I have been making this dish for several years. It started as a basic cider braised pork recipe from Gourmet magazine but with my own additions over the years, developed into a dish that just tastes like Fall and the holiday season.
This isn’t one of those perfectly sliced pork/sauce drizzled over the top dishes. As this dish starts with a (wonderfully economical!) bone-in pork shoulder, that is braised, the meat is cooked to fork tender and is then taken off the bone in chunks. The result is more like a pork “stew” really, with the great flavours and smells of the holidays.
Truth be told, I don’t really have a set recipe for the sauce. I go mainly on taste, adjusting seasoning until the balance of tart and sweet is met and the spices are noticeable but not over-powering. The bit of orange zest is what rounds it all together, I think.
Recipe: Cider Braised Pork with Apples and Cranberries
Summary: I rely on a lot of taste-testing to get the sauce just right. Add more sugar, as necessary to balance the tart cranberries and add more seasoning, spices and zest as needed to produce a flavourful but not over-powering flavour to the sauce. It’s all about balancing the combination of flavours. While I have never tried this dish with dried cranberries, I think they should work just fine. I would definitely reduce the amount of brown sugar (or maybe even eliminate it altogether) as dried cranberries are already sweetened.
- 1 (3- to 4-lb.) bone-in fresh pork shoulder
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 lb. onions (3 medium), halved lengthwise, then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 3/4 cup unfiltered apple cider
- 1 firm apple, peeled, cored, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1/2 cup fresh cranberries (or thawed, frozen cranberries)
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup apple cider
- Pinch of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg
- Pinch of fresh, orange zest
- Pinch of fresh, thyme leaves (you could use rosemary, instead)
- For garnish: Fresh thyme or rosemary stems or leaves and/or pecans
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Pat pork dry and season with salt and pepper.
- Heat oil in a 4- to 5-quart oven-proof heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot.. Brown meat on all sides, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes. Transfer pork to a plate.
- Add onions to same pot and sauté over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden and caramelized, 8 to 10 minutes more. Stir in cider and return pork to pot.
- Cover pot with a tight-fitting lid and braise pork in middle of oven until very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours, turning pork over at the half way mark of cooking. Pork should be fork-tender. Transfer pork to a serving dish.
- When meat is almost cooked, peel and core apple and slice into 1/4-inch slices. Heat 1 Tbsp. butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add apple slices and cook until soft and lightly golden. Remove skillet from heat until pork is cooked.
- Strain pan juices of onion, reserving the onion. If you have a gravy separator, separate fat from pan juices and add the juices into the skillet with the apples. (Alternately, just skim off with a spoon). Add the reserved onion to the skillet as well. Add cranberries and remaining sauce ingredients. Boil cooking juices with onions and cranberries until cranberries pop and the mixture is reduced and thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Taste sauce. If it seems too tart, add more brown sugar in small increments, re-tasting and adding more as necessary. Sauce should not be sweet but shouldn’t be tart either. You can also adjust seasonings by adding more spices and/or orange zest, to taste.
- Remove meat from pork and cut into bite size chunks. Add to the apple-cranberry sauce, stir to cover meat in sauce and cook a few minutes to re-heat meat. Transfer to a serving plate or bowl and garnish with fresh thyme or rosemary stems. Serve with a side of rice or mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 3 hours
Total time: 3 hours 20 min
Number of servings (yield): 4