Crackling & damsons

Crackling & damsons

By
From
Gather
Serves
4
Photographer
Andrew Montgomery

I have this idea in my mind, like an imprecise memory: I’ve been walking with friends, along a high and long stretch of Dorset coastline. The footpaths that skirt the sheer fall to the ocean are kept trim by hardy sheep. It’s autumn, the wind is strong but not cold; the sky is grey, but no rain falls. Gulls and ravens swing east and west on the up-draft. A little kestrel hangs still above the bracken, then plummets. It begins to rain, but in the near distance the pub looks warm. We go in and order pints of light ales and some whiskey. The owner brings out crackling with a damson compote. (This recipe is my attempt to make that idea a reality.)

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
400-500g pork skin from the shoulder or loins, with 1cm fat on its underside
salt

For the compote

Quantity Ingredient
300g ripe damsons, halved and stoned
50g sugar
1 star anise
1 small bunch thyme sprigs, leaves picked
1 dried chilli, (optional)

Method

  1. To get the best crackling, it’s really important that the pork skin is dry to the touch. Keep it uncovered on the bottom shelf of the fridge overnight, or even for a couple of days before you begin.
  2. When you’re ready to cook, heat the oven to 230–240°C. Then, make the compote. Place the damson halves in a medium pan with the sugar, star anise, thyme leaves, dried chilli (if using) and 2–3 tablespoons water. Bring the contents of the pan to a gentle simmer, stirring once or twice, for 3–5 minutes, until the damsons bleed and start to break down. Remove from the heat, gently stir, then leave the damson mixture to cool in the pan.
  3. Place the dry pig skin, fat-side down on a board. Take a super-sharp knife and cut the skin into 2–3cm strips. Place a metal rack over a roasting tray and lay the strips of skin on top, fat-side down. Season all over with salt, then place in the oven for 15–20 minutes, until the crackling is puffed and popped, light and golden. If it’s not quite there after this time, turn down the oven to 180°C and cook for a further 10–15 minutes, or until you think it’s looking great.
  4. Remove the crackling from the oven and lift it off the tray onto a board or serving platter. Save the rendered fat in the tray (for roast potatoes another day).
  5. Serve the damson compote in a bowl or in the pan with a pile of crackling on the side, for dipping and scooping.
Tags:
River Cottage
seasonal
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