What is pork leg?
Excellent slow-roasted for a relaxing Sunday feast, Swaledale’s pork leg joints have a healthy covering of fat, a key difference compared to commercial pork. Whilst leaner than pork shoulder, a precise cook will result in a seductive combination of firm, juicy meat, amazing crunchy crackling, and perfect silky fat. This result is down to our heritage Middle White and Tamworth pigs which have a higher fat content than commercial breeds, enabling the natural fat to baste the joint and produce crisp, golden crackling.
How long does it take to cook a leg of pork?
We would always advocate a meat thermometer’s reliability when cooking your pork leg – roast until it reaches an internal temperature of 62°C. Cook the joint at high heat for the first 25-30 minutes to ensure perfect crackling, before turning it down for a gentle roast.
As a rough guide, calculate 25-30 minutes per 500g of pork leg, plus an additional 20 minutes. In truth these times diminish with smaller joints, far more reliable to use a good thermometer to monitor internal temperature.
How to cook a boneless leg of pork
1. Take your pork leg out of the fridge, remove it from the vacuum packaging, and pat dry any moisture with a paper towel.
2. Allow the leg of pork joint to come to room temperature.
3. Preheat the oven to 220ºC/Fan 200ºC/Gas 7.
4. Ensure the rind is completely dry and sprinkle over a generous pinch of salt. Rub the flesh at each end with olive oil – this will encourage caramelisation.
5. Place the pork leg in a roasting tin that’s a little larger than the joint. Consider peeling and cutting an onion into quarters and adding it to the tin. The onions will caramelise, adding a hint of sweetness alongside the meaty flavours. In addition, throw in sprigs of rosemary and thyme, along with halved apples or quartered quinces.
6. Once you’ve assembled your leg of pork in the tin, place it in the oven and let it roast for 30 minutes.
7. Reduce the temperature to 150ºC/Fan 160ºC/Gas 4 for the remaining time – you can leave the oven door open for a couple of minutes to help it cool down.
8. Time 25 minutes per 500g of leg of pork, plus an additional 20 minutes. You can check your pork is cooked by pushing a skewer into the thickest part of the joint. The juices should run completely clear, with no trace of pink. If using a thermometer, wait until the centre of the joint registers an internal temperature of 62°C.
9. Remove from the oven, cover with tin foil and allow to rest for at least half the cooking time.
10. Carve against the grain for best results.
Low temperature roasting technique
This method will result in uniform cooking and a more moist result compared to traditional roasting. The use of a meat thermometer is essential.
1. Take your topside of beef out of the refrigerator.
2. Remove your meat from the vacuum packaging and pat dry any moisture. Allow it to come up to room temperature.
3. Set your oven to 85°C – this is very low and, if gas, the pilot light may be sufficient. Heat a griddle pan or heavy-based frying pan until smoking hot.
4. Season generously with sea salt, scrunching between fingertips to ensure fine enough to fall between score marks.
5. Depending on joint size, roasting will likely take a minimum of 3 hours. Aim for an internal temperature of 62 degrees, no less.
6. Remove from the oven and turn the oven up to its hottest setting. Once hot, return the joint – at this stage you are looking to achieve crisp crackling. This will take around 10 minutes – check at this stage, another 5 minutes may be required for a larger joint.
7. Rest loosely covered in foil for 20 – 30 minutes before carving against the grain.
- Prior to roasting, it’s important the rind is completely dry. If slightly damp a hair dryer can be used to remove any remaining moisture
- Don’t remove the string unless you plan to stuff your leg of pork. The string helps prevent the meat from falling apart.
- Sliced onions and a glass of cider can be placed under the joint whilst roasting – provided the joint isn’t covered this won’t impair good crackling.
- Some fennel seeds can be bashed very coarsely and added to salt for initial seasoning – this will give an authentic Tuscan flavour.
- Do not cover pork cracking joints while they’re cooking, unless pot roasting, or you’ll end up with soggy cracking.
- The healthy-fat content of the pork will keep it moist, so don’t worry about basting the pork leg meat while it’s cooking.
Roast leg of pork recipe
Part way through roasting your joint, spoon off 3-4 tbsp of fat – a wonderful fat to produce delicious roast potatoes. Simply turn well blanched potatoes over in the fat and season well with sea salt and black pepper.
Apple sauce is a classic pairing for a reason – it cuts through the fat and richness of the pork. Select a cooking variety such as Bramley, as cooking varieties will collapse into a puree rather than keeping their shape. Simply balance the tartness/sweetness with a squeeze of lemon juice or pinch of sugar as desired. A delicious take on this is to add English mustard, the apple/mustard sauce being a delicious foil for the pork – start by adding ½ a tsp and add more to your taste.
Apples, halved and roasted under and around the joint, with quartered onions, would be delicious – as would quartered quinces. Season well and add a bashed star anise.
A simple and delicious side, along with roast potatoes and a seasonal green or two and good gravy, are sage and onion crumbs – not quite a stuffing but with the classic flavourings, sweat sliced onion and smoked lardons (a little bacon goes a long way in this setting) in butter until soft, before adding sliced sage and a strip of lemon zest, followed shortly after by day-old breadcrumbs. Continue turning over until the fat has been absorbed and the crumbs are starting to turn gold – you aren’t looking for all over crispness, but a mix of fudginess and crisp golden edges.
Whilst a roast is an obvious and majestic choice, crackling is not the be all and end all – as a leaner joint, leg can be a great choice to pot roast. Sliced fennel, apples and cider with a splash of pork or chicken stock would be a good option – baste the joint regularly and keep the heat gentle, you don’t want it to boil and toughen. Serve with mashed potatoes, buttered savoy and grain mustard on the side.