Preparation time: 40mins, plus overnight brine
Cooking time: 5 hours
This recipe takes time, but rest assured the results are well worth it. It begins with an overnight brine, followed by a gentle low and slow roast, then a final blast to produce a wonderfully bronzed exterior. Brining adds moisture and highlights the natural flavour and subtle sweetness of the pork. Low temperature cooking slowly brings the meat up to a perfect 65C internally, and then holds it there to gently tenderize the meat by maximising the “fibre-bursting activities” of the natural enzymes within. Or so Harold McGee would say.
You’ll need an ovenproof meat thermometer, this is essential. They’re an extremely useful kitchen tool for cooking meat safely and accurately. Here’s a link to the one I use, but any similar will do the job like the ones they sell at The Butchery Ltd for £6.50
Not enough time for low and slow? Skip to the bottom for a high and fast alternative.
For the pork
8-rib rack of native breed pork, French trimmed. About 1.6 – 2kg.
Ask for the skin to be removed from the joint, but saved it as it will be used to make the crackling which is cooked separately. Also ask for the chine and featherbones and some of the meat trimmings as this will help with making a super sauce later.
1 tbsp Fennel seeds
1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
Zest of 1/2 lemon, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper, about 1 tbsp
2 tbsp light olive oil, for lubrication
1 tbsp seasalt
For the pork jus
Chine, featherbones and meat trimmings from the pork rack
300ml good quality chicken stock (fresh often in stock at The Butchery Ltd or order)
2 tbsp flour
6 shallots, peeled and quartered
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of rosemary
Knob of butter
For the brine
2 litres water
150g coarse sea salt (The Hebridean Sea Salt we sell works well)
150g light brown sugar
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Zest of 1 lemon
1. Prepare the brine the evening before you plan to cook the pork. Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to the boil. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Once dissolved, remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
2. Take two large ‘zip lock’ bags and place one inside the other to double up. Place the rack of pork inside and cover with the cooled brining liquid. Carefully seal the bags, trying to remove as much of the air as possible, so the pork is completely covered with the liquid. Place the bag flat on a high-sided baking dish and leave in the fridge overnight, but no more than 12 hours. Alternatively, you could use a large pot, but what’s important is to ensure the meat is fully submerged.
3. Take the pork from the fridge and discard the brine. Dry with kitchen paper. Take a sharp knife and score the fat, about 0.5cm apart. Try to cut into the fat only, without going through to the meat. This will help the fat to render during the cooking process. Allow to come up to room temperature. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 100C.
5. Place the pork on the middle shelf of the oven to slow roast. You’re aiming to slowly take the internal temperature to 65C, and then hold it there for around 3 hours. The thermometer should have an alarm function – set it to sound when the pork hits 55C (after about 1 hour). At that point you can then turn the oven down to 65C. After another hour, turn the oven down again to 50C. There will be enough residual heat to ensure the internal temperature stays at 65C, for the final 2 hours. Note: at 65C the pork will be medium and very slightly pink in the middle. This is completely safe, but if you prefer it well done you can take it to 75C.
8. After about 15 mins, the pork should have a turned a nice caramelised golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to plate to a allow to rest, uncovered. Turn the oven down to 200C and continue to cook the crackling for another 20 mins or until golden and crackily. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool, uncovered.
For a quick alternative to low and slow, this French trimmed rack also tastes great cooked high and fast. If you like you can skip the brining process and go straight to step 3 but instead of 100C, preheat the oven to full whack – about 240C. Season the meat as in step 4, and place in the preheated oven along with the crackling from step 6. After 15-20 mins, turn the oven down to 190C. When the thermometer reads 57C (after around 30-40 mins) take the pork out of the oven and allow to rest for 15mins – the residual heat will continue to increase the internal temperature to that magic 65C (also known as carry over cooking, a joint of a kg or more dependong on thickness will usually rise just under 10C once taken out of the oven). When the meat comes out of the oven, the crackling should also be golden and crackly, but if not leave it in for a bit longer whilst the meat rests. Meanwhile, make the pork jus as in step 9. Serving suggestions as step 10.
Quick sauce option - instead of step 9 - remove bones and skim fat from roasting pan, throw in half a jar of apple sauce, stir well making sure you get the crackly sticky bits from the base. Taste and add more sauce or a little chicken stock if need, season and serve with your roast pork.
Meat by The Butchery Ltd and Maurice Trumper in Abergavenny