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This might be a very silly question, but I'm sort a pork newbie.

Anyway, I recently went to the butchers and bought a big slab of pork belly, to make crackling.

Immediately, I noticed it had a very "farm-y" smell. I rinsed the pork belly but the smell was still there, mostly in the skin. I prepared it by steam cooking it in the oven for about three or four hours. But the smell made it impossible to eat, as the barn yard stench permeated the entire pork belly. It was nothing like what I'm used to when eating pork belly in a restaurant for example.

My question then is: Did I screw something up in the preparation, or did I get a bad piece of meat or what happened?

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2 Answers 2

Having raised hogs I can say that the actual feed can make a difference on the taste and smell of the finished product. Clean feed and a clean lot can make a difference. There is also a difference in hogs fed on an open lot (grassy) v.s. a confinement.

Corn blend with soy protein - one flavor. Alphalfa pellets, another flavor. Open lot with wild onions or other strong products, another. Wood lots (acorns etc) another. It depends on what is desired, as these also will impact the texture and fat content percentage.

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Its hard to say without knowing more about this 'farm-y' smell you mention.

I would say though that steaming pork belly probably isn't the way to go. Its a fattier cut that benefits from roasting, this will help release a nicer, less 'farm-y' smell. Plus you get nice crisp crackling.

Here are some recipe links I can personally vouch for:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/oct/11/nigel-slater-recipes-pork-belly

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I see no links on your post. –  Mark Schultheiss Mar 22 '11 at 17:38
    
@MarkShultheiss - sorry was posting at work and the Boss came over just as I was about to paste the link. Fixed now. –  5arx Mar 23 '11 at 9:32
    
Damn, sorry for the late reply, but: steaming is probably the wrong word. I was a bit tired when I wrote it. Basically, I stuffed it in the oven at a high temperature, scored with some olive oil and salt on, and put a water bath below the pork belly, as to steam it from below and collect the fat drippings. Also, the scent was like... well, dirty pig, really. I don't know how to describe it better. Something like a milder touch of manure... –  Marcus Mar 23 '11 at 17:08
    
Eugh that doesn't sound good. Wild boar has that 'gamey', 'outdoorsy' smell but I don't think regular domestic pork should. Do you trust your butcher? I remain unconvinced about the steamy aspect - for one thing the humidity in the oven would make the crackling less likely to crisp up properly - here water is the enemy, hence the addition of salt to the area you want to crisp. –  5arx Mar 23 '11 at 23:42
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