So now that I’ve had a few days to rest and become re-acclimated into the time zone of the midwest in the USA… I’m finding myself missing much of the cuisine I enjoyed while in South Africa! I learned a lot from my new friend Nicole Van Velden, the wife of Winemaker David at Overgaauw Wine Estate in Stellenbosch where my husband Bill and I spent the month of February playing in the cellar, getting hands-on experience in his future “retirement plan”. Anyways, Nicole was a gracious hostess and prepared several dishes that I look forward to trying myself. I sure hope she’ll guide me through her methods and share her recipes! Whoever said that you can’t trust a skinny chef, shouldn’t judge a book by its cover because this gal can put out an impressive spread (and yes, she eats)! She prepared for us an amazing traditional roasted dinner, which consisted of moist bone in pork roast, along with roast potatoes, a selection of vegetables, salad and other scrumptious stuff! What was the mystery and most appetizing parts to this meal was something they all call “cracking”! The crisp, fatty skin of the roasted pork. Apparently, the world has been enjoying this unfamiliar indulgence without me! It is this luxurious, crunchy and crackling layer on top of the roast. It is not gooey and it does not feel like you’re eating fat. Everyone loved her cracking, and especially enjoyed eating it with her homemade apple sauce!
I’ve been doing a lot of research on this little delicacy since I’ve been home. I intend to prepare a roast like her’s pictured, but I think I’ll wait to hear her method on preparing it first. Below is some of what I’ve learned in my groundwork.
1 Pork Loin, bone-in skin-on with the Rind
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Herbs you like, Tarragon, Sage, Thyme etc. (I need to find out what she used!)
Pork crackling is a peculiar sought-after part of the feast. We saw first hand that when prepared right, there was a fight for the last piece!
The key to the success of this dish is patience! You’ll need to prepare the pork in a slow-cooking method to obtain a moist roast with that luxurious, crispy, crunchy crackling from the skin of the Pork. From what I’ve read, people often find getting the fat it crispy, can be the hardest.
When your roast is complete, the best treat is the crackling, that if done correctly, will come out of the oven as a thick layer of golden brown, crispy skin that is blistered and crunchy! Apparently there are a lot of theories about crackling and how to prepare it – from salting the meat the night before, or brushing the skin with vinegar, but I believe Nicole’s method is to score the skin using a sharp knife, drying it thoroughly and then rubbing it with oil and salt, along with herbs and spices into the skin and crevices.
I found some helpful tips at this website http://lovefoodies.com/moist-roast-pork-and-crackling.html where they explain in detail how to score the roast. First score the skin, cutting parallel 1/4 inch deep cuts into the skin and underlying fat in 1-inch intervals about a cm apart -going from the thickest part of the roast to the thinnest. Start at the smallest end and pierce the knife down while dragging it over to the other side – being careful not to cut too deep or too shallow. The scoring helps release the fat underneath the skin, so that as it roasts it becomes crispy.
I recall Nicole explaining that you need the pork to be very dry on top to achieve the perfect crunch. Their method instructs adding oil and salt it five to 10 minutes before putting the meat in the oven while starting the roast in an extremely hot oven to get the crackling going.
I also read that the perfect temperature for roasting pork to get good crackling is 320˚ F (160˚C) Williams-Sonoma Kitchen explains how this slow cooking allows the fat to get golden brown and crispy, gently turning the skin into the perfect crackling. I’m going with Nicole’s method once she confirms!
I also read to warm oil in a large roasting pan over medium-high heat, placing the pork fat side down, in the pan and to sear it until the skin is well browned and crackly, while some of the fat is rendered, about 10 to 15 minutes. They instruct continuing to sear the pork until it is well browned on all sides before transferring it to a platter. Next, you are to discard the fat in the pan and place the pork, fat side up, on a roasting rack in the pan. Roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat, away from the bone, registers 140ºF, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer the pork to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.
I’m sure Nicole allowed her roast to rest before carving it right in the roasting pan. I’m not sure she covered it though because I would think that might create steam and mess up the crackling?? She served her amazing roast with roasted potatoes and her homemade apple sauce, that she prepared by peeling and coring apples before cutting and cooking them on the stove top with a sprinkle of honey to taste. She mashed them with a fork until smooth and boy were they good!
It all looks easy enough, but I’m waiting for further instructions from my friend before I give this roast and cracking a shot!
Watch for updates!