I first tasted “porchetta” at a deli I worked in when I was 15. It was sold cold, and although I loved my mum’s pork, it just surpassed everything she did (except of course for the crackling, because that’s only a hot food thing). That was just the processed stuff. It came in a roll, vacuum packed, and we sliced it and sold it at $15.99 a kg.
Then this summer, I tasted the real thing in Cortona, Tuscany. It was sold off the bone – off the carcass to be truthful, and the scent of fennel, pepper and pork fat permiated the air like a pipe tone of the pied piper, leading me to its source in the belly of the Friday market (more about Cortona on this post here). This porchetta blew the other off the map.
This is my first attempt, and it’s a cracker. Like everything I cook, it’s easy, and relies on the quality of the ingredients. I chose a lovely neck of Free Range Otway Pork. Loins are fairly lean and look pretty, and sure, legs have a wonderful flavour, but the neck I find the most tender of all, and without a bone, it cooks quickly and evenly. Not only that, it’s super cheap. The best thing was that the rind had been trimmed, removed and then tied back on, making perfect crackling a cinch.
- boneless pork neck (also known as pork scotch fillet – I used an 900g (32oz) piece)
- pork rind (enough to roll around the pork)
- fennel seeds (to taste – I used 2 teaspoons)
- black peppercorns (to taste – I used 1/2 teaspoon)
- sprig rosemary
- olive oil
- salt, plus more salt, plus more salt
- Put the oven on full to pre-heat, then dry-fry the fennel and peppercorns to release flavour, score pork rind, place spices and rosemary under the pork and tie into a roll.
- rub salt into rind, then roll in olive oil, then roll in salt again. Feel free to salt again before popping on a rack in the oven for about 20 minutes.
- reduce heat to 180°C (350°F), add to pan (with potatoes and other veggies to roast) and cook until juices run clear when pork is pierced to centre (80 minutes for mine).
Some tips on perfect crackling.
There are three components – heat, salt and fat. There are many ways to get there, but I use 20 minutes of very high heat, and then a medium heat to cook the meat through. The more salt you use, the more it dries out, and the better it tastes. If you have time, you may even want to salt the fat the previous day, and leave it in the fridge overnight. Third vital is fat. Forget that it is already a piece of fat, and slather it in oil or butter – this helps the heat get up and make it golden and crispy.
You may find that your cut of pork does not come with a separate rind. If this is the case, you can either leave it on, and make sure you don’t score down to the meat, or you can trim it off (image), and cook it separately. The advantage of cooking separately is that you can remove the greater quantity of fat below the crispy rind (but some love this part!), and then crisp it up further while the meat is resting after cooking.
This recipe is featured in “Christmas Sorted” an e-magazine created by me and fellow blogger Sally Prosser of mycustardpie.com. It is available free, by subscribing via the widget to the right, or for current subscribers, please email me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org