Pork belly, smoked in the Beast
The most fun event of last week was that my neighbour bought a smoker. It is a humdinger of a smoker and we have been plotting what to cook in it ever since he ordered it a couple of months ago. The thing about living on our street is that everyone is super easy going, loves good food and a glass of wine.. or two or three. It is very social and there is usually something going on at someones house at least once a week.
The smoker, named The Beast has us all excited and everyone has something they want to smoke.
It is a full sized oil drum so we can smoke a lot of things!
After some deliberation we decided to start with pork belly and vegetables. Pork belly is one of my favourite cuts of pork, cooked low and slow the fat renders slowly and keeps the meat from getting dry.
I bought a piece of belly on the bone and cured it with chilli and bay leaves for extra flavour.
Pork belly cure
preparation time 5 minutes
cooking time 0 minutes (it needs 2 1/2 – 3 hours cooking)
- 1 kg or 35 oz pork belly on the bone
- 1/2 dl or 1/4 cup salt
- 1/2 dl or 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 red chilli
- 3 bayleaves, torn in to a few pieces each
Rinse and pat the pork belly dry. Mix the remaining ingredients.
Pour some of the cure in to a plastic bag. Add the pork belly and add the remaining cure on top. Mix the cure around until the whole belly is covered. Close the bag, get as much air out as possible. Place a weight on top and leave it in the fridge over night. When you are ready to cook rinse the pork belly, pat it dry and cook it. If you are cooking it in the oven heat it to 250C or480F for 30 minutes and the turn the heat down to 180C or 350F for 2 hours.
Hickory wood chips were soaked for just over an hour in brandy, the smell was great.
The smoker runs on gas so we lit it up to get the heat going before adding the wood chips.
Once we could feel the drum getting hot we added the wood chips.
Once the smoke was starting we added the pork belly, closed the door and I have to admit we were hanging out by the smoker sipping wine. There is something about fire, smoke and food that is fascinating.
The other day I had a discussion about beetroots and different ways of cooking them. My idea of smoked beetroot was quite brutally voted down as silly but having tasted smoked beetroot litle did I care about this. We pulled a big beetroot from the allotment that I pre boiled, otherwise it would have taken abut a week to cook it! I cut it, skin on in to 2 big, chunky slices for smoking.
When the pork belly had cooked for an hour we added the beetroot and a whole butternut squash. The butternut squash was just stabbed a few times to allow steam to escape during cooking.
We did a quick top up of wood chips.
The pork belly and the vegetables cooked whilst we popped down to the pub. It was such a great idea and I didn’t realise quite how smokey we smelt until we were inside! Standing by the smoker got us all! We were not thrown out and had a few drinks before heading back, hungry by now and so curious to see the result.
The garden had a lovely smell, we could hear the pork fat dripping down on the wood chips and I think we all drooled ever so slightly when we saw the pork belly.
The vegetables looked great as well.
The beetroot had taken on the smoke beautifully, it wasn’t too harsh at all, just a nice way to highlight the savoury beetroot sweetness.
Another friend of mine had given me a bag of wet walnuts so we cooked them together with kale in the oven to go with the pork and veg. I love crispy kale and the walnuts make it even more delicious.
preparation time 5 minutes
cooking time 10-15 minutes
oven 250C or 480F
- 1 big bag of kale, or enough for an overflowing oven tray
- 1-2 tbsp oil, vegetable oil works well
- 1/4-1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp sugar
Remove the stems from the kale and keep it as whole as possible. Toss it last minute with the oil, salt and sugar. Place in the oven and turn the kale to make sure it all gets crispy, it needs watching the whole time to make sure it won’t burn. I added the walnuts when I tossed the kale but it works without nuts or with pecan nuts as well.
It seems like a lot when you start cooking this but it reduces as it cooks and everyone loves to tuck in. I have never had any left overs.
We had a great time cooking the food and the Beast is a much welcomed neighbour. I can’t wait to cook more food in the smoker!