Smoked Maple Pork Belly
Forget bacon. Well, scratch that – don’t you dare forget bacon. But quality bacon can be hard to find. Usually packed with nitrates and all sorts of other nasty ingredients, it’s no wonder most people’s eyes bug out when I declare that bacon is health food. But quality bacon – without added nitrates, sugars and chemicals – is definitely health food, especially if it comes from happy, pastured pigs. With beautiful amounts of saturated fats, critical for the development of cell membranes, proper hormonal function and energy levels, and an irresistible crispy, crunchy, salty taste, bacon is pretty much king.Enter this pork belly. Made from a slab of pork belly and cut into strips, this is pretty much home made bacon. This is bacon-y goodness that you have complete control over – what spices you add, how thinly you slice it, and what kinds of crap you don’t add!
Quick facts: saturated fat is still a sore spot in the public’s mind – it is loved and simultaneously feared. Who doesn’t love the taste of something fried in butter? A marbled steak? And yet, there’s a little voice whispering about ‘clogged’ arteries and heart disease. Remember, two things can be related without one causing the other – saturated fat and heart disease are related; your body uses cholesterol (a saturated fat) to repair arteries that have been damaged by inflammation. But by no means is the saturated fat responsible for the inflammatory damage; sugars and a pro-inflammatory diet cause the damage that your body is simply trying to fix the only way it knows how.
This is more of a method than an exact recipe, so adjust amounts as necessary.
- about 1 kg slab of pork belly
- several pinches of smoked sea salt (available at specialty grocers)
- several pinches of freshly ground black pepper
- several pinches of granulated garlic
- several pinches of granulated onion
- 1-2 tbsp pure maple syrup
- Cut the skin off the pork belly
- Cut the pork belly into slices, as thin or thick as you would like (to make cutting easier, you can put the pork belly in the freezer for a few minutes to harden it up). I like about 1/4 inch slices.
- Lay out the pork belly slices on a piece of foil or plastic wrap in a single layer – sprinkle with a generous layer of sea salt, pepper, garlic and onion. Feel free to use other spices according to your taste – some classic options include smoked paprika (can be used if you’re using regular salt), celery seeds, or turmeric.
- Flip each slice over and again sprinkle with a generous layer of spices.
- Place all of the pork belly slices in a large zippered bag or a clean grocery store produce bag. Drizzle in maple syrup (this is to taste – some people like their bacon sweeter, some like it less sweet. I use about 2 tbsp maple syrup per kg of pork belly.)
- Toss the pork belly slices around in the bag to get them coated in maple syrup. Then squeeze all of the air out of the bag and seal it, either with the zipper or by tying a knot. Place the pork belly in the fridge overnight to marinate.
- To prepare, you can fry the slices in a pan or use the oven. Preheat oven to 300° F and line a baking tray with foil or parchment paper.
- Lay out pieces of pork belly in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 15-25 minutes, or until the pieces are your desired level of crispiness. You’ll know they’re ready because your kitchen will smell heavenly!
- Don’t forget to pour the leftover bacon grease (or pig butter) into a container – it is pure flavour and can be used to fry eggs, cook veggies and more!
Enjoy this pork belly as is, slice into salads, make some lettuce wraps – this smoked maple pork belly is sophreakin’ good!