“Nice Belly My Dear!”

Ethical pork belly (1 of 1)What’s a guy to do? When you are buying a big piece of pork from a nice woman, you really can’t come out with stuff like “That’s a very nice belly you have there, my dear.” In fact, you need to be very careful how you refer to the big, attractive, fat laden hunk of meat. So, when Ety from Ethical Pork sold me the fattiest, tastiest, porkiest piece of pork I have ever seen, I really had to be on my best behaviour. 

I had to be on my best behaviour too when I got into the kitchen. One doesn’t need to get caught messing with a nice big hunk of meat like that. It weighed in at a respectable 2.5 kilos (5lbs or so).  If ever there was a case for keeping it very simple, this was it. To cook the belly, I set the oven to 180ºC. I cut wide strips through the skin and fat. This was surprisingly easy with the ethically produced belly. (Can I claim to have an ethically produced belly myself?).

One needs to be careful to avoid cutting through the meat too.

One needs to be careful to avoid cutting through the meat too.

All one needs to do is season well and rub the skin with a bit of oil.

Season it all over. Don't skimp on this. Use twice as much as you think you need.

Season it all over. Don’t skimp on this. Use twice as much as you think you need.

Just as you might do on holidays, rub your belly all over with oil. Then, just as I hope you don’t do on holidays, rub salt and pepper into all the cracks.

Get the seasoning between the cracks. Then add more.

Get the seasoning between the cracks. Then add more.

Place it on a wire rack and pop the belly into the oven. Leave it there for two hours then turn the heat up to 220º. Leave it there for half an hour. Take it out and gaze in wonder at it’s crispiness. You will have reason to rub your own belly in anticipation.

A huge amount of fat will have been rendered in the cooking process.

A huge amount of fat will have been rendered in the cooking process.

I managed to pour off about 500 ml  (1 pint) of fat.

It looks good enough to drink. However, it sets into a nice white lard.

It looks good enough to drink. However, it sets into a nice white lard.

This will provide me with enough lard to cover myself from head foot and swim the English Channel. Though, I will probably only use it for cooking fat to be used over the weeks to come.

Side note on English Channel swimming: They really used animal fat to cover themselves  before attempting the 20 mile swim. Though, the practice has faded out in recent times. Here’s a link to prove it.

Cooked with the ribs in. This helps boost flavour. It's easier to divide too.

Cooked with the ribs in. This helps boost flavour. It’s easier to divide too.

I let it rest for 10 minutes and then sliced between the cracks. I made a gravy using my recently produced pork ‘bombs’. Crispy crackling, punchy gravy and sublimely succulent meat work very well with mash too.

Lots of very tasty gravy. It wouldn't be ethical without it!

Lots of very tasty gravy. It wouldn’t be ethical without it!

I served it with a delicious glass or three of really wonderful Australian Chardonnay, given to me by a good friend from around those parts. It deserves a nice long picture. That way, you can have a long look at it. Ethical pork belly (1 of 1)-2In conclusion, it may not be completely ethical to openly admire somebody else’s belly. However, I am happy to have you admire mine. It was really pretty excellent.

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  • This looks great… however, I do wish you hadn’t posted it while I’m still fasting immediately post surgery. One for the weekend methinks

    • My sincere apologies. If I had known, I would have saved it until you were ready. However, it does give you something to look forward to. Always a good way to be post op.
      Best in your recovery,

  • Beautiful slice picture. Scrumptious!

    • Thanks Rosemary. It helps when the main ingredient is as good as this was.

  • That bowl of fat looks like a year of fabulous roast potatoes…

    • A year Kate! You shock me. A month perhaps. In fact, I am working my way through it nicely. It makes a fantastic substitute for the more processed vegetable oils.

      • I am not quite such a dedicated roast potato eater, it’s clear, and have to discourage the husband’s consumption on health grounds… I still have my mother’s enamel dripping pot in the fridge, and it’s currently getting emptied slowly till the next time – I like a bit of rendered smoked ham fat myself, the flavour is divine.

  • May I thoroughly approve of your choice of beverage kind Sir 🙂 ! Have not imbibed the particular brand but will speak up for most Margaret River whites! Am truly admiring ‘the belly’ whilst somewhat hurrying past that 500 ml container: but you knew I would !!

