served in steamed buns with green slaw and rhubarb and chilli sauce (beer: Magic Rock Cannonball). Brilliant, just brilliant. I think everyone overstuffed themselves on that course.
The dessert was special, too: Vanilla ice cream with bacon brittle by Jack’s Gelato with an Imperial Stout called “Heaven & Hell” from De Molen. Outstanding! Bacon in ice cream might sound weird but it worked just as well as salted caramel does.
This evening was pretty much perfect. We watched and learned butchery, had a fantastic meal of pork and beer and received a goodie bag with meat (our own butchery plus a roasting joint, a rolled piece of belly in my case) and beer to take home. I hope they will do something similar soon or at least for next year’s event.