Today I taught the first of what I hope is many cooking classes in our lovely new kitchen; we covered tsukemono, fermented pickles (kraut and kimchi) and vinegar pickles (in this case, beets because they’re ostensibly in season). It was a great group, and I think everyone had the subject demystified to the point where they can now comfortably, confidently do it at home. After they left, I got busy with some other culinary projects before the family returned (they went to a movie). Ten pounds of local pork belly had spent two weeks absorbing my super-secret miso-based cure and were ready for the smoker, so I fired it up and brought them up to an internal temp of 150˚F over the course of about two hours. Milo and I vacuum-sealed them all and put them into the freezer.
Since I hadn’t made any plans for dinner, before smoking all the belly I put a small piece aside to use as the focal point for a hearty Sunday dinner that matched well with the chilly gray rain outside. I mixed some kimchi brine, tomato purée, pork stock, herbs, garlic, papaya juice and shochu together, brought them to a simmer, added the belly, covered the dish with foil, and put them in a 200˚ oven for about two hours while the bacon did its thing outside. With about an hour to go before dinner, I raised the oven temp to 375˚ and added diced butternut squash, fennel, and turnip to the belly, uncovering it after about half an hour to help the liquid evaporate and thicken and brown the skin. Meanwhile, there was a big bowl of shredded cabbage left from the class, so I braised it in kimchi brine, cider vinegar, and pork stock with little lardons of the new bacon (added as soon as it came in) and mustard seeds until it was super-silky and succulent.
And I made a pot of brown rice.
Dinner, thusly, was pork on stewed vegetables (with copious juices) on cabbage on rice. It was remarkably subtle and Eastern European-tasting; root vegetables, cabbage and pork made for a very Slavic flavor. I countermanded this Aryan cant with Espelette pepper and a bottle of 2000 Barbaresco “Rabaja” by Giuseppe Cortese, which really only hit its elegant stride in the last glass. I was hoping that it would be at peak, but it’s not quite there yet. I do believe that there are a few more left in storage, but I’m not completely sure. Handsome juice in any case.