Branxton butcher hits the spot
BY ROS BALDWIN
Peering into fridges brimming with wagyu beef, extraordinary Berkshire pork, the finest cuts of Cowra lamb, house made charcuterie and a cabinet of thick flavoured sausages and all the usual suspects, I felt like a kid in a candy shop.
But I wasn’t. I was inside the Hungerford Meat Co butcher’s shop in Branxton. And it was bustling with customers, knowledgeable staff and more than a few skilled butchers in the background processing and packaging the goods.
To truly understand the business, we need to delve into some history. So, bare with me as I take you back a few generations.
In 1937, Claude Hungerford and his family, with ties to the Hungerfords of Hungerford Hill Wines and Tyrrells families of Pokolbin, opened the doors to the Hungerford Butchery and Smokehouse in Branxton. And for nearly 60 years Claude, his son and then his grandson continued the family legacy in the traditional way – by being the important link between local famers, their animals and us. Just the way it should be.
Back in 2018, Michael Robinson took the opportunity to take over the historic building and continue this legacy, but with a new focused and simple vision. He wanted to use local farmers, sustainably produced animals and respectful use the whole animal approach to butchery. This is where care is taken to ensure every part is used in the best way possible – not just the finest traditional cuts, but also lesser known parts to create charcuterie, terrines and pates and smoked goods. Now that’s something I wholeheartedly support. I may have mentioned it more than several times before…
But it’s Michaels impressive restaurant background that fuels the fire to produce quality charcuterie such as capocollo, rumpetto, prosciutto, lumpo and wagyu bresaola, made traditionally by salting and allowing the free range pork cuts to naturally slow age and cure without the need for intervention. And the Hungerford Meat Co has truly earned a reputation, supplying some of the best restaurants in the Hunter Valley, Newcastle and all the way to Sydney. The word has spread! Get on board!
It was smoking day when I went in this week and the shop had that beautiful aroma of sweet smoking wood chips There are also rooms for curing charcuterie, dry aging meat – a 12-week process where meat is aged to maximise flavour, tenderness and give it that deep, mature, red come-hither look – and a kitchen where the MR Charcuterie terrines and pâtés are produced.
Down to business, I could rave on about the wagyu, truffle and parmesan sausages and creamy paris mash I made for the family, but this week I’m going to give you my caramelised pork belly recipe. Ordinarily I would suggest simply roasting the already extraordinary piece of quality Berkshire pork, ensuring the crispiest of crackling, and enjoying all its natural grass-fed glory. But if you were after the full monty, this caramelised pork belly is it! Be warned – it’s a two-step process but the results are worth it as you end up with a hot, sticky mess of rich, tender deliciousness.
Caramelised Pork Belly
Braising ingredients Caramelising sauce
750gm piece pork belly, skin removed ¾ cup good quality sweet chilli sauce
2 cups vegetable stock 1 cup beef stock
1 cup white wine ½ cup balsamic vinegar
Aromatics – bay leaf, coriander seeds, peppercorns ½ cup light soy
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup water
1T grated ginger & 1 clove minced garlic
Remove the skin from the pork belly and set aside.
In an ovenproof dish place the pork belly, stock, wine and aromatics. Seal tightly with foil and bake at 160 degrees for about 3 hours until the meat is tender and pulls easily away with a fork. Take the pork out of the liquid and rest it – preferably overnight in the fridge. If you don’t have that much time just press on and caramelise the pork belly as a whole piece. (I like to portion my pieces and I find it cuts a lot better when it’s chilled.)
Meanwhile, dry the pork skin well with paper towel. Remember that water is not your friend when creating super crispy crackling. Score the skin with a sharp knife, drizzle with olive oil and season well. Place into a roaring hot oven (220 degrees) until the skin crackles.
In a large fry pan bring the caramelising sauce ingredients to the boil. To be honest, I have a sweet chilli sauce that I produce with all those aromatics included so I just add a good splash of that instead of adding the ginger and garlic – but fresh is still amazing.
Add the pork pieces and simmer for about 10 minutes, turning often, until it has reduced to a sticky sauce and the pork is caramelised. With the pork fat side up place in the oven for 5 minutes to crisp the top. It sounds like it has a distinctly Asian feel, but I tend to disagree and serve it with a fresh, herby cauliflower tabhouli, pomegranates and harissa cream. And crackling!