As I mentioned earlier, Salo in a Jar (сало в банке) is a highly popular way of wet curing salo at home, and there are recipes with cold and hot brine. But where the idea hot brine comes from? Can I speculate that someone impatient decided to try it hot? The result was somewhat in between cured and cooked salo, which is another widely used cooking method for pork belly in Ukraine. Cured with hot brine salo was so pleasing that the recipe quickly became popular. And why not? The same brine but hot makes the process faster and more convenient for an urban lifestyle.
There are many recipes in different cuisines that utilize the same idea of starting the process of cooking with high temperature and then continue for a few hours while the temperature is naturally dropping. The goal is the same as for slow-and-low cooking, and the total amount of heat transfer is roughly the same, but instead of constant, a variable temperature is used. Sous vide allows full time and temperature control in this recipe, and you can choose what texture you like better. I found 140F/60C, 15 minutes for each 1″ of thickness + 15 minutes formula being the best for 15 minutes of hot smoking to follow. The same timing, but 65C is preferred for hot curing without smoking. Cooking it 60C but twice longer makes the texture softer and is preferred if the pigskin was not charred.
Salo #3 | Cured in Hot Brine and Smoked Pork Belly
Combine all brine ingredients and bring to boiling. Turn off the heat and cool it down to room temperature (Note: Refrigerate brine, if using chamber vacuum packing machine).
Place pork belly pieces inside the bags, devide brine equally and add it to the bags, including spices and bay leaf. Add sliced or smashed garlic. Vaccum pack them.
Preheat water for sous vide to 140F/60C and start it running. Submerge packed pork belly and cook for 1 hour if 1.5" thick or recalculate the time 15 minutes for each 1" of thickness + 15 minutes.
Submerge cooked, packed pork belly into an ice bath (water and ice 1:1) to stop cooking. Remove pork belly from the bags and discard them and the brine. Pat them dry with paper towels, place in closed containers, and refrigerate until ready for smoking.
Prepare the stovetop smoker: 1 tbsp of apple wood chips on the bottom, a drip tray wrapped with aluminum foil on top, a smoking rack inside the tray, pork belly on the rack, pigskin down.
Close the lid and smoke on high heat for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and continue smoking for another 15 minutes. Place smoked pork belly in closed containers and store refrigerated up to 1 week. For longer storage, vacuum pack and freeze for up to 6 months.