Good roast pork is a matter of starting well with good meat. In my view, older breeds that can free range have more inherent flavour - and better flavour. Then it’s a matter of treating the meat with respect. This roast recipe is sure to become a favourite; the crackling is to die for.
- 2 kg piece roasting pork on the bone (from top of the leg, or pork neck), skin left on
- 1 kg apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped (see Note)
- white sugar, to taste
- olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 onions, sliced, or 2 garlic bulbs, halved
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.
Ideally, you will start this recipe 1 day ahead.
Make sure the skin of the pork is scored really well, about 1–2 cm apart, in long lines that go all the way down to the base of the skin so the fat can render out. The other thing you want is the fat to be scored all the way down to just above the meat, so it can open up and melt, and the skin can shrink and crisp. Pat the skin well and allow to dry. Ideally, leave in the fridge uncovered, overnight to help dry the skin.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the apple in a roasting pan with a touch of water. Roast, turning occasionally so they start to brown as they soften, for about 45 minutes, or until lightly coloured and well softened. Mash to a paste. Add some sugar if you really think the sauce needs it.
Ideally, take the pork from the fridge an hour before you want to start cooking, and turn the oven on to preheat to 230°C.
Rub the pork skin with just a vague hint of olive oil so the salt will stick. Salt the skin well using a fine mist of normal table salt. Don’t rub it in, or all the salt will end up in the slits you’ve cut. You can pepper it well at this stage, too. Don’t be mean with the salt, or it is harder to get good crackling.
Place the meat on the onion or garlic bulbs in a roasting tray and roast for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven to 170°C and continue roasting for about 1 hour 20 minutes, or until the meat juices run clear. An oven thermometer is a great idea for checking the meat. You want the middle to be about 70°C. A rule of thumb is 20 minutes cooking time (the first blast in the oven) plus 20 minutes per 500 g of meat.
If you need the oven (for spuds or other veg), you’ll need to rest the meat somewhere warm. If you cover it with foil, the skin may go soft, so you may need to remove the skin prior to resting. If you don’t need the oven, you can leave it open for a few minutes after cooking so it cools to about 100°C, then just close the door while the meat rests for about 20–30 minutes. Resting will let the meat juices settle nicely so your pork remains juicier, more tender and luscious.
When ready to serve, simply slice under the crackling to remove, and cut it into bits. Slice the meat vertically down to the bone (if you have a chunk of leg) in thin slices. You can use the meat juices to make a gravy, but it might be worth skimming off some of the fat, first.
Serve with the apple sauce.
• If you can get good-quality cooking apples that are sour, they’ll make a much better sauce than sweet varieties. The bog-standard starting place is a granny smith.
Also try Matthew's sour cherry strudel from this episode of Gourmet Farmer.