St.Patrick's Day Porchetta
This is my Irish take on a traditional Italian porchetta
St.Patrick’s day has always held a special place in my heart. My dad is from Bantry Bay; a beautiful corner of West Cork, and now I live in Northern Ireland, where I get to enjoy the day off as a public holiday.
This is my Irish take on a traditional Italian porchetta: pork belly stuffed with cabbage and bacon, and drizzled with Irish Black Butter (a very popular spiced apple chutney from Northern Ireland), then rolled and slow-roasted on the BBQ.
When porchetta is done low and slow on the BBQ, it takes on that beautiful smokiness and allows the fat in the pork belly to render inside, creating a wonderful flavour.
This dish really is delicious. Good luck and sláinte!
Difficulty: Easier than it looks.
Time: About 5-8 hours depending on the size of the pork belly
Skinless pork belly (mine was about 2kg)
A head of cabbage diced up
3 rashers of back bacon, diced into thin strips
Any BBQ rub suited to pork; I’ve used ‘Honey Hog Wash’ from Rusty BBQ Co.
Irish Black Butter (or any spiced apple chutney)
Any BBQ or smoker, set up for low and slow cooking. If you’re using a kettle, you can use the ‘minion’ or ‘snake’ methods. Porchetta comes out beautifully on a rotisserie if you have one of those.
Good quality lump wood charcoal. I’ve used the hardwood blend from Oxford Charcoal Company.
2 or 3 small wood chunks for smoking. I’ve used 2 small chunks of cherry wood. Apple is also great for pork.
Butcher’s twine for the porchetta
2-3 kebab sticks
The kit any postmaster needs:
Digital BBQ thermometer with two probes; one for the grate and one for the meat. I use the Weber Connect.
Digital food thermometer, to accurately tell you where your meat is at. I use a Thermapen Pro.
1. Light the BBQ and get your pit up to a temp of 120-135C. Try and maintain that temp as best you can, trying to avoid wild swings either way. Add the smoking wood chunks and ensure the thick white smoke as dissipated before you start cooking any food.
2. Whilst the BBQ is coming up to temperature, prepare your pork belly. You can do this the night before if you want to. Lay the pork belly out flat and pat dry on both sides as much as you can with kitchen roll. We don’t need the skin on a porchetta, so you can ask the butcher to remove that for you. It usually comes in a rectangular shape, which is easy to roll up.
3. Using a sharp knife, score diagonally in two directions on both sides of the pork belly. Be careful not to slice too deep on the skin-side.
4. Lay skin-side up and pat dry again. Sprinkle with salt.
5. Turn the pork belly over skin-side down and give the meat-side a generous dusting of your BBQ rub. I’ve used Honey Hog Wash from Rusty BBQ Co, which is a formulated mix for pork, with added honey. It’s absolutely incredible. But you can use any rub you like. An all-purpose seasoning mix of good salt, ground black pepper, onion and garlic granules is great for any BBQ cook.
6. Sprinkle the cabbage and bacon bits over the surface area of the meat-side, then lightly drizzle a couple of tablespoons of Irish Black butter over the top. This stuff is incredible. You can buy it online or find it in some specialised delicatessens. If you can’t find it, anything along the lines of a spiced apple chutney will work.
7. As tight as you can, roll the pork belly lengthways. When you get to the end, stick two or three kebab sticks through it to pin in place. Then tie the whole thing up with butchers twine every 3-5cms. When it’s all bound up, remove the kebabs sticks.
8. Insert your meat probe into the thickest part of the porchetta and roast at a target grate temperature of 120C until the internal temp is around 70c (approx 3-5 hours depending on size).
9. Once the porchetta is at target internal temp, remove and cover lightly with some tin foil. Then set up your BBQ for high searing temperature 220-260c. Put your porchetta back in and roast until the skin is bubbly and crispy. Take care not to let the outside get too dark or burn. You can do this in the oven if you’re struggling for time.
10. Rest the porchetta for at least 30 mins lightly covered in tin foil before serving. Slice up and serve with sautéed cabbage and bacon.
Happy St.Patrick’s day!
Dom, the Cornish Carnivore.