    • I promise that I didn’t drink the fat Eha. Though it was good enough to do so. The Margaret River wines are lovely in general. This one particularly special.
      I hope all is good with you,

  • I can imagine the trouble you might get into buying a capon or rooster 🙂

    • There’s a post in that, for sure John. I love the idea.

  • I am writing this in the knowledge that Mrs B may read it so I will simply say your belly is a thing of beauty and I’m quite jealous of that pot of lard. (A former colleague of mine used to be a Channel swimmer. His office nickname was Tarka.)

    • Are you calling my Wife a pot of lard?

      Linda, I’m shocked!

      • Certainly not, that’s just wilful misunderstanding! I’m sure she’s perfectly formed.

  • I’ve been in your predicament … at the farmer’s market (the cantaloupe stand, no less). Wow, Conor. That IS a nice belly! A beautiful belly! A belly that I’d like to get close to! My, my.

    • Great to hear from you Adam. How are things there in the Independent Republic? I miss your WordPress postings. Next time you are in these parts, I’ll cook one for you.

  • Very nice and they do have some lovely looking pigs at Ethical Pork 🙂

    • Thanks MD. Ety is ‘ethical’ in the truest sense of the much abused word. Those porkers have a great time before ending up on the blog.

      • Ha ha – they look very happy in the pictures 🙂

  • Well that’s Sunday Lunch sorted!! Wonderbaaa Conor!

    • Thanks Rory. I enjoyed doing this one.

      • I don’t doubt that – any suggestions for belly outside of slow roast or Chinese style Conor?

        • I did a pressed one previously. That worked well. It is somewhere here on the blog. On the Chinese front, twice cooking (boiling, then frying) gives a great result too. Skinning it, roasting while roasting the skin squeezed between two glass roasting dishes is pretty spectac too. The main thing is to cook it enough that it releases fat. We both know that fat = flavour.

          • Magic socks Conor! Thank you like the idea of pressing

  • Oh. My.
    With the ribs in, what cut of pork is this actually?

    • The pork belly has ribs, the spare ribs. Here is a link of a cross section of a pig showing, among other things, the pork loin, the back rib (people call them baby backs but that is another story), the spare rib, the belly and rib tip.
      The pork belly you buy commercially typically has the spare ribs removed. I shop at an Asian market which has pork belly with or without ribs according to your preference.

      • I couldn’t have put it better myself. Great to see you here again Richard, adding great value, as you always do.
        Hope all is good with you and Baby L.

  • Yum yum yum yum yum!!

  • It won’t be a surprise I tend to cook pork belly sous-vide, but this looks and sounds great, too. And by rendering that much fat out, it avoids some belly building.

    • That’s true Stefan. And I get a lovely bowl of pure lard to use in numerous other cooking adventures too.
      Win, win, as they say.

  • This reminds me I have some pork belly in the freezer. Me thinks it’s time to cook some. I do love a good pork belly, so good.

  • Conor, that’s a nice looking belly with belly fat. Also, the plating shot is killer!! Very nicely done all the way around.
    I love pork belly and there are so many different ways to prepare it. Typically, I buy the belly without the spare rib but should probably roast one with it simply to see the difference.

    • The ribs add an element of theatre to the proceedings. All the photo benefit from it and they have to add to the flavour. The fat was really wonderful and of a consistency not seen in ‘production bred’ pigs.
      It was some of the tastiest pork I have ever eaten. Go ethical!

  • Nothing better Conor. I would, of course, eat this in two seconds flat, but I’m looking to reduce my ethical belly a little. It will pass though.

    • Phil, This is one of the advantages of the long bike rides in the mountains. The problem is keeping the weight on, not getting it off. Buy a bike and get some pork!

  • I say this is the perfect post. Incredible food, fabulous narratiive and beautifully photographed. 🙂

    • As ever, you are too kind. It was a very special piece of pork all the same. Since we are in complementary mood, nice new avatar. What kind of bird is it?

      • 🙂 Thank you…it’s a bluebird. My son painted it when he was only 8 years old. It’s been on our wall for several years.

