As you all know I love my slow cooker. There’s nothing better than dropping a piece of raw meat inside with vegetables and stock and letting it cook for hours while you run around and do errands. Then pulling out a hearty meal that’s full of flavor. But what about braising? I’ve always wanted to braise a pork shoulder or roast but rarely have the time.
There’s really not a lot of difference between braising and slow cooking. Both take a large piece of meat and slow cook it for hours in a stock. But while you can leave the house with the slow cooker running, since the braising happens in a large pot in the oven, you usually need to be home to braise a loin or roast. Well, since it’s been so cold and rainy recently, I’ve been spending plenty of days home while the boys read and write or draw and paint. It was on one of these days that I decided to braise a pork shoulder with apples; a recipe I found in a recent issue of Fine Cooking. The end result was sooooo good, all I wanted to do was have seconds, thirds and lick the pot clean.
What made this roast so good and unlike anything I’d ever eaten? The rub, the apples and the char on the meat. Sure I’ve roasted apples and pork before, but this was special. See, you can’t just braise the pork. Sure, that makes it soft and shreddable, but what really makes the pork mouth-wateringly delicious, is the rub it marinates in for 48 hours. That’s right, 2 days. Now, you don’t have to marinate it for 2 days, you can just marinate it for 12 hours. But like most things, the longer it marinates, the more flavorful your pork. It’s super easy to do. All you do is rub the pork down with the spice mixture while you’re making another dinner. Then just put it in a covered pot in the fridge and forget about it. That’s what I did and like I said, it definitely made a difference. Those herbs and spices permeated the meat, and once it was slow roasted with the apples and onions, well… the flavors were out of this world.
The other secret to this amazing piece of meat? Charring the meat after braising it. According to Lynne Curry of Fine Cooking, it’s better to brown the meat after the braise because you get a more flavorful broth in which to cook the meat and there’s no chance of the meat juices evaporating. Plus the char gives the meat a nice crisp crust that really seals in all those amazing flavors I keep talking about. I’m so happy Curry introduced me to this “backward” braising method because it’ll be the only way I braise from now on.
Spiced Apple Braised Pork (adapted from Fine Cooking)
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 4 teaspoons salt
- 2-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 (3 pound) bone-in pork shoulder
- 2 medium apples, peeled and diced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 cup water
- Combine the coriander, salt, ginger, mustard and pepper in a small bowl.
- Using a sharp knife, trace the fact seams of the roast and around the bone to make a series of deep incisions on both sides of the roast. Score the external fat with a series of incisions. Then take the spice mixture and rub it all over the meat. Place the roast in a large, oven-proof pot, cover and put in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours and up to 3 days.
- Remove the meat from the refrigerator and let come up to room temperature, about 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Add the apples and onion to the pork roast.
- Whisk together the vinegar, honey and water and pour over the roast. Recover the pan and cook in the oven for 2-1/2 – 3 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.
- Pull the pan out of the oven and raise the temperature to 425°F.
- Leaving the liquid, apples and onions in the pot, transfer the meat to a rimmed baking sheet to cool. Separate the meat into large chunks while discarding the fat.
- Place the pieces of meat back in the pot in a single layer and cook, uncovered, for about 40 minutes or until the meat is nicely browned. Serve immediately with the apples and the sauce.