We hold true, here in the U.S, the inalienable right to eat what some consider the food of the gods. We believe pork belly is a truly American dish. We treat it with reverence. Truth be told pork, in particular, the meaty, fatty belly is loved and used in cuisines all over the world. It is no less American than it is Korean, Phillipino, Japanese, or Taiwanese.
Some argue hogs were domesticated in China around 4900BC. Romans raised two types of pigs, one with a larger frame known to have lots of lard to render. While a smaller pig was raised primarily for its' meat.
It is said Queen Isabella insisted Christopher Columbus transport 8 pigs on his journey to Cuba in 1493. They were hardy animals that could survive the trip with minimal care and could provide meat in an emergency.
Hernando de Soto brought the first 13 domesticated pigs to the Americas in 1539 when he landed in Tampa Bay Florida. Within three years, his herd had grown to almost 700.
Pork production headed North and West as the exploration of the country grew. By the 1800's Cincinnati was the largest pork-producing city in the world. It earned the nickname: Porkopolis.
As pork production grew, methods were used to raise leaner animals and prevent disease. The idea was to produce more offspring at a cheaper rate. This created infinite pork on the market, but at a cost. The cost wasn't financial, it was in taste. Through the mid-1900's and early 2000's pork became known as the “other white meat”. It was evident in color, texture, and flavor.
In the late-2000's the trend returned to heritage breeds; the Large Black, Old Spot, Tamworth, and Ossabow which is a direct descendent of the Spanish Iberico hog. This is where the culinary world steps in.
Chefs from all over have succumbed to the versatility and sheer awesomeness of the pork belly. In the United States, most Americans only know of its' processed form, bacon. Believe me, bacon is wonderful, but there is so much more to pork belly than bacon.
It's skin, with a fatty cap that covers a layer of meat can be used in a variety of ways. Pork belly lends itself to curing, roasting, sauteing, grilling, and braising.
When cooked correctly, the belly will give up a lot of its fat to the flesh hidden below. Keeping the meat juicy and flavorful.
The belly can take on the flavors of whatever it is cooked in, and still have the distinct flavor of pork.
[box] The clips you heard in this episode were called in by Simon Majumdar, Author of Fed, White, and Blue: Finding America With My Fork. You can find it at amazon.com or visit his website simonmajumdar.com for more information. And Laura Morrison, a new friend of Food Craftsmen.[/box]
Thank you, both for sharing your thoughts on pork belly.
[box] If you would like to be part of a future show. Please feel free to send me a voicemail. Simply record a voice memo on your smartphone and email it to Ryan@foodcraftsmen.com.[/box]