Are all pork bellies created the same?
One of the many perks of my food sales job is the occasional need to sample a product we sell to better describe the physical attributes, teach how to use it and to thoroughly understand the taste profile. This week brought out Tail and Trotters pork belly short ribs, an old favorite, to answer the lingering question: are all pork bellies created the same?
Who Is Tail and Trotters Pork?
Inspired by the regional cured hams of Europe, Tails & Trotters is the Pacific Northwest’s first signature pork producer developed from pork finished on local hazelnuts. The pork is mirrored after the famed Jamon Iberico from Spain; crafted from the Pata Negra, or black-footed Iberian pigs who roam the oak groves of south and southwest Spain feasting on acorns. Using the resources of this region, co owner and founder Aaron Silverman substituted hazelnuts for acorns and the result was the development of a distinctive variety of Pacific Northwest pork.
Aaron’s pigs are fed a diverse diet that is specifically formulated to their growth needs, and most are raised by Aaron’s grower, including wheat, barley, triticale, peas and flax.
While the Northwest isn’t good acorn country, it is renowned for its hazelnuts. It’s what makes Tails & Trotters pork so special. Traditionally, pigs produced for prosciutto are fed a special “finishing” diet for their last 60–90 days where a large portion of their feed is replaced with hazelnuts. Finishing provides increased flavor to the fat and meat, as well as produces the necessary intramuscular and subcutaneous (under the skin) fat cover necessary for prosciutto production—our main long-term objective.
But are their pork bellies really that much better?
The single word response is YES. I would add infinitely if I were allowed a second. It is hard to explain taste profiles between two very similar products, so let me explain the difference using eggs as an example. Have you ever tried an egg just laid that day on a small family farm? It’s yolk is bright orange, and when cooked it has the creamiest, rich flavor you’ve ever eaten. You think to yourself, ‘my god, this is the perfect egg, how lucky am I.’ Then sadly you try a mass produced egg. The cracked egg slides into your pan, and the white just runs like water. No matter how much you season it, it still tastes flat and lipid and flavorless. Guess which egg Tail and Trotters pork belly short ribs are? Only settle for WOW, eat that egg
Pork Belly Short Ribs
An onctuous porky treat from the Pacific Northwest
- 2 tbsp Jacobsen flake salt
- 1 tbsp piment d'ville or espelette pepper
- 25 each spruce tips chopped
- 1 orange zest only
- 2 sprig rosemary chopped
- 1/4 cup chive blossoms chopped
- 2 pounds pork belly short ribs
Mix all the ingredients for the cure together in a bowl. Some people will add sugar and pink salt, which is fine, but I wanted maximum porkiness without sweetness. If you are going to add, try a tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of pink salt.
Rub the cure all over the pork belly short ribs and let marinate overnight, or at least a few hours.
Wipe excess rub off and roast in a 400 degree oven, skin side down for one hour.
Lower temperature to 300, cover with foil, and continue roasting for three more hours.
Pull out of oven, flip over and let cool a bit. Eat with spruce tip aioli.
Tail and Trotters: If you are lucky to live in Portland, Aaron can be found at his shop and several farmer's markets. If you are a professional chef set up an account with us at Foods In Season and we can ship it to you anywhere in the USA.
Jacobsen Salt: It is hard to go to a store these days and not see Ben Jacobsen's amazing hand crafted sea salt everywhere. If you are seeking a premium American flake salt than you have no other choice but the finest.
Spruce Tips: Spruce tips are the new growth that is picked in mid spring and packs a powerful flavor punch of citrusy pine to anything you make with it. Forage yourself or call us at Foods In Season to get some.
Spruce Tip Aioli
A Pacific Northwest inspired aioli that will tickle your tastebuds and surprise your palate with it's brightness.
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup wild spruce tips see recipe notes
- 1 cup mild Olive Oil
Put egg yolks, vinegar, salt, and spruce tips into the bowl of a food processor and puree.
With the motor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil till thick like a Mayonnaise. While the aioli is delish right away, the flavors marry and improve with time. Try letting sit overnight.
Spruce Tips: The piney - citrus flavor marries well with grilled salmon, artichokes, chicken and many other things. Wild spruce tips grow in spring and are the new growth on spruces. They are very light green and tender.