2kg pork belly, skin scored by the butcher into 1cm strips
4 red onions, peeled and quartered
125ml dry cider
200ml chicken stock
3 cloves garlic
8 sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Prepare the pork.
Prepare the pork the day before you want to cook it. Place the pork skin side up on an oven rack and pour over boiling water. Let the skin dry thoroughly and then brush it with cider vinegar. Place the pork in the fridge uncovered and leave overnight.
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Make the garlic mixture.
Mash the garlic and the salt together. Add the leaves from the thyme sprigs and stir in the olive oil. Set aside for use later.
Prepare the pork for cooking.
Place the pork into a roasting pan with the skin side down. Season and poke a few shallow holes into the flesh with the point of a knife. Mash the garlic mixture into the holes and turn the pork skin side up. Tuck a bay leaf under the pork and leave it to stand at room temperature for an hour.
Cook the pork.
Dry the pork skin and sprinkle with a tablespoon of salt. Massage the salt into the skin. Place the pork, skin side up, into the oven and cook for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and place the onion quarters into the pan and coat them with the fat. Return the meat to the oven for a further 30 minutes.
Add the pears.
Remove the roasting tin from the oven and turn the onions. Halve the pears and add them to the roasting tin with the cut side down. Add the thyme and return to the oven.
Cook for a further 15 minutes then turn the pears and increase the oven temperature to 240C. Cook for a further 20 – 25 minutes. By now the meat should be cooked through, the onions caramelized and the pears soft. Transfer everything to a serving dish and keep warm.
Make the sauce.
Drain off most of the fat from the pan but leave behind the meat juice. Place the pan on a heated stove and pour in the cider. Bring to the boil and allow to boil for 1 – 2 minutes scraping the caramelized bits off the bottom of the pan. Pour in the stock and boil for a few minutes more. Season to taste.
Carve the pork at the table and dress with the cider sauce.