For our second attempt at pork belly, we were inspired by Cooking Channel's television show "Everyday Exotic" with Chef Roger Mooking. For each episode, Mooking chooses his "obedient ingredient" and creates three or four dishes highlighting that ingredient. You can find the recipes on the show's website. However, when we made this dish, we were living without Internet in the aftermath of Winter Storm Alfred, so our recipe is adapted from the show.
Pork belly, from which bacon and pancetta are made, is inherently tough, fatty and salty. The ultimate goal is to get the fat rendered into the meat which will make it tender and flavorful. This takes several steps (blanching, simmering, searing, roasting), but the result is definitely worth the effort.
We started the process, as Mooking did, by cutting the pork belly into 1-inch pieces and blanching them in boiling water for about 10 minutes. While the meat was blanching, we made a pickling liquid out of brown sugar, salt, whole cloves, whole peppercorns and apple cider vinegar. We brought half of this liquid to a low boil and simmered the pork belly pieces in it for a half hour. The other half of the pickling liquid we reduced to use as a glaze for finishing the pork belly.