There’s something about pork and apples that conjures images of fallen leaves and big sweaters in my mind. Whenever the weather gets cooler and the last vestiges of summer fade from the streets, I dream of apples. I long for the house to fill up with warm aromas of food and anticipate pots of stew and spoonfuls of succulent meat.
This apple cider-braised pork shoulder is the epitome of fall cooking. The braising of delicious Ontario pork shoulder blade is slow and measured. It makes you still for a little bit and smile and marvel at the change of the seasons. The vegetables, savoury and sweet, melt into the sauce. They mingle with the earthy thyme and pungent garlic and then meld together into a cozy concoction.
I love braising meat. It comes out soft and delicious. The transformation is almost magical, from tough to pillowy. In this recipe, instead of traditional braising liquid, like stock or wine, I use fresh unpasteurized apple cider. I also add some chopped apples to the pot for a double apple flavour. If you are not a big fan of sweet and savoury together, feel free to omit the apples. My husband, who usually doesn’t eat fruit with meat, loved this recipe and had a few helpings.
This recipe is also ideal for dinner parties. It requires a little bit of prepping in the beginning, but then you can just leave it in the oven and forget about it for a few hours. No need to fuss with flipping and stirring something on the stove just as your guests arrive. Serve it family style in a big bowl, or even the pot it cooked in and let everyone scoop the sauce and the fork-tender meat onto their plates.
- 4-5 pound boneless pork shoulder blade
- 2 large onions
- 2 large carrots
- 2 small McIntosh apples
- 1 head garlic
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 cups unpasteurized and unsweetened apple cider
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or more if needed
- 1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
- pepper to taste
- fresh chopped parsley for serving
- Preheat the oven to 325 F.
- In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of oil on medium or medium-high heat and sear the pork shoulder on all sides, until each side is crispy and golden. About 3-4 minutes per side.
- Meanwhile, chop the onion, carrots, and apples into 1/2 inch pieces. Peel the garlic.
- After the meat is seared on all sides, remove the pork to a plate and add all the vegetables and leaves from the thyme sprigs to the Dutch oven. Add more oil, if there’s not enough. Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes to soften the vegetables, stirring occasionally.
- Return the pork to the pot and place on top of the softened veggies. Scrape all the liquid from the plate (if there’s any) into the pot. Add the apple cider, salt, pepper, and bring to a boil.
- Once the cider is boiling, cover the pot with a lid and place into the oven for three hours. After three hours, flip the meat over and cook for another 1 hour.
- The vegetables will soften and almost melt into the cider and the meat will become extremely tender and soft. Serve with the sauce poured over the mashed potatoes and the pork pulled into strands. Sprinkle with chopped parsley if desired.
Note: Keep on the butchers twine during searing and then take it off before adding the meat back to the pot.