This apple smoked pork belly recipe won the Posse its first People’s Choice Award at the Blues, Bandits and BBQ Cook-off in Oak Cliff, Texas. The pork belly, brie, and peach marmalade crostini knocked out the crowd and was the first item we ran out of that year.
In the photos here, our pork comes from David Bill and Faith Van De Putte here on Lopez Island, Wash. It is a Berkshire/Tamworth mix that has been developed into a fantastic heritage meat pig.
“Great tasting pork is affected by the breed and the feed,” Faith says. “The Midnight’s Farm pigs are finished on island barley and apple mash.”
We bought a half pig and received a 17-pound pork belly. We cut out a three-pound section for the party appetizer in this recipe (the balance of the belly will be in an upcoming recipe for bacon). Our three pounds of pork belly yielded enough appetizers for twelve people, averaging 3 apiece.
Rub recipe for apple smoked pork belly:
2 cups light brown sugar
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup black pepper (cracked or coarse ground)
2 Tbsp mustard powder
2 tsp ancho chili powder
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
¼ cup mustard
Thoroughly clean the pork belly, pat dry and slather with your mustard. The mustard acts as a binding agent holding the rub to the belly.
Mix your dry rub ingredients and apply rub. Leave the fatter side of the belly up on a tray and refrigerate uncovered for a day. This allows the pork to form the pellicle, a tacky skin that helps the smoke flavor (and color) adhere to the meat.
When starting your smoker use a chimney with a little charcoal and a page of newspaper to light. Lighter fluid will flavor your meat. Since this is a relatively short smoke any common smoking wood will do. Unquestionably, apple, cherry or maple woods are outstanding to smoke pork. Each wood has its own unique character and flavor profile so choose accordingly.
I lay the wood on the charcoal and get the wood burning to the point the charcoal is gone then add my meat. Add wood or adjust air flow as needed. Try to keep the temperature of the smoker at 200 degrees F. A general rule of thumb is an hour per pound. I was shooting for a little more bark on the belly and smoked mine for four hours. Since this cut is very high in fat it is impossible to overcook at this low temp.
When finished on the smoker, wrap in foil. Do not serve right away. It is important for your meat to rest as it allows the moisture to emerge and spread through the cut, keeping it juicy. Many pit masters simply wrap in foil and drop into a ice chest until needed which could be 2 – 3 hours.
In serving, we make crostini from thin-sliced baguettes which are brushed with butter and baked in the oven at 250 F until crisp. On the crostini, we spread a thin slice of brie or Delice cheese. Next add a slice of smoked pork belly and top with peach marmalade. This combo gives you a wonderful mix of textures and flavors.
Apple smoked pork belly is an easy appetizer that can add an upscale note to your backyard barbecue.