Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pork + Cider BFF

Oh, swoon

Recently I decided to cut back on meat. I started by reducing it to no more than once per day. I am now eating meat no more than once every two days. My eventual goal is to cut down to no more than once a week. Once, long ago, I was a vegetarian; so I know from past experience that soon I will not miss meat anymore.

Soon, but not yet. In the meantime, I am looking forward to meat days the way a little kid looks forward to Halloween. It’s going to be so fun! What am I going to be this time? Last time I went as a hamburger. Should I be ham? Should I be chicken? What about fish? Naaah, that’s not even scary.

Here’s the bottom line. If I’m going to spend all my time slavering in anticipation and fetishizing my dinner, then I’m going to make damn sure the meal is worth the wait. So when foodie friends were coming for dinner this weekend, I intended to show off for myself as much as for them. My lovely consort, Beth, had been to the farmers market and had a refrigerator full of kale, butternut squash, and red peppers. We wanted a deeply-flavored, appropriately autumny main dish to go with them. It was time for a pork shoulder simmered in the juice of its very good friend Apple.

Over hours of slow cooking, the crystal tang of apple cider seeps into every nook and cranny of the pork. A bone-in roast means super-rich flavor. Salt and pepper are the only other things needed to render one of the simplest and best meals you could ever hope to eat on a damp fall night.

Pork Braised in Apple Cider
The two secrets to a good braise are proper browning and a low cooking temperature. Get them right and you have intensely flavorful meat that falls right off the bone.
Serves 6.

2 T butter
A 3.5-lb bone-in pork shoulder roast
3 c apple cider or unfiltered juice
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Melt the butter in a pot just large enough to hold the roast. Brown the meat on all sides. This will take you ten to fifteen minutes if you do it right. You want a good, even, caramelized crust. Watch carefully, and if the butter is getting too hot, turn down the flame.
  2. Pour half the apple cider or juice over the meat. Bring up to a boil, and then turn the heat to low. Cover the pan, leaving the lid a bit ajar.
  3. Simmer for an hour. Turn the meat over two or three times during this period.
  4. At the end of the hour, the juice should be somewhat reduced. Add the rest of the apple cider/juice, bring back up to a boil, and then turn back to low. Simmer another two hours. Keep checking and turning the meat every so often.
  5. Remove the roast from the pan and let rest while you do the next steps.
  6. Defat the pan juices. Put them over a high flame and boil them down until reduced to one and a half to two cups. Season to taste.
  7. Slice the meat, nap with a bit of the sauce, and serve the rest of the sauce at the table. I suggest you serve your pork dish with mashed squash or sweet potatoes. Slather pan juices all over those. Then check back here and tell me how all that worked out for you.

Mmm-hmm. You're welcome.


  1. I, too, have been a vegetarian; not to mention a Jew who didn't eat pork. But getting to know the growers at the Minneapolis Farmers Market finds me eating meat 2-3 times a week now. It's good. I like it and I feel good about it. This recipe looks delicious and I look forward to trying it on a cold winter day.

  2. Thanks, Susan and Amy, for your votes of confidence. :)

    I'll never go back to being veg, Susan, because I feel the way Amy does about meat. But I would like to enjoy the health and ecological benefits of eating less. I like your approach.

  3. We eat lots of veg at our house, so it's not difficult to avoid meat for long periods. But, I don't think we'd ever really be able to give it up long-term. That said, we've made a pledge to eat only "happy" meat ... which means we're far more mindful about our purchases than we used to be. And our meat tends to taste better too.

    I agree -- cider and pork is a marriage made in heaven.

  4. Lo, I am having a heck of a time myself sticking to my guns, but it is coming along. I, too, will only eat meat that was raised kindly and slaughtered humanely. The year I read Ruth Ozeki's "My Year of Meats" was the year I swore off factory farmed meat.


Thanks for your comments - nothing scatological, please. If you wouldn't bring it in the kitchen, please don't say it here.