First things first (’cause I know everyone is going to ask) . . . yes! you can cook with alcohol even during the elimination phase of the Autoimmune Protocol. You can take a look at what The Paleo Mom has to say on this here. However, if you think you’ll be too tempted to drink a bottle of hard cider at this point in your AIP journey, rather than bathe your pork belly in the flavorful goodness, simply substitute a mixture of water, apple juice, and apple cider vinegar. (See note in recipe.)
The next thing to know is how to choose a hard cider. I like traditional dry apple ciders from small, local ciderys, as they tend to be less sugary than mass produced hard ciders. This brine would still be good with mass produced ciders or with other flavors though, for instance a hard pear cider.
Finally, pork belly is an incredibly rich food, and is even more so with this brine. A little goes a long way. I like to serve it as a tapas-style dish at parties, because of that richness. Thanks to the aromatic addition of cinnamon and ginger, this recipe also smells incredible. My pork belly smelled just like cinnamon rolls while it was roasting! That got me thinking that it would make a very enticing dish to serve with a special weekend brunch. Everyone will be running to the kitchen to find out what you are serving!
- 24 oz hard apple cider
- ¼ cup sea salt
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 cinnamon stick
- One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1½ - 2 lbs pork belly
- Place pork in the freezer while making brine (about 5 minutes, makes scoring fat easier).
- Combine all ingredients, except pork belly, in a pot over medium heat. Bring to simmer, stirring until salt dissolves. When brine begins to simmer, remove from heat. Allow to cool completely in refrigerator.
- Remove pork from freezer, using sharp knife, score fat in diamond pattern. Place pork in gallon-size sealable bag, pour cooled brine in bag, seal, place in large bowl. Allow to brine in refrigerator overnight or for 8 hours.
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Remove pork from brine, discard liquid. Place pork, fat cap up, on rack in roasting pan. Roast for 1 hour, 30 minutes. At the 1-hour mark, start checking pork every 10 minutes to make sure it is not overcooked.
- When finished roasting, turn broiler to low. Broil pork for 3-4 minutes (watch carefully) or until fat is browned and very crispy. Remove from oven, slice with serrated knife as soon as it is cool enough to handle. Serve warm.