To make the rub, toast peppercorns and fennel seed in a small pan over medium heat (about 3 minutes). Place toasted spices in a grinder and pulse until fully ground, or grind by hand with a mortar and pestle. In a small bowl, combine ground spices with Aleppo pepper, fresh herbs, garlic paste and lemon zest. Set rub aside or refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Place the pork skin-side up on a large cutting board. Tenderize the pork by “docking” or piercing the skin multiple times (full coverage) with a skin perforator tool. (Paring knife may be substituted.) This will speed crisping and render excess fat. Cover skin-side with ¼ cup salt.
Flip the pork over and score the meat-side diagonally, so it cooks evenly. Cover the meat-side with ¼ cup salt. Sprinkle and pat the rub on the meat-side of the pork belly.
Place the meat skin-side up on a cooking grate or roasting rack and set the rack in a roasting pan or baking sheet. Refrigerate overnight to lightly cure the meat.
To prepare the stuffing, chop fennel and shallots; add to a saute pan with fennel pollen and extra virgin olive oil. Saute over medium heat until fragrant; about two minutes. Remove from heat and let cool before using. (Stuffing can be modified according to your taste; sauteed herbs with Picholine olives or dried fruits and chopped nuts are other favorites.)
To assemble the pork belly, place pieces of cooking twine (each about 20 inches in length) three inches apart on a cutting board or work surface.
Remove the meat from the refrigerator and pat dry of any moisture. Add stuffing and fresh sliced lemons to the center of the meat-side. Roll the meat tightly from the short end into a compact roast shape.
Transfer the rolled pork belly on top of the pre-set cooking twine and tie each piece of twine around the roast at 3-inch intervals.
At this point, the roast may be prepared immediately, rested in the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours to further enhance flavor or may be frozen for up to three months. To freeze, wrap in aluminum foil and then seal with 1-2 layers of plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn. Once ready to cook, allow frozen pork to thaw overnight under refrigeration. For all preparations, allow the meat to come to room temperature for one hour prior to roasting.
Roast at 325 degrees for approximately 2.5-3 hours to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. (This is important or the belly will not be tender.)
Allow the meat to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature, then remove cooking twine prior to slicing. Serve with steamed vegetables. Leftovers are fantastic for sandwiches; crisp meat in a cast iron pan and place on grilled country bread with your choice of condiments.
View our chef’s pork belly porchetta recipe tutorial on our blog.