Apple Cider Braised Pork Shoulder w/ Sauerkraut

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The garden has been put to bed for the Winter and the furnace is warming our house.  This seems like the perfect time to think about those dishes that cook low and slow and are packed with flavor and comfort.  Braise (brayz) is a method of cooking by which food (usually meat or vegetables) is first browned in fat, then cooked, tightly covered in a small amount of liquid at a low heat for a lengthy period of time.   Braising can be done on top of the range or in the oven.  Regardless of where it is done, a tight fitting lid is essential to prevent the liquid from evaporating.

Braising is a perfect method for those tough less expensive cuts of meat.  The long, slow cooking develops flavor and tenderizes foods by gently breaking down their fibers.  In addition, it  produces damn delicious dishes that fill your home with wonderful aromas and make the diner feel loved and cared for.

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Tis apple season so I was looking for a cut of meat that would pair well with this plentiful Fall fruit.  Pork seemed like an excellent choice and I just happened to have a beautiful bone-in shoulder roast I bought directly from Willow Creek Farm.  I first met Sue and Tony Renger at the farmers market where they sell their products.  Later I arranged a tour of their family owned farm and was very impressed at their sweet and gentle approach to caring for their Heritage Berkshire Hogs.  They started with 10 acres in 1993 and now have 80 acres where the animals roam and live and seem playful and content with their lifestyle.  Tony grew up in Iowa and is a fourth-generation hog farmer.  They also have opened a processing plant so they can control all aspects of their business.  I urge you to click on the link and check out the photos and their story.  We are so happy to have them as a part of our community of food producers.

Back to the recipe.  How do you feel about sauerkraut?  I love it and always am looking for new ways to fix it.  My mother always served pork and sauerkraut on New Years as it is a symbol of prosperity for the upcoming year, so she said.  What exactly is it?  Simply put, it is German for “sour cabbage”, shredded cabbage combined with salt and sometimes spices and allowed to ferment.  You can make it at home or buy it commercially either canned or fresh.  I pair this with cider, apples and shredded carrots and it makes a tasty bed for my braised pork.

Here’ the deal.

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APPLE CIDER BRAISED PORK SHOULDER ROAST w/ SAUERKRAUT 

Serves 4-6

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

Extra-virgin olive oil

Pork shoulder roast, bone-in (around 2 ½-3 lbs)

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 medium onions, medium dice

6 cloves fresh garlic, minced

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

3 carrots, grated

1 medium apple, grated

10 oz. sauerkraut (I like mild German in white wine)

2c apple cider

3 bay leaves

1 herb bundle, tied (2 sprigs each of thyme, sage, rosemary and parsley)

½ c dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

  1.  Coat the bottom of a large Dutch oven with the olive oil and heat to almost smoking.  Pat the meat dry and generously season on both sides with salt and pepper.  Remember to take the meat out about an hour ahead, allow to warm to room temp.
  2.  Sear the meat on both sides until brown and beautiful.  Remove from pot and pour off all but 1T of the fat.
  3. Add the onions to the pot and cook over medium heat until soft, scraping off the browned meat bits from the bottom.  Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and carrots and cook for another minute.  Add the apple, stir to incorporate and cook another minute.
  4. Add the sauerkraut, stir again.
  5.  Add the bay leaves, apple cider, herb bundle and white wine.  Bring to a boil.
  6. Put the meat on top of the vegetables.
  7. Cover, and place in preheated oven.  Cook for 2 ½ hrs or until meat is tender and fall off the bone.  After an hour check to see of more liquid is needed. If so, add more apple cider.

This fork tender, succulent dish won my husband’s heart.  This was no small feat as he tells the story of running away from home as a child because his mother made him eat sauerkraut.  After hiding in the bushes hoping someone would come after him, he got cold and had to return to face the dreaded fermented cabbage in spite of the drama.  The experience had scarred him, but this recipe and others I have put in front of him has made him a kraut convert.  Perhaps it was the love I put into it.  It is always a secret ingredient.

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For now, that is all I got, so stay warm and comfort yourself and loved ones with wonderful dishes prepared from the heart.  Keep spreading the love, one dish at a time.  Until next time.  Queen Jeanne

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2 responses to “Apple Cider Braised Pork Shoulder w/ Sauerkraut

  1. Hi there! I really like this recipe but I don’t have the sprigs of herbs. Will it still work with powdered ones? Annette Helwig.

  2. Hi Annette: Dried herbs can be used in long slow cooking but by not using fresh herbs, you sacrifice the brightness they lend to a dish. How about using dried herbs and then just adding fresh thyme and parsley. They are available at all grocery stores today. You can always add the leftover herbs to soups or stews. Let me know if you try it.

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