A piece of pork with all the fat and skin still attached, roasted until unbelievably crisp is enjoyed on occasion in many parts of the world. This is also the case in the Nordic region but most importantly in Denmark and Norway.
One big difference between the Norwegian and Danish roast is that the crackling is most often cut differently. In Denmark it will be cut straight across in thin strips, while in Norway it will be cut into 3–4 cm squares.
- 2 kg pork suitable for roasting, skin on
- coarse sea salt
- bay leaves (optional)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
• Let us just establish before you go on cooking this that some sad, lean fatless modern breed of pig won’t work for this recipe. It needs to have a good layer of fat on it, like 3 cm in thickness.
• One thing to remember is that every excess water molecule that is still in the rind when you cook it is an enemy, which will make your crackling less crunchy if you don’t get rid of it.
• I like to score the skin of my pork just after buying it and then to keep it in the fridge for a day or two with no cover for the skin to dry out as much as possible.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
Score the skin of the pork depending on whether you go Danish or Norwegian (see Note). I like to use a very sharp carpet knife for this. The cut should go through the skin and into the fat but not quite all the way down to the meat.
Rub the whole piece of pork with plenty of salt and make sure some of it makes it down into the cuts you created though the skin and into the fat. Place it on a rack resting in a roasting pan. Pour in enough water to cover the bottom of the pan with 2.5 cm. Stick some bay leaves in between the cuts if you like.
Place the pork in the oven and roast until cooked. Its internal temperature should go up to about 60ºC when ready. If, when the thermometer hits 55ºC you still aren’t satisfied with the pork skin’s level of crispness, simply increase the temperature a bit to 250C for the remainder of the time but pay close attention so that you do not burn the crackling. Make sure that the bottom of the roasting pan does not dry out at any point during the whole cooking process. Replace the water if necessary.
Remove the roasted pork from the oven and leave to rest for a good 15 minutes before carving it. Use this time to make some gravy using the roasting juices collected in the pan.
• As you cut the skin before roasting it, the shape in which you cut it will determine how you can later carve the finished roast. If you make strips, it will be sliced the same width as the strips and if you cut squares that will be the format dictating your cut. This is simply because it is very difficult to cut through a proper crackling with a normal knife and you do best to place the cut between the strips instead.
Recipe from The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson, with photography by Erik Olsson (Phaidon, $59.99, hbk).
View our Readable feasts review and more recipes from the book here.