Before we begin, I want to say that what I doing in this experiment is a Confit in only the loosest sense of the word. As readers will recall from my post on Pork Belly, not only do my wife and I really enjoy eating the meat, I love cooking with the rendered fat. Unfortunately, fresh Pork belly only appears in our stores infrequently so, when I see it, I tend to grab as much as I can. Yesterday, I picked up about four pounds of it and I decided that, rather than just save the rendered fat from separate batches, I would render it all at once and use it as a covering the cooked slices so that they will be handily available for quick cooking as needed. As I am brining the pork slices first, I will in fact be adopting much of the basic process for making a confit…
- 4lbs Pork Belly slices;
- ½ cup Kosher (non-Iodized) Salt;
- ¼ cup sugar (or honey if you prefer);
- ¼ cup Applesauce;
- 1 tbsp. Peppercorns;
- 6 cloves Garlic;
- 1 sprig Sage leaves;
- Extra rendered pork fat or lard, as needed (not shown)
To begin, bring 6 cups of water to the boil and throw in the salt and sugar, stirring until it is dissolved. Normally, the ratio for brining meat for a confit would be about 1 cup of salt for every 8 cups of water but I am making a weaker brine for this process for a couple of reasons: First, one would normally be using a single piece of pork belly rather than slices so the penetration here will be much quicker, and, secondly, I will be keeping the slices in the refrigerator so I am not too concerned about preservation.
Once the sugar and salt is dissolved, throw in the remaining ingredients and allow the mix to cool. You do not need to peel the garlic cloves for this, just give them a good smack with the flat side of your kitchen knife to crush them
Now add your pork belly slices and leave them to brine for about 4 hours. You may wish to cover the slices with a heavy plate or something in order to ensure that they remain submerged. Normally, the brining time would be ten hours or so but, again, we are using slices and don’t want them to end up overly salty.
Once the brining is complete, drain the slices, give them a quick rinse and pat them dry. Next, lay all the slices in as many pans as necessary, making only one layer in each pan. Heat the oven to 225 degrees and then pop the pans inside.
Slow cook the slices for about 2.5 to 3 hours until they are very slightly browned and have thrown off a good bit of fat.
You can now pack the slices in a dish or crock for storage. A real confit involves cooking meat in sufficient fat to completely cover in and this is most important for preserving it, particularly without refrigeration. I have departed from the proper method somewhat but I still have some extra pork fat from a previous rendering so I have added it to the dish and will give the pork another ten minutes or so in the oven to melt the extra.
As you can see in the first picture, I didn’t have quite enough fat to completely cover the slices but, since preservation isn’t an issue, this really is no problem. Some of the slices will simply be scraped of excess fat and then fried like bacon for breakfast. Some will be used in slightly more complex preparations and I will share the results of any interesting experiments in future posts…