Festive Roast Porchetta

Festive Roast Porchetta

Serves 8-10

Takes up to 5 hours, plus 30 minutes resting 

Description

A proper porchetta is made from the boneless loin of the pig and its belly, cut so that it forms one flat, level piece of meat. It is then seasoned and sometimes stuffed, before being rolled and roasted until the meat is tender and the skin has crackled. In Italy, where it comes from, porchetta is often served as a street food, stuffed into soft white rolls. In 2022, when our farmers sadly lost their turkeys to bird flu, we created this festive roast and sold hundreds of porchettas, ready rolled.

Good crackling depends on the skin being very dry and getting a blast of heat from a very hot oven. If you can, leave the pork uncovered in the refrigerator the night before you cook it, as this will help dehydrate the skin. Don’t skip patting it dry and don’t stint on the salt just before cooking, either.

You can use this recipe for a smaller porchetta, just reduce the amount of stuffing, and calculate the cooking time at 170C (335F), gas mark 3–4, as 30 minutes per 500g (1lb 2oz).

Method

1. Remove the porchetta from the refrigerator at least an hour before you start cooking. Unroll it and pat the skin dry with kitchen paper.
2. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 220C (425F), gas mark 7 – it needs plenty of time to get really hot or the skin won’t crackle. Place a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the butter and then the shallots and fry gently, stirring often, until translucent. Place the cooked shallots in a large bowl and add all the other ingredients, except the flaky sea salt. Mix well.
3. Cut 5 lengths of butcher’s string (or cotton string), each long enough to wrap around the rolled porchetta and tie. Lie 4 of them vertically and parallel to each other on a clean work surface, close enough to each other that they will wrap around the rolled meat, and one along the middle of the others, at 90 degrees.
4. Pat dry the skin again. Place the meat, skin side down, over the strings so that one short side is facing you and the long sides are parallel to the 4 pieces of string. Season the meat generously, then arrange the stuffing on top. It will be very crumbly and a bit messy, don’t worry.
5. Roll up the meat. If your butcher has cut the skin so that one end forms a flap, make sure that when you roll it, the flap covers the loose meat at the other end, and forms a neat join with the skin there. Don’t overlap the 2 layers of skin, or the skin will become tough during cooking. Use the strings to tie the rolled meat tightly. (You may need another pair of hands for this bit.) If lots of stuffing has fallen out, push it back into the rolled porchetta.
6. Line a roasting tin (deep as a lot of fat will render off) with baking paper. Transfer the rolled pork to the tin. Rub the flaky sea salt into the skin, working into the score marks. Place the porchetta into the very hot oven and roast for 30 minutes. Then turn down the heat to 170C (335F), gas mark 3–4, and cook for a further 3. hours. (Use a meat thermometer to check the centre of the roast is around 65C/149F at this point.) If the skin hasn’t turned to crackling by this time, crank the heat back up to 220C (425F), gas mark 7, and cook it for a further 10–30 minutes, checking every 5 minutes that the skin isn’t burning. If it still doesn’t crackle, you can remove the meat from the oven, cut off the string, slice off the skin and put the skin back into the oven on its own for a few minutes.
7. Rest the meat for about 30 minutes before serving. Because some of the stuffing will inevitably have fallen into the pan, along with a lot of fat, the pan juices are not ideal for making a gravy (which is not traditionally served with porchetta, anyway). However, the rich, juicy meat is delicious with tart-and-sweet redcurrant jelly or cranberry sauce.

Ingredients

• 1 porchetta, prepared by your butcher and with the skin scored, weighing about 4kg (8lb 13oz)
• A knob of butter
• 5 shallots, finely diced
• 150g (5 ½ oz) soft dried apricots, finely chopped
• 125g (4 ½ oz) dried cranberries, chopped
• Juice of ½ lemon
• Zest and juice of ½ orange
• A generous handful of sage leaves, finely chopped
• A generous handful of parsley leaves, finely chopped
• 125g (4 ½ oz) panko breadcrumbs
• ½ teaspoon fine salt
• ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tablespoon flaky sea salt