Pannage pork, crispy potatoes + quince sauce
New Forest pannage season
Local farmers have been releasing their pigs into the New Forest to gorge on acorns, beech mast and chestnuts for nearly a thousand years. This luxurious foraged diet gives the meat a concentrated flavour and the extra exercise ensures just the right amount of well-flavoured fat. The exact timing of pannage season changes every year, but usually runs from September to November. In 2020 the pannage season was extended into late December as it was such a bumper year for acorns. The 2021 New Forest pannage season will be Monday 13th September until Sunday 14th November.
How to get crispy crackling
The secret to achieving that perfect crunchy crackling in the pictures is to make sure the skin of the pork is properly dry before you start. The best thing you can do is buy it direct from the producer or a good butcher and ensure it doesn’t ever get vac-packed or spend time wrapped in plastic. I like to score my pork in a crosshatch pattern with the lines no wider apart than 1 cm. This allows the salt to get down into the fat and gives a greater surface area for those blistered edges. This type of scoring also has the bonus of being much easier to carve and cut up on your plate.
Pairing pork with quince
To celebrate this most seasonal of meats, I’m serving it with equally seasonal quince. If you’re not able to find the large tree quinces, you can use an equivalent weight of their smaller cousin from the Chaenomeles shrub. These fruits are rock hard and repellantly astringent when raw, but exquisitely perfumed when cooked. They’ll transform your apple sauce into something really special.
What to serve with pannage pork
I’ve resisted the urge to add extra ingredients to either the pork or the sauce to let their own unique flavours shine. Instead, I’ve transferred my favourite Italian pork seasonings to a dish of crispy sliced potatoes. I’d originally planned to cook the pork directly on top of the potatoes, but to guarantee all those crispy edges, I decided to keep the two separate. Just remember to pour over the pork pan drippings every now and then to lock in the flavour.
My favourite way of serving this sort of gravy-less roast is just with some simply dressed watercress. Make a sharp dressing with shallots, sherry vinegar and hazelnut oil and add a sprinkle of chopped roasted hazelnuts to the tossed leaves.
Pannage pork belly with crispy potatoes + quince sauce
- 2 kg pannage pork belly, on the bone, skin scored in 1 cm crosshatch
- 1.5 kg floury potatoes, scrubbed
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 lemon, juiced and zest finely grated
- 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
- 1 large Bramley apple, peeled, cored and chopped
- 1 large quince, peeled, cored and chopped
- caster sugar, to taste
- Leave the pork uncovered in the fridge overnight to help the skin dry out, then remove it from the fridge an hour before you want to cook.
- Use a mandolin to cut the potatoes into very thin slices, then rinse off some of the starch in a big bowl of cold water. Drain well, then pat dry with clean kitchen towels.
- Preheat the oven to its highest temperature. Massage the pork all over with 1 tbsp sea salt flakes, then sit it skin-side-up on a wire rack in a roasting tin, making sure the skin of the pork is higher than the sides of the tin. Roast for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 240°C (220 fan) / gas 8 for another 10 minutes to get beautifully blistered crackling.
- Carefully pour off the fat into the potato rinsing bowl then return the pork to the oven and reduce the temperature to 200°C (180 fan) / gas 6.
- Stir the garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest and fennel seeds into the fat in the bowl, adding a little olive oil if there isn’t much there (you want about 3 tbsp of rendered fat or oil in total). Add the potatoes, season generously with salt and pepper, then toss well to coat.
- Pack the potatoes on their edge into a 40 cm round or square baking dish. Put the potato dish in the oven below the pork and roast for 1 hour 30 minutes, pausing to pour the pork drippings over the potatoes every half an hour.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 170°C (150 fan) / gas 3 and roast for 30 minutes.
- While the pork is roasting, put the apple and quince in a saucepan with 4 tbsp water, 2 tbsp sugar and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fruit has broken down into a puree. Taste and add as much sugar as you need to make it delicious. The puree can be served warm or cold.
- Take the pork and potatoes out of the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes before serving.
Featured local producers
Pannage pork – The Farmer’s Butcher at Swallowfield Farm – Bramshaw, 01794 322686
Apple & quince trees – Blackmoor Nursery – Selbourne, 01420 477978
Potatoes – T & V Vegetable Gardens – Alton, 07523 644245