Timothy Cunningham

Make your own vinegar from: Butternut Squash

If you think you don't like the taste of vinegar, you haven't had good vinegar.

Confit Pork Belly

Either you like bacon or you are wrong!  Confit pork belly can be even better than bacon.  


What is Confit? 

Confit is an old French cooking term that literally means to "preserve." Before the days of refrigeration, people found they could preserve meats for months by salting it in a brine and covering it completely in a fat like lard  and cooking it at very low temperatures for several hours. After the fat cools, the meat can be stored in a cool dark place for months. Today we don't confit meat for preservation reasons, we do it because it renders the meat amazingly moist and tasty.

What is Pork Belly?

Pork belly comes from the same cut from which we get bacon. Bacon is typically cured and smoked and sliced.  Bacon commonly has the pork skin or rind removed.  Pork belly on the other hand is uncured and not smoked, the pork skin is typically left on.   Pork belly has lots of fat but when cooked properly the meat is fall apart tender and the fat meltingly soft.

Obtaining pork belly can be difficult at times. Your regular grocer may carry it, as well as, specialty butchers. If you have enough freezer space, find a local hog farmer and purchase a whole hog, instruct the processor NOT to make bacon from the belly, but to leave the belly whole with skin on.

Brine the Pork Belly

Since pork belly is uncured it will benefit from a salt brine.  Salt will bind to water and will help flavor the meat and add fluids to the meat and fat, as well as tenderize the meat.  Find a container that will hold the entire pork belly with at least a few inches of head space above the pork. I put a couple of metal chopsticks on the bottom of the container to allow the brine to get underneath the meat.   Add some smashed fresh garlic cloves,  a handful of peppercorns, bay leaves and fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme. To make a 2%  brine fill a container with a enough water to cover the entire pork belly, weigh the water. Using grams and kilograms makes the math easier, so if you have 1000g of water multiply that by .02 which will give you 20 grams. Weigh out 20 grams of kosher salt and add it to the water and agitate until it dissolves. Pour over the pork belly until it completely covers the pork. Pork belly may tend to float so you may need to weight it down to keep it completely submerged.  Cover the container.  Put container, brine and pork belly in the refrigerator over night or for at least 10 - 12 hours. Afterwards, remove pork belly from the brine, rinse the salt off and pat dry with a towel.

Confit the Pork Belly

Cover the pork belly with fat, lard works well. I didn't have quite enough lard so I covered it with half lard, half duck fat.  To be sure you have enough fat, it is helpful to warm up the lard enough so it starts to melt.  Cover container with lid or heavy duty foil and put in a pre-heated oven set to 200 F.  Cooking will take up to 6 hours, but start checking at around 4 hours. Meat should feel very soft, but with some slight resistance.

Cool Pork Belly & Fat

Remove container and allow to cool at room temperature. You can store in the fridge.  I like to cover the meat and fat with plastic wrap put a plate on top and a weight on top of the plate. This compresses the meat and presses out some excess fat and improves the layers of meat and fat.

Serve Pork Belly

Remove container from fridge, allow to warm up at room temperature till the lard is soft enough allow the pork belly to be removed from the encasing fat.  Wipe excess lard from meat. If you have skin on the pork, use a sharp knive to remove the hard pork skin, leaving the fat layer just underneath.  Score the fat with a cross hatch pattern, being careful not to cut into the meat.
Slice pork belly into squares.  

Preheat oven to 350.

 In cast iron skillet add enough cooking oil to coat the bottom of the skillet. Heat oil till the oil glistens.  Place the pieces of confited pork, fat-side-down, in the skillet, being careful not to crowd the pan. (You may need to work in batches.) Immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the excess fat is rendered and the fatty side is browned, about 18 minutes. You will need to pour off any excess fat about halfway through cooking. When the pork is browned, transfer the skillet to the oven until the belly is heated through, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the salt, (optionally some Chinese Five Spice) and serve.

Also can be added to Ramen!

This recipe was adapted from Thomas Keller's "Ad hoc at home" if you liked this recipe click the book below to see even more amazing recipes like it.

Pesto Recipe Ratios

If you plant some basil plants, you will soon find you have more basil than you can handle.  One of the tastiest usages of heaps of basil is to make pesto. However every time you pick basil, or maintain it by pinching off the big leaves or removing flowers to encourage growth, you end up with different amounts of leaves. 

Your current pesto recipe calls for 3 cups of packed basil leaves, but you only have 2: What to do?

Use a pesto ratio.
Not a recipe. 

A starting ratio for pesto is 1:2:2:8. 1 part nut: 2 parts oil: 2 parts grated cheese: 8 parts herbs

So let us say you pick two packed cups of basil or other fresh herbs.  Divide that into 8 parts, which would be a 1/4 cup.  You now have the "1" in your ratio. Your recipe based on two cups of packed herbs would be:

1/4 cup nuts (pine nut, peanut, walnut, cashew or combo of all)
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup grated cheese 
2 cups packed basil or other herbs
Blend until smooth.
Add salt to taste
Store in jar top with oil to protect from air and refrigerate.

You can scale this up or down based on the amount of basil you pick. Admittedly the math gets hard when you start dealing with odd amount of measurements, this is where I usually fill out the herbs to get to more easily divisible number, for instance if I have 3 1/2 cups of basil add a 1/2 cup of parsley or cilantro to get to 4 cups.  You can also go "European" and switch to milliliters if you have cups with metric markings.

Now that you have made pesto you can use it as a dip or spread, or cook up some pasta with some mushrooms and bacon and you have yourself a quick tasty lunch.