Say hello to my favorite child.
The porchetta is a marvelous creature. Part tender meaty pork bits. Part meltingly glorious layers of fat weaved in. All parts magic. A rolled up pork belly positively bursting with bacony flavor. Excuse me, I’m drooling.
Porchetta is originally an entire suckling pig. Deboned, all rolled up with garlic and spices and fennel and such, fat and skin still in their places, roasted ’til crackling.
But occasions for an entire pig-ling to be stuffed and trussed are few and far between. Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t scale it down while keeping all the flavor.
This glistening porchetta piece is especially alluring due to all the accompanying flavors.
Apples and pork we know are besties, and candy apples are a special inspiration here. The rub is full of spice, the inside stuffing is sweet with candied ginger and fresh tart apple, savory with shallot. All wrapped up in a glaze to match, spicy with chili and heavy with maple. I’m not lying when I tell you this is my favorite pork belly recipe yet. And I love pork belly.
And how do you serve porchetta, you may ask?
Ohemgee let me count the ways…a popular option is in a sandwich. Squished between crusty porous bread, a pickle of some sort, and an herby aioli to make extra mess. Also, salad. Hot crispy bites of fatty pork contrast with bright fresh greens like Matthew McConaughey & Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. You could also go the delicious hipster route of sticking fried nuggets into pillowy buns fresh from the steamer.
However you serve it, do give it a try. Like any slow roasted cut of meat it’s not much complication, just an investment in time. All the work is largely done a day or two before and the payoff is huge. Cross my pork belly filled heart and hope to die.
Candy Apple Porchetta
For the Belly Rub:
- 4 LB skin off pork belly
- 2.5 TB kosher salt
- 2 TB maple syrup
- 1 TB cinnamon
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes or to taste
- 1 tsp fresh black pepper
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- butcher’s twine
For the Filling:
- 1/4 cup finely diced candied ginger about a handful whole pieces
- 1 green apple peeled and finely diced
- 1 shallot finely diced
- 4 sprigs thyme destemmed
For the Cider Glaze:
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 TB butter
- 1/2-1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 4 sprigs thyme
- pinch salt
Day Before Cooking:
Take a look at your belly. Hopefully it is an even-ish thickness and a rectangular slab. If it’s very ungainly give it a reasonable trim, but don’t throw the trimmings away! (Just chuck them in the roasting pan and they can be your cheffy treat that you don’t have to share with anyone.)
Rinse the belly off and pat dry. Lightly score the fat side with a small knife.
Mix all the ingredients for the rub in a small bowl to form a paste.
Rub the paste evenly on both sides.
Place belly meat side up on work station.
Mix the ginger, apple, shallot and thyme together. Make sure the dice is nice and small bitty bits.
Turn the belly with the short side facing you ->  . Dump the apple-shallot mixture into the middle and form a compact line of stuffing ~ the belly is going to be tied tightly around the filling so use your hands to squish it down into the meat to keep it in place.
Now time to truss this porker up.
Instead of me dyslexicly trying to explain how to tie a butcher’s knot watch this video.
The filling will spill out (shove it back in). It will get messy (life is messy). You might get frustrated and curse my firstborn (jokes on you I ain’t got no kids).
It’s all good. Having lots of twine to practice is nice and don’t worry if it doesn’t look pretty, this is just for the purpose of wrapping the belly up and keeping the stuffing stuffed. It needs to keep its shape, nothing more. (You can see in the above photos how mine was stubby and barely wanted to meet in the middle but it held up really well and kept its shape fine after cooking.)
Whew. Great job. Now stick it covered in the fridge overnight. This helps the rub sink in & insures the roll to stay rolled.
Day of Roasting:
Preheat the oven to 325* and take the belly out to come up to room temp.
Line a well-rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Set a rack atop the tinfoil (like a cookie drying rack), and place the belly seam side down on the rack.
Cover the entire pan tightly with tinfoil and roast the belly for 4 hours.
Check at the 2 or 3 hour mark to see how things are going and turn the pan around for even cooking.
Meanwhile for the glaze: Set a small saucepan over medium high heat and bring the cider, syrup and all the aromatics (so everything on the list except the butter) to a boil.
Turn down heat and simmer til it’s reduced by about half and has a very syrupy texture. Stir in the butter to melt. Taste (don’t burn your tongue), adjust, set aside.
Check yo’ belly — tis done when it’s looking very soft and slumpy and you can pierce the thickest part easily with a knife.
Err on the side of more time rather than less, if it needs an extra 30 minutes or more that’s fine because it lets the fat side really get luscious and melty.
Remove the foil cover and set the oven to broil. (If the bottom foil has gotten really messy from melted sugars and fats you swap it out and get a clean sheet underneath to avoid burning sugar smells. Since the belly is on a rack it is safe so this is just for an easier end cleanup).
Broil for 5-10 minutes so that the belly browns and develops a nice crispy fat crust. It’s such a beautiful thing — you might cry. I know I do.
Lightly brush the glaze on and stick back under the broiler for a minute or three to get all sticky and delightful. Keep an eye on it because the sugars will burn if you leave it too long.
The porchetta is done!
Take it out and let cool down 20 minutes before slicing so it can rest and maintain the shape you worked so hard for.
So now you’ve got some options:
You can slice it and serve as is, or you can take each slice and brown it in a pan (no oil needed) for extra crust and texture (see photos). I’d definitely recommend this step but if you’re stressed or short on time it’s skippable.
Serve hot with extra glaze to drizzle.
- If you’re interested in other offal projects (although granted pork belly is not such an unfamiliar cut anymore) check out Easy Beer-Braised Tongue Tacos, Rhubarb Glazed Pork Belly, or Roasted Bone Marrow with Preserved Lemon Herb Salad.
- This recipe is part of a permanent series called “The Uglies.” It’s about taking the odd and forgotten bits, the offal, and giving them some sunshine.