Cider Braised Pork Shoulder with Cranberries and Apple
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.
4lbbone-in fresh pork shoulder
3mediumonionshalved lengthwise, then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3/4cupunfiltered apple cider
1applepeeled, cored, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices
Pinchfresh 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 well with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a 4 or 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 cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt and cook 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 place into the pre-heated oven until very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours, turning pork over once 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.