Winter’s arrival can be somewhat abrupt here in The Midwest. These last six weeks of fall have been lovely and full of savory meals, but upon learning that there was a 30% chance of snow is in the forecast today, I felt a twinge of panic. That got me thinking that if I could somehow appease the weather gods with the most virtuous of autumn meals, the snow would not fall.
On my trip into Whole Foods this morning I was comforted to find barrels upon barrels of a number of unique varieties of apples. I chose four GoldRush apples, grown organically in Colorado with the beautiful color of a Golden Delicious. On each perfect specimen the pale, soft green faded into just the littlest bit of pink on one side. Who could say no?
Pork was the obvious choice to pair with these apples, and I chose a rich, fat-capped shoulder roast along with a few Vidalia onions, celery, cinnamon, cloves, and a fruity white wine to create the perfect sauce.
Pot-Roasted Pork with Apples and Spice:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
A 5# bone-in pork shoulder roast
2 medium Vidalia or other sweet onions, large dice
5 celery stalks with leaves, large dice
4 small (by today’s standards) sweet-tart apples, sliced
6 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
2 C. white wine (I chose Viognier – a slightly sweeter white with lots of ripe fruit flavor. If you’re going to choose a sweeter wine, be sure it is only medium-dry or off-dry, not sweet)
2 C. vegetable or chicken broth
1-2 tsp. white balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Rub the pork with the oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Place into a roasting pan, (ideally on a rack, but no biggy), fatty side up and into the lower half of the hot oven for 20 minutes. This will give the pork a nice amount of color and help to flavor your dish.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350. Carefully transfer the browned pork to a large dutch oven with a tight fitting lid, again, fat side up. Surround the meat with the onion, celery, and apples and sprinkle them generously with salt, too. Throw in your cloves and cinnamon stick, and pour over your broth and wine. Put on the lid and place into the oven for 1 hour.
After one hour. check to make sure that your liquid is simmering. The best way to do this is to remove the entire pot from the oven, close the oven door quickly, and set it onto something heat resistant (trying to do this stuff with the oven door open just lets too much heat escape).
If the sauce is just simmering, you’re on the right track. If not, increase your oven temp to 375 degrees. If the sauce is sputtering wildly, reduce your oven temp to 325. Each time you check on the pork, apply these rules.
While cooking, spoon several scoops of sauce and apples up onto the pork to moisten the roast. Return to the oven for of 3 more hours (for a total of 4 hours), checking the simmering level and basting the pork at each hour mark.
At the end of the long, slow simmer, you will have a to-die-for, falling-off-the-bone pork roast. The onions and celery will have released their aromatic liquids and the apples will have cooked down to create a slightly sweet, slightly tart, spice-studded sauce.
Remove the pork from the sauce, cutting off the twine if necessary, and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes on a cutting board. Stir 1 – 2 teaspoons of vinegar into the sauce to balance the sweetness. Season with salt if necessary (not likely).
Serve the pork warm, in hefty chunks, with a few generous spoonfuls of the sauce over the top. Seriously consider brussel sprouts sauteed with butter and sage as a side dish.