Sweet and savory cider-braised pork is slow-roasted into a deeply flavorful meal. The shredded pork can be turned into several different dinners throughout the week.
This recipe for cider-braised pork is an exercise in slowing down. Perhaps this pork could be made faster in the Instant Pot, but it's rather nice to spend a long afternoon at home with something in the oven and the aroma of dinner filling the house.
This pork is flavored with a blend of flavorful and aromatic ingredients. The braising liquid - a combination of apple cider and soy sauce - reduces into a deeply flavorful sauce for the meat. I love the savory and slightly sweet flavor of this pork shoulder, but honestly, my favorite part is the sauce.
Just because braised pork need time, doesn't mean it also requires a lot of work. Making braised pork is actually quite simple.
How to Make Braised Pork Butt
Season the meat
Rub the meat with brown sugar, Dijon mustard, smoked paprika, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Ideally, season the pork the night before so the flavor has time to soak in.
Start at a high temperature
Encourage a browned, crisp outer layer by starting the meat at 475 F for no more than 15 minutes
Add Braising Liquid
Pour braising liquid into the Dutch oven, around the pork. In this recipe the braising liquid is apple cider and soy sauce. Other braising liquids for pork include beer or broth.
Go Low and Slow
Turn the oven heat down to 300 F and braise the pork for as long as it takes to easily pull apart, usually 4 to 5 hours
You'll be rewarded with an immensely satisfying dinner and most likely another dinner or two later in the week, because pork shoulder (and/or pork butt, a similar cut) make a lot of meat.
Once you've spent an afternoon braising a big cut of meat, your work is done, and the meals you serve with the leftover meat should be fairly simple.
I was able to stretch this recipe into three very different meals. The first was the cider-braised pork with roasted sweet potatoes and sautéed kale. The second was quick dinner of pork and black bean quesadillas and the third was a salad of shredded pork over cabbage with cilantro, mint and peanut-lime dressing.
Side Dishes with Pork
- Roasted vegetables (Brussels sprouts, carrots, bell peppers)
- Sautéed greens or simple frozen vegetables
- Mashed or roasted potatoes
- Rice or pasta
- Beans (try black beans or pinto beans)
- Polenta or grits
- Never hesitate to wrap this pork in a tortilla!
Making a large cut of meat doesn't have to mean eating pork all week long. Save some of the leftover meat in the freezer with the braising liquid and it will keep for several months. To defrost, put the frozen pork in the refrigerator overnight then warm it in a saute pan on the stove or in the oven covered with foil, with a little added water.
The Difference Between Pork Shoulder and Pork Butt
Pork shoulder and pork butt are very similar cuts of meat and can be used interchangeably. However, I see pork butt recommended most often in recipes because it typically has more fat marbled throughout the meat, which means more flavor and tenderness.
Both the pork butt and pork shoulder come from the same part of the pig (the upper and lower shoulder). Both are tough and fatty and are best cooked at a low temperature for a long time. Both are sold both boneless and bone-in - which you get often depends on where you shop.
Both cuts should have fat across the top, which is good for flavoring the meat as it cooks. Sometimes pork shoulder also has thin layer of skin attached to the fat. If the skin is attached, then it's best to brown the roast in a saute pan to get the skin crispy before putting the roast in the oven.
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