Taco Tuesday may be gone, but I still LOVE tacos, especially pork tacos. So when, I was challenged to use 3 Daughters Brewing’s new hard cider in creative, interesting ways, I knew that we would incorporate it into savory recipes.
Pork belly is a boneless fatty cut of meat from the belly of a pig, not to be confused with bacon, which is cured (or uncured), smoked, and sliced. Most chefs prefer pork belly to bacon because of its juicy layers of fat wrapped around meat. There isn’t much meat, but once cooked, the meat becomes tender like a pork tenderloin, and the fat renders down to become a melt-in-your mouth experience.
A year ago, I had never tried pork belly, and I had no clue how to cook it. After a lot of research and a few failed attempts, I now cook pork belly regularly and have even ordered it at restaurants a time or two.
To prepare a pork belly, the most difficult step will be finding pork belly. As popular as it is, it’s still not stocked in every supermarket. However, if you can find it in your local grocery store, buy extra and freeze it, because once you realize how simple it is to cook, you’ll be making it regularly!
1-2 lb. pork belly
4 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp black pepper
12 oz. 3 Daughters Hard Cider (reserve 1/3 c.)
1 tsp olive oil
1 lb. tomatillos-roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves-minced
1 Anaheim pepper-seeded & chopped
1 c. chopped green onion
1 bay leaf
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder
pinch of red pepper flakes
Cotija (Aged Mexican Cheese)-crumbled
In a small bowl, combine pork belly spices to create a rub.
With a sharp knife, carefully remove the skin from the pork belly without removing the fat and cutting into the meat. Rub both sides of the pork belly with the spice blend. Pour the hard cider into the bottom of the pressure cooker and place pork belly on top. Close the pressure cooker, and once the cooker builds pressure, cook it for 30-40 minutes. (I use an electric pressure cooker, which is so much easier than the ones our grandmothers used. Depending on the thickness, I set the time before it comes to the correct pressure. The electric pressure cookers will only begin counting down the time once the internal pressure is correct.)
While the pork belly cooks, combine olive oil, tomatillos, garlic, and onions in a sauce pan. Saute over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes or until veggies begin to soften. Add remaining ingredients AND the reserved 1/3 c. cider. Continue cooking over medium-low heat until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove bay leaf and transfer ingredients to a blender. Allow to cool for a few minutes before pulsing. Once cool enough to process, puree to create the salsa. Pour into a bowl and set aside while pork belly finishes.
When pork belly has cooked, release the pressure valve, remove pork belly, and allow to cool for 5 minutes. With a sharp knife, slice pork belly against the grain as thinly as possible. Heat a cast iron skillet with a small amount of oil (or bacon grease if you have it). Fry pork belly slices just until each side is caramelized and slightly crisp. (Be very careful. Pork belly likes to pop and splatter hot oil. Consider an apron and maybe long sleeves!) Remove from oil and drain. On a cutting board, chop pork belly into small chunks. Drizzle with a little bit of the cooking liquid from the pressure cooker.
To build a taco, char/toast soft corn tortillas on a griddle until lightly brown. On each tortilla, layer pork belly chunks, salsa verde, and crumbled cotija. Enjoy!