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Pork Confit

Pork Shoulder
Pork back fat
Coarse salt, pepper
Herbs or spices, à choix: fennel seeds, juniper berries, caraway, cumin, thyme, bay, etc.

The classic French confit is made with Goose or Duck. Here we use pork. Meat spiced and salted, then slowly cooked in a bath of its own fat. This keeps the flavours and juices from escaping, while the salt and gentle heat convert tough collagens into delicate gelatines. Flavours suffuse the tasty, tender, moist flesh.

You should marinade the meat and render the fat in advance.

Dry cure Grind coarse salt (about a ½ teaspoon per hundred grams, or four ounces) with an almost equal quantity of herbs and spices. Trim the meat of excess fat and skin (you will use the trimmings below), and sprinkle with this mixture on each side. Pack them closely in a casserole and leave covered in a cool place for 12 - 48 hours.

The cure can be varied. Pork and fennel is a classic combination. You can mix and match the spices listed above, or branch out and try something more exotic, such as dried tangerine peel, for example.

If you can't get pork back fat, lard or goose fat will do!The scratchings ( rillons) are a delicacy in their own right. Put them on a baking tray, salt lightly then return to the oven for ten minutes or so until they are crisp and golden brown. You can eat them as they are—as an excellent snack to accompany a chilled vodka martini—or use them to garnish something plain and too healthy, like boiled cabbage, or a baked potato.

Rendered Fat Cut the fat roughly into 1 cm (½'' cubes); pack it, with the trimmings from the chops. in a casserole. Add enough boiling water to almost cover and bake in a slow oven (150 °C 300 °F) for a few hours. You can remove the lid from time to time and stir. The fat is rendered when you have slightly golden scratchings floating a a clear liquid. Remove the scratchings with a slotted spoon. Let the mixture cool then refrigerate to set. You should have a layer of white fat with an aqueous liquid or jelly below.

Rillettes are similar in process. Fat and lean pork, salted then slowly cooked—this time with added liquid, which is absorbed into the meat.

Slow-cooked Confit Drain off the brine that will have run from the meat and dry each chop with a kitchen paper towel. Sear briefly in a frying pan with a little of the rendered fat to brown each side. Place the chops back in the casserole; add the jelly and enough rendered fat to cover the meat. Put the covered casserole in a slow oven (120 °C 250 °F) for a couple of hours. The pork, in its fat, can be kept in the refrigerator for several weeks, then gently reheated, or used immediately.

Serve Drain the fat from the meat; keep any aqueous gravy and use it to accompany your vegatables. The pork can be served with boiled cabbage and potatoes, or with braised fennel and mash, baked with beans, or used as in Szekelygulyas

Braised fennel Take one bulb of fennel (finnoccio) per person and quarter it, cutting vertically. Using a bulb baster, or otherwise, lift the rich juices from under the fat in the casserole and use these to braise your fennel. Fennel will take an hour, or more to cook, covered well, in the slow oven. If pressed for time, to make sure it gets really soft and tender, use a microwave-safe dish, and start with enough time in the microwave to heat the fennel thoroughly before transferring it to the oven.

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