There is truth in saying that pigs are highly intelligent animals. There is also truth in saying that pigs are highly delicious animals. The larger portion of pork’s popularity appears as a product of bacon. Close to a billion pounds of the household treat is sold in the U.S. on a yearly basis; however, bacon is hardly the most delicious cut off the pig.
The Italians – as well as their Eastern maritime-neighbors, the Spaniards – have a good grasp of the pig, its care and cooking. The coastal nation boasts prime spiced cuts of meat like guanciale, nduja, prosciutto and pancetta. In their own regard, each of these cuts of pork is a culinary heavyweight, commanding respect and ordering mouths to water whenever placed on nearby plates.
Specialty cuts of meat from pigs like black Iberians are bred and nurtured through practices that have been passed down generations. Some may call it extreme, but in the Southern regions of Italy pigs prized for their meat are massaged twice daily and fed dark liquors as if to consolidate their lavish lifestyle before the slaughter. The caveat for their well-established flavor profiles is that they are expensive. It is a specialization all on its own, and a worthy investment for anyone with a tongue so culinarily inclined.
Flavor, however, is more readily available than expensive Italian meats. A trip to the butcher could put you in possession of one of any number of cuts of pork. My personal suggestions lean towards the pork shoulder and belly. A special mention goes to pork butt, known to perform phenomenally on the grill top.
Although both cuts are considered fatty, mainly accredited to their positioning in generally unstrained parts of the body, that does not make them altogether unhealthy. In cooking, fat gives flavor, and will help a great deal if used to the correct advantage. Earthy, woody, sweet, citrusy and aromatic flavors will complement the shoulder most, but do not forget to incorporate adequate acid to cut the richness of the fat in the shoulder.
Pork shoulder works best on either side of the same spectrum: when cooked slowly over long periods of times, like braising or smoking, the shoulder produces a fork tender meat perfect for pulling; when hot oil is rapidly introduced, the fat crackles up to make an awesomely crispy skin. Between the two techniques, braising is easier, requiring more of your time than attention. The perfect way to cook a meal on a weekend for a busy working professional.
If you had the chance to read my last article, I hope you were received well by your local butcher. When you next visit said butcher, ask for a pork shoulder. With that pork shoulder, try out this recipe you can make at the start of the week and reuse as you see fit. Get that leftover apple cider from mid-fall ready, because you might need it. This is apple cider braised pork-shoulder.
- 1.5-2 pounds pork shoulder
- 8 grams salt
- 8 grams black pepper
- 3 shallots
- 2 cloves of garlic
- A bunch of parsley stalks
- 1 cup beef bone broth
- 3 cups apple cider
- 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 3 thyme stalks
- 3 rosemary stalks
- Half an orange
- Half a cup of cream
- Cut your pork shoulder into equally sized pieces, this will help them cook evenly. Season with salt and pepper. The smaller they are in size, the quicker they will cook. Fry them in a pot with olive oil until all sides are sealed, then remove.
- Next, add more oil. Add garlic, parsley stalks and shallots into the pot and sweat until translucent.
- Deglaze with broth and add cider. Let it reach a boil.
- Add vinegar, thyme and rosemary. Then, grate the zest and squeeze the juice of one quarter of the orange into the pot.
- Now, reintroduce the meat to your braising liquid.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and set cover for at least 4 hours.
- After the time has passed, remove the lid and increase the heat. Let the mixture reduce for 30 minutes.
- Once reduced by just more than half, add the cream.
- Pair it with whatever starch you fancy.