Carolyn Erickson is a wife, mother, gluten-free/traditional food blogger, and volunteer co-leader of The Weston A. Price Foundation chapter in Charlotte, North Carolina. She teaches local workshops on preparation of nourishing foods such as bone broth, lacto-fermented vegetables/fruits/beverages, cultured dairy, as well as gluten-free & grain-free treats. You can find Carolyn at RealFoodCarolyn.com and follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.
Just six short years ago, I was serving frozen waffles for my family’s breakfast, packing lunchbox sandwiches made with whole wheat bread, and ordering Domino’s pizza many Friday nights. Sure, there were some veggies, fruits and other healthy options in the rotation but we were basically following the Standard American Diet. SAD, I know!
Then my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and the whole family was found to be severely intolerant of gluten. My Hashimoto’s thyroiditis diagnosis followed soon after. We obviously needed to learn about REAL FOOD.
Fortunately, I quickly found The Weston A. Price Foundation and learned about the nourishing traditional foods of our ancestors. Simultaneously, I discovered the expanding Paleo / Primal movement and have recently benefitted from the healing influence of The Autoimmune Protocol.
It’s been a life-changing and health-restoring journey! Now I’ve got a fridge full of fresh organic vegetables, a lineup of lacto-fermented foods on the kitchen counter, liver pâté (see Sarah’s recipe) and sardines on hand for nutrient-dense snacks, a pot of bone broth (read about the benefits of bone broth, and see Sarah’s recipe) simmering and an urn of kombucha (see Sarah’s recipe) brewing every week, and I happily spend my Saturday mornings at the local farmers markets in search of delicious, locally-raised foods that will nourish us through the following week.
I’ve also committed time to learning more about sustainable farming/organic gardening, care for and regeneration of the soil, as well as ethical animal husbandry. It’s been a blessing to get to know dedicated local farmers and to spend time observing their farming practices. It was an honor to be guided through the butchering and processing of chickens by Jonathan Bostic of East of Eden Farm, and to observe Natalie Veres of Grateful Growers Farm as she stroked the ear of a hog she had raised, keeping it calm just before it was dispatched. Challenging and also humbling. I’m so grateful for the farmers who dedicate their lives to raising animals on pasture and taking care that the animal’s last day – its “one bad day” – is handled in a humane manner.
Recognition of the importance of nose-to-tail eating and my newfound appreciation of the “odd bits” has prompted me to expand my recipe repertoire. While pork belly would not be considered particularly adventurous – BACON comes from pork belly, y’all! – this recipe grew from my desire to introduce some variety in our menus. Hope you enjoy my Spicy Pork Rillons!
- 1.5 to 2 lb pork belly, boneless with any skin/rind removed
- 1 T unrefined salt
- 1 T lard for browning plus ¼ – ½ cup additional lard, melted, for braising
- 1 bay leaf
- Spice mixture (see options below)
- ½ cup bone broth
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 heaping tsp. prepared horseradish
Spice Mixture Options
If you are on the autoimmune protocol, use this option:
- 2 tsp. unrefined salt
- 2 tsp. black or white pepper (be cautious with pepper–best to eliminate initially on the AIP)
- 1 tsp. ground ginger
- ½ tsp. ground allspice
- Cut pork belly into large cubes, approximately 2” x 2”, place in a dish and toss with 1 T salt to evenly distribute on all sides. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 12 to 48 hours.
- When ready to prepare rillons, remove pork from refrigerator, rinse then pat dry with paper towels. Allow pork to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Place dry pork pieces in a bowl and toss with the spice mixture of your choice.
- Heat 1 T lard in a large heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium to medium-low heat until glistening, then sauté pork on all sides until medium brown and becoming caramelized. Avoid crowding the pork in the skillet. Sauté in batches, if needed.
- Arrange browned pork in an oven-safe dish that is just large enough to hold all pieces in a single layer. Strain pan drippings over pork then add bone broth, garlic, and horseradish. Add additional melted lard until liquid is half-way up the sides of the pork pieces.
- Place dish in the preheated oven for 20 minutes then reduce oven heat to 300 degrees. Remove dish from oven and carefully stir the rillons to redistribute, cover and return to oven to braise. Check occasionally to insure liquid is still at least half-way up the sides of the rillons. Add a little more broth or filtered water, if needed.
- Allow to braise for up to 2 hours, or until the lean meat portions of the rillons are tender and the fat portions are buttery soft. Serve hot.
- To save for later, place rillons in a dish and strain the remaining fat over them. Cover and store in refrigerator. When ready to serve, remove rillons from fat then sauté over medium heat to warm through and add crispiness to the outer layers. Can also be sliced and served cold on a salad.