I think I have reached a perfection of pork.
I bought a piece of pork shoulder on the bone to roast last weekend, with cold for lunches in the week. Lovely bit of meat, huge expanse of skin, beautifully scored by the butcher at the Gigner Pig. Definite treat in the making.
Serendipity. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's column in the Guardian Saturday was for organic pork. There was a recipe for slow cooked spiced shoulder which sounded gorgeous right up to the point where he was describing the skin. I read 'you won't get any crackling, but you will get "chewling" – tender, chewable skin with a lovely, spicy flavour' and thought, can't be right. Read it again and, shockingly, that was what he was suggesting. Love pork. Love roast pork. Most of all love crackling. That incredible tasty shattering when you bite down, the lovely oily crunchy mouthful, the brilliant flavour of pig. There was no way I was settling for "chewling".
Have wondered for a while about steaming pork on the bone for the incredible moist tenderness that results but hesitated because I was worried there would be no crackling. Have tried it with lamb shoulder, steaming for a few hours, then finished with a quick blast in the oven which crisped the outside nicely. I have also slow roasted pork shoulder. Start hot, add liquid cover with foil and drop the temperature, then finish it uncovered on a very high heat which resulted in tender meat.
And lots of crackling :)
I figured I could translate this method to use the steam oven for the slow cook bookended by hot blasts in the gas oven. The result was wow! like you wouldn't believe.
Slow-cooked aromatic shoulder of pork
I did use HFW's spicing, which was lovely and dark and slightly sticky, but the method is mine. As was the crackling!
2.5kg piece of shoulder of pork, on the bone
5 large garlic cloves, peeled
5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled
2 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp brown sugar
½ tbsp flaky sea salt
1 tbsp sunflower or groundnut oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp five-spice powder - I used ready made, HFW makes his own
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 glass white or red wine
Heat the oven to 230C/450F/gas mark 8. With a craft knife, score the pork rind in parallel lines about 1cm apart and to a depth of 0.5-1cm (or get the butcher to do it for you).
Grate the garlic and fresh ginger into a small bowl, and mix to a paste with the chilli, ground ginger, sugar, salt, oil and soy sauce. Mix a tablespoon of five spice into the paste.
Put the joint skin-side up into the steam oven roasting tin. Using your fingertips, rub just over half the spice rub into the scored rind. Rub the rest into the meat.
Roast the joint for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven.
Pour the glass of wine and a glass of water into the roasting tin, cover with foil and steam in the steam oven at 100C for 3 hours. When the steam runs out after a couple of hours baste the meat before refilling the water. Finish the three hours of steaming.
Heat the oven to 230C/420F/Gas 8.
Take the pork from the steam oven, remove the foil, and carefully drain the dark spicy liquid that has gathered in the bottom of the pan, leaving only a couple of tablespoons. (Keep it to use for stock in noodle soup or a rich pork stew.)
Put the roast back into the hot oven and firm up that crackling for 20-30 minutes. Take the pork out of the oven, put it onto a warmed plate, cover with foil and allow to rest for 20 minutes or so before carving.
Serve with lots of roast potatoes and we had a light cloud of spiced puréed parsnip and turnip for a great Sunday supper.