This fennel roasted pork belly with cider apples will give you the best flavored fennel crispy crackling and tender meat paired with sweet cider apples. It's the perfect holiday main to feed a crowd. This post is sponsored by Morton Salt, Inc. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Beyond Sweet and Savory possible.
With my favorite holiday, Christmas, quickly approaching, I'm in full planning mode. I love Christmas! Christmas dinner is the biggest dinner party that I throw every year--you can expect not just one but a few mains, many sides, and dessert galore! This year I'm so excited to partner with Morton Salt to share one of my all time favorite main dishes--fennel roasted pork belly with cider apples. For as long as I could remember, Morton Salt has been our kitchen staple - the cylindrical dark blue salt container with a young girl walking in the rain with an opened umbrella and scattering salt behind her.
How to Prepare the Pork Skin
For me, a great roast pork is all about the crackling and there are a few steps essential to achieving crackling perfection. The night before I roast the pork, I put the meat in the fridge to dry out the skin.
Right before roasting, I prepared the fennel salt. The fennel seeds add an extra layer of flavor to the pork belly. It’s a simple one to one ratio of salt to fennel seeds. I quickly pan-fried the fennel seeds until fragrant then let them cool before grinding the seeds and Morton Fine Sea Salt with a pestle and mortar.
How to Score the Skin
Besides letting the skin dry out, scoring the skin allows the oven heat, oil, and salt to work their way through the joint drawing out moisture and rendering fat to make crackling crisp. I used a very sharp knife to score lines through whole of rind of pork belly at roughly ¼ inch intervals. Only cut through the skin until you hit the fat layer. If you cut through the meat, too much salt will seep in and over-season.
The last step involves drizzling a coating of oil over the skin and rubbing the salt into the scored skin. The salt draws moisture to the surface and reacts with the salt, helping to guarantee you’ll get that crispy crackling every single time. If you don’t rub the salt in properly, the crackling will have a chewy texture. Dry skin crisps better than moist skin.
Once the pork belly is ready to go, layer the bottom of the roasting pan with apples, shallots, and garlic, put the meat on top, then pour in the apple cider. The apples, alliums, and apple cider protect the pork from heat on bottom, keep it tender, and add extra flavor to the meat. If you don’t like apples, you can substitute with pears, quince, squash, or fennel. Anything that’s slightly sweet will go well with the pork. Root vegetables like carrots and parsnips are other delicious alternatives.
What Side Dish to Serve with the Pork
Squash is in season at the moment and would be a perfect side for the pork belly. I used delicata squash but you can substitute for kabocha, red kuri, or any squashes you like. Use a sharp knife to cut them into ½ inch slices.
Toss them in a bowl with olive oil, honey, sage leaves, then season with salt and pepper and roast them in the oven during the last 30 minutes and you’ll have a delicious side.
To get the juicy meat, cook skin side up at 350°F for 2 hours. Then change your oven’s setting to broil or as high as the temperature will go and leave it for another 15-20 minutes. You'll know the belly's ready when the skin puffs and is super crispy, which will happen fairly quickly after raising the heat. Make sure you keep an eye on it or it will burn.
A great roast pork dish with salty, super crunchy crackling is not only a sight to behold but a spectacular crowd pleaser. The fennel salt gives the skin a beautiful aromatic flavor. This delicious fennel roasted pork belly with the crackliest crackling and succulent, tender meat will leave your guests happy and satisfied. Just pair it with a nice bottle of wine and you’re set for dinner. It’s the warming kind of meal that will take you from fall to winter.
For more holiday inspiration: lemon thyme poached turkey breast, pomegranate molasses roasted duck, easy Thanksgiving turkey.
Fennel roasted pork belly with cider apples
- 4 pound piece of pork belly
- 1 tablespoon Morton Fine Sea Salt
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon olive oil for rubbing
- 1 pound apples, quartered if large
- 4 heads of garlic
- 8 shallots
- 1 cup apple cider
Roasted delicata squash
- 1 pound delicata squash, cut into ½ inch slices
- 2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- a handful of sage leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- The night before cooking, leave the pork in the fridge for the skin to dry.
- To make the fennel salt, pan fry the fennel seeds over medium-low heat until fragrant. Let it cool.
- Using a mortar and pestle, pound the salt and fennel seeds until well combined. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Remove the pork from the fridge. Pat it dry with paper towels.
- Use a very sharp knife and score the pork skin at roughly ¼ inch intervals.
- Drizzle with olive oil and rub the fennel salt, making sure to rub salt into the cracks.
- In a roasting tray, lay the apples, garlic, and shallots in one single layer. Place the pork belly on top of the bed of apples and alliums.
- Pour the apple cider into the roasting tray.
- Place the tray in the middle rack of your oven and roast at 350 degrees F for 2 hours.
- Every hour or so, mix up the apples and alliums to prevent any on the outside from burning.
- Increase the oven’s temperature to max or broil setting and roast for another 15-20 minutes until the skin puffs up. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
- When the roast is done, set it aside in a warm place for 20 minutes to rest before carving.
- To make the squash, cut them into ½ inch slices.
- Toss with olive oil, honey, sage leaves, salt, and pepper.
- Roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, flipping the squash halfway through to ensure even roasting. Remove from the oven and let it cool.
- When ready to serve, slice the pork along the scored line. Serve the pork with apples, shallots, garlic, roasting juices, and your side dish.
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