  • A 2012 Margaret river no less. Just enough sharpness to help cut through that wonderful pork fat. Lovely to see the bones left on your belly too Conor, extra sweetness, the shape holds and if you’re like me, hours of chewing after the meal is done. Nice cooking 🙂

    • Thanks Adam,
      You obviously know your your Australian wines (as you would). There were a couple more ribs than diners so that worked out pretty well. The lard lives on and adds greatly to numerous dishes since. It’s a real winner.

      • We’re pretty spoilt for choice with wines. Its a nice problem to have. But the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know 🙂

  • Well I just have to say it Conor. “My, what a beautiful fat belly you have there!” Beautiful photos, as always, too. I always enjoy your posts and foodie shots and humor. 🙂

    • Thanks Kathryn,
      I enjoy our exchanges too. It helps keep the world to a manageable size and gives us all a better glimpse into regional differences. We are blessed here in Ireland, with some great foods.

  • Oh my gosh!!!! That wine is from Western Australia… I mean, three hours from where I live. Never thought I’d see a local wine (as in, local for me) on your Irish food blog, my friend Conor! Glad you enjoyed it! As for this pork belly? Man. It took a lot to distract me from that crisp, delicious, perfectly rendered hunk of meaty deliciousness. Interesting fact about the channel swim and coatings of animal fat, too. Gross. I’d rather use it to fry potatoes (as that’s not gross, is it?!)

    • Thanks Laura,
      That’s excellent to hear. More world shrinking by Internet. The pork was pretty special and the wine was perfect with it. My friend, from County Wicklow, which is just down the road from here, is now living in Perth and has connections with the vineyard.

    • BTW, Frying potatoes is pretty OK.

  • Damn fine looking belly their Conor. Washed down with a nice drop from my old stomping ground. Damn fine indeed 😁

    • It was a lovely drop, for sure. Great to see a few of you knowing the place. For me, it had been just a bottle of wine. Now it’s a real experience.

      • I lived there and pruned grape vines 15 years ago. Many fond memories. Damn nice place 😁

  • Why can’t i get a cruncy crust like that. I always do something wrong. Maybe Its because Im drinking cheap Aus wine while Im doing it. I need to upgrade

  • Where did you buy this cut of pork belly? Was it a normal supermarket 🙂

    • Not a chance. Ety who runs Ethical Pork is the lady to see. The website is ethicalpork.com.

  • Loving that

  • Beautiful opening shot….lovely style of photography throughout. I have that very same knife…my favourite make. Can’t say my choice of wine would be Australian:)

    • The knife was a present from the Wife. The wine a present from a friend. I did buy the pork. Thanks for the kind words.

  • Words fail. 🙂

  • Damn delicious, i judt made my french bacon too, but since my sister purchased me a young wild boar belly so the fat isn’t as nice as yours Connor…
    don’t forget to burn the hell out of workout for THOSE calories, lol

    • I did a good 85k on the bike in the mountains after that one Dedy. It’s perfect bike fuel. It has both the energy and the guilt factor to spur one on to greater things.
      Hope all is great over your side of the world.

  • This looks fantastic! I think I might be able to get this cut of meat at a new grocery! Be well… ^..^

  • I’m in awe of your pork and prose, Conor. Both are scrumptious. Having said that, I’m rather hoping that you won’t be going down the same thematic road for several other cuts of meat I am deliberately not mentioning here. Except thigh. Thigh would be okay, I think.

  • This looks incredible – I love pork belly! I may never stop laughing at this, however:

    “Just as you might do on holidays, rub your belly all over with oil. Then, just as I hope you don’t do on holidays, rub salt and pepper into all the cracks.”

    How did you know? 😉


  • I have been making bacon each week and I laugh at how people at Whole Foods look at me like I am crazy when I am looking at each piece of pork belly to find a good fat to meat ratio. I guess in Boulder Colorado many people are still afraid of fat. I like your recipe for roasted pork belly on the bone and think I will try it since Whole Foods started to carry belly on the bone. Reserving the fat for other uses is one of my obsessions but my second fridge is getting full of little containers of different types of fat so I have to start using them up. I did make duck fat tamales at Christmas that turned out delish.

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