This Italian holiday classic is incredibly moist and more tender than you will believe. Although the hands on time is not long, you’ll want to plan two days ahead to tea brine your pork belly overnight, then rub it with tea, herbs and spices and allow to sit another night before slowly roasting.
The traditional seasoning of rosemary, garlic and fennel is taken in a slightly new direction with the addition of tea and a rebalancing of the other flavors. Classically, you would roast the pork belly with the fat and skin intact, but you can optionally, as we’ve done here, trim the skin and a portion of the fat cap down to about 1/4 inch. You never want to remove it all.
Traditionally the skin and fat are kept intact, but you may optionally trim the skin and fat cap leaving at least a 1/4 inch of fat on the exterior.
Set aside, keeping cold until you are ready to begin brining.
In a large pot combine 2 quarts water with the bay leaves, black peppercorns, fennel seeds, allspice, red pepper flakes and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 5 minutes.
Add the rosemary, garlic, sugar and honey. Continue to simmer for 3 more minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the tea leaves. Allow to steep for 15 minutes.
Add two quarts of ice water to the pot. Allow the mixture to sit until it reaches room temperature.
Brine the Pork Belly
If you do not have a two gallon container, an easy way to brine a large item like a pork belly, other roast or turkey is to use two tall kitchen plastic garbage bags.
Make sure not to use bags that have been treated or scented in any way
Insert one bag inside of the other and place them into a large stock pot, braiser or other large receptacle with the sides of the bags folded down around the sides of the container.
Place your optionally trimmed pork belly into the interior bag.
Slowly pour or ladle the cooled brine over the pork belly and tie the bags snuggly around the pork and brine, pushing out as much air as possible.
Place the container and bagged pork belly into the refrigerator and brine for 8 to 12 hours.
Make the Tea Spice Rub
Place the black pepper, fennel, anise and allspice berries in a shallow pan over medium high heat.
Moving constantly, toast until aromatic, around 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.
Allow the toasted spices to cool completely
Combine cooled spices with red pepper, rosemary, nutmeg and tea leaves in a spice grinder.
Pulse until fine even consistency results.
Rubbing the Pork Belly
After you pork belly has brined overnight, remove from the brine and discard the used brine.
Rinse very quickly and lightly. Wipe away remaining whole spices and tea leaves.
Pat dry with paper towels being sure to remove any large pieces of spice or tea that remain.
Place the pork belly on your table or cutting board skin side down and rub the inside with the minced garlic.
Sprinkle the tea spice rub over the garlic, evenly distributing over the pork belly. Lightly rub into the pork belly.
Transfer the rubbed pork belly, now skin side up, into a large roasting pan. Pierce the fat with the tip of a knife all over, being careful not to cut into the meat itself. Place uncovered in the refrigerator overnight, up to 24 hours for flavor to develop.
Preparing to Roast
Remove the rubbed pork belly from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature.
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F
Roll the pork belly, skin side out and tie with butchers twine at 1 1/2 to 2 inch intervals.
If needed, to fit into your roasting pan, after the pork is securely rolled and tied, it may be cut in half to roast as two smaller roasts.
Place the roast (or roast halves) back into the roasting pan and roast for 1 hour.
Turn the oven temperature down to 300 F and continue to roast for another 2 hours or until exterior is well browned and crisp and an internal temperature reads 170 F
Remove from oven and transfer to your cutting board. Let rest at least 20 minutes before removing the twine and cutting.