I might as well come right out and say it - but pork is one of my favourite meats. I reckon lamb is top of the heap, beef a close run second and pork is there, very definitely trying to shoulder the beef out of the way.
Talking to the lady in the butcher's, she was saying that pork is her favourite yet she doesn't really like bacon. Oddly enough, hubby is exactly the other way inclined. He adores bacon in all its forms, yet can take or leave pork. Me, I'd have a hunk of roast pork over a hunk of roast bacon, any day - although if you waft a bacon sandwich under my nose, there may be a battle.
So anyway, we hadn't had a roast dinner for a while and I'd been yearning for a piece of pork belly done in Chinese spices and chilli. Now unless I make that for myself (which isn't beyond the realms of possibility) it just isn't going to happen in our house, owing to the two chaps being so fat phobic. (It's a wonder they put up with having me around the place, thinking on!).
Then, when I was pondering on the cheaper cuts of pork (I'm a great proponent of making use of the under-utilised cuts that the general public seem to be shunning, these days) that I could roast, I remembered the slow roasted shoulder. I'd seen a number of recipes indicating that slow roasting of a pork shoulder was infinitely do-able and with good results from the chaps' point of view. The slow roasting means that a good deal of the fat has rendered out of the meat (apart from the thick layer under the skin) and the resultant meat is juicy and not in any way dry, whilst producing a good crackling. Sounded perfect!
What sounded even better, was the price. At £3.88 a kilogram, you just couldn't go wrong. Now, when I'm making a casserole or suchlike, I generally reckon that anything from 500g upwards will suffice. However, I did have an extra mouth to feed, as son & heir would be having his friend J over and he would be there for dinner. I was just crossing my fingers that J was a good eater, having had recent experience of one of son & heir's friends who didn't know what a Scotch Egg was and had never eaten a fried egg sandwich. So, I went for just over a kilogram, so as to (hopefully) leave a little bit to have in a sandwich with apple sauce the next day. My own little hog roast.
I ground up the fennel seeds with four black peppercorns and some salt in my pestle & mortar. This lovely fragrant mixture got rubbed into the flesh of the pork and, after a dousing in white wine vinegar, into the skin for interesting crackling.
From there, it was a matter of putting into a pre-heated oven at 220deg C (fan) for 30 minutes, after which the oven was turned down to 140deg C (fan), the roast was covered in tin foil and left to think about life for the next two hours.
The oven is then turned back up to 200deg C (fan) and the meat is swathed in tin foil, but ensuring that the crackling is left uncovered. This helps to keep the meat moist whilst the crackling receives a final crackle-up in a hot oven for 20-30 mins. It's convenient, because this coincides with your wanting to put the roast potatoes in the oven at a greater temperature and you can do the two at once.
The meat just fell apart and tasted divine. Son & heir's friend J declared the dinner to be the best he'd ever tasted, apart from his Mum's roast dinner, and even dedicated a little song to it. Now there's a vote of appreciation!