Is there a 12-step program for addiction to pork products? I sure hope so – after eating this pork confit tonight, I may need professional help to keep me from making it every week.
It began innocently enough. I had a small package of country-style pork ribs in the freezer and a pint of lard in the refrigerator. The pork was from our meat CSA; the lard, well, that was an impulse buy at the Polish market when I was shopping for Vigilia in December. I didn’t really know what to do with country-style ribs, but the lard got me thinking: meat…fat…confit.
Have you had duck confit? Artery-clogging, hypertension-inducing confit? Sometimes restaurants put “confit” on the menu, but the plate arrives containing a poseur: true confit is very salty, a little dry, and a bit chewy. Heaven in a duck leg, and it’s pretty good with pork, too. I’d first encountered the pork version on a pizza in Boston. I don’t remember the name of the place, and I don’t know if they’re still in business, but this place near the Brigham made an awesome pie with pork confit.
So I decided to have a go at making pork confit. I used Mark Bittman’s recipe as a guideline, but reduced the amounts of juniper and allspice berries in the brine because even I don’t keep a bucketful of those spices on hand. (I did have a bucketful of fennel seeds, though). The recipe calls for ½ cup of salt, but doesn’t specify kosher vs. regular salt. It matters because kosher salt is “fluffier” and is generally used in greater quantities than regular salt for brining purposes. To complicate matters, I was out of kosher salt and wanted to use up my kimchee salt. So I guessed: I used about 1/3 cup of kimchee salt, which I estimate is a little coarser (and a bit “wetter”) than plain table salt.
I let the pork soak in the brine for 48 hours. In retrospect, 24 hours of brining would have sufficed since I was using country-style ribs instead of a whole pork loin or shoulder. I also could have gone with a shorter cooking time: after 2-1/2 hours, the juices had completely evaporated and the meat began to caramelize a bit. So, 2 hours would probably have been enough time for the pork to become tender.
And oh, how tender it was! I started this last week – put the meat into brine on Thursday, cooked it in the fat on Saturday, then let it cool and stored it in the refrigerator. Today I scraped it all out into a pan and warmed it over low heat, then poured off most of the fat (saving it for the next batch of confit, don’t ya know) and added about 3 cups of drained, homemade saurkraut. (This time, it’s the fresh stuff – I never got around to canning this year’s batch of kraut). Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until the kraut is tender. Eat and swoon.
And try not to do this again next week…