Bourbon Pork Belly Bites

If you follow Gourmet Male you'll see that I've been doing a lot with pork belly recently. A-FREAKIN'-LOT. Mainly, I've been making my own maple smoked bacon. Over the Christmas break I wanted a try a few new dishes with pork belly, like chicharrones and pulled pork, but never imagined through a stroke of luck that I'd end up with more pork belly than I knew what to do with. A mate of mine was about to rush off to the Gold Coast for Christmas and was given a kilo of belly as a present - so guess who ended up with it when he ran out of time to cook it?! ME! 

Now, I'll have to admit, I've seen a version of this recipe somewhere before. I'm not sure if it was in one of my cookbooks or on a website, but I made it with what I could remember as well as some elements of "winging it". I ended up making it twice - the second try at New Years' Eve cemented my position as one of the resident top chefs in my group of friends!

Make sure to give yourself a couple days to make this. It sounds onerous but it actually helps if you have a big event to cater for - most of the work is done in advance and really all you need to do is heat it up on the day. 

This makes enough bites for about ten people. You'll need:

  • 1kg pork belly
  • 12 hand-crushed juniper berries
  • 300ml bourbon whiskey
  • 4 tbsp spicy tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp organic honey
  • 1 lime
  • 1 padron pepper (or jalepeno)

Preheat the oven to 160C (140C fan forced). Pour half the whiskey (150ml) into a rectangle baking pan and add the juniper berries. Salt and pepper both sides of the pork belly and add to the pan. Cover the pan tightly with foil. Add to the oven and cook for 3.5 hours.

Remove the belly from the oven and chill in your refrigerator overnight. You can keep it there for an extra day if you need to. 

Mix the tomato sauce, soy sauce, honey, the rest of the bourbon, and some salt and pepper. Cover and place in the fridge.

Remove the pork belly from the fridge and place onto a cutting board. Carefully remove the skin from the top of the belly and set aside (or use for crackling later!). Make sure to leave a good portion of the belly fat. Then cut the belly into bite-sized chunks. Return the chunks to the pan.

Now you can chill the pieces for a few hours if you want to take with you somewhere. Either way, when you're ready, heat the oven to 200C (180C fan forced). Add the pork belly bites to the oven and roast for 20 minutes, or until they start to brown and sizzle. 

Meanwhile, heat the sauce mixture on medium-high heat and simmer down for 10 of the minutes that the pork belly is roasting. Remove the pork from the oven, cover all the pieces with the sauce and then put back into the oven for 10 more minutes.

Remove the pork belly from the pan and place on a serving platter. Chop the pepper roughly and sprinkle over the bites. Cover the bites with the zest and juice of one lime. Serve with toothpicks and you're done! Trust me, this is one dish that doesn't take much work but is sure to impress.

Maple Smoked Bacon!

Lately, I've been obsessed with creating my own food. Whether that's through my little veggie garden or making cheese, I find it so incredibly interesting and rewarding to create amazing ingredients on my own. As I was browsing through the Toro Bravo cookbook a couple weeks back I was inspired to create my own bacon. And to be honest, it was so incredibly easy and mind-blowingly tasty that I decided that I MUST share it on the blog.

Firstly, if you love bacon in any way (and if you don't, I think you're at the wrong blog), you HAVE to appreciate the end result.

The ingredients you need are:

  • 2.2kg pork belly
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp juniper berries
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp pink sea salt

Now, you can do less bacon if you want, just scale the ingredients back. The first thing you do is to source some good quality free-range pork belly.

Next, combine the cinnamon, coriander, juniper berries, and salt in a mortar and pestle and ground to a pasted. Add the brown sugar, paprika, chilli powder, and pink sea salt and stir to a consistent powder.

Rub a tablespoon of maple syrup on each side of the pork belly.

Cover all sides of the pork belly with the rub and place into a pan about 2x as wide and high.

Refrigerate for a week. By the end, you should see a good amount of liquid extracted from the belly. Now it's ready to smoke!

I recommend picking up a few smoking tins from Bunnings. They are $15 each and will do a great job of smoking your bacon. Pick up enough wood chips for a 4 hour smoke, about 500 grams. Wet the chips for an hour and then fire up one burner of the BBQ.

Place the pork belly on a rack on the cool side of the BBQ and smoke for 4 hours.

Once the bacon has reached 150C internally it's time to chill in the fridge for a couple hours and then thinly slice. Maybe a favour for your best local butcher? 

In any case, enjoy! I find this bacon is best crisped in the oven. But who cares? It's your own maple smoked bacon and eat it any way you want! Let me know what you think...