A long time ago, in October of 2007 in fact, we bought a pig for slaughter. And when I gave the processing instructions to the butcher, I requested that some of the belly be kept, uh, plain. Raw. Not smoked. In America, the belly of the pig is the cut used to make bacon. But I didn't want it all made into bacon. The butcher thought I was nuts. He explained to me that that meant I wouldn't get as much bacon. I could see he was wondering what the hell anyone would want with raw pork belly. I should have told him to ask Gourmet magazine. Except I do not think Bill the Butcher (yes, Bill is his real, honest-to-God name) subscribes to Gourmet.
This was about the time period when pork belly was trendy*. It was hot. It was on all the food sites, in all the food magazines. It was everywhere. And so I thought I'd try it. Then I totally forgot that I had a big hunk of raw pork belly in our freezer. Until I unearthed it not long ago. I cooked it yesterday. Appropriate, since I'm usually two years behind the latest trends, anyway.
I will admit up front that the whole thing was greatly unappetizing until pretty much the very end. I basically boiled the equivalent of a whole, uncut side of bacon. It was pretty gross. I mean, there's more fat than meat on this cut. I knew that intellectually, but the reality is much more disturbing.
I bet my dad, the ex-vegan, is running for the bathroom right now to vomit.
That's what it looked like when I cut it into four pieces, en route to cutting two-inch squares. I am devoutly thankful there were no nipples on it. Nipples are not uncommon, as this is, in fact, the belly of the pig. Once, I was using salt pork (also from the belly of the pig) to make baked beans, and there was a nipple on the piece I got from the store. I still have nightmares about that.
At least it looks edible and not like a big pot of boiled lard.
I made some basmati rice (also on the woodstove, because that's my new hobby) and we ate. The verdict? Well, all three of us removed the thick layer of fat that was on every piece. Even A., and he loves fatty meat. It's just too much fat. The remaining meat was very good, though. The flavors in the sauce were just right. I'd use that sauce again for a different cut of meat, but I don't think I'll ever get plain pork belly again. I'd rather have the bacon.
Bill the Butcher agrees.
* Which just goes to show how ridiculous trends can be.