This past Sunday, I made one of the most delicious (and easiest) meals I’ve ever made – braised pork shoulder. I braised the pork in a seriously strong IPA (8.7% or so, I believe) that was brewed and generously donated by Jimmy and Nick at Barry’s Homebrew Outlet. Those guys know how to make great beer!
I pretty much only looked at other recipes for this one to figure out cooking temp and time and winged the rest. All quantities listed below are rough estimates, so be warned – this is one of those recipes that’s more of a guideline than an instruction manual. Have fun with it, and enjoy!
When braising a pork shoulder, the first thing you need to do (duh) is acquire the pork. I picked up this 7 lb, bone-in beauty from Cannuli’s House of Pork (or, as I call it, HEAVEN). First, I preheated the oven to 350°. Then, I sliced the skin and fat cap off of the pork shoulder (there’s plenty of fat marbled through this cut already).
Next, I used the spice rub I got from Deke’s BBQ to coat the pork with tasty goodness. I can’t remember exactly, but I’m pretty sure Deke uses brown sugar, cayenne, fenugreek, salt & pepper, and maybe cumin in his rub. It’s bangin’.
Once the pork was coated, I let it rest while I prepped the veggies. I picked up some spring onions (in December! can you believe it?) and carrots from a vendor in South Philly’s Italian (or ‘9th St.’) Market. Those went in accompanied by another small onion I had laying around (quartered) and a handful of garlic cloves (smashed). In the pic below, you can also see the jar of home-made chicken stock that will add liquid and flavor to the braise.
Once everything was prepped and ready, I threw some thick-cut bacon into my Dutch oven over a medium-low flame.
The point of the bacon is to provide fat for searing the shoulder. It’s crazy, right? Cooking pork in pork fat? Yes. Crazy… and awesome.
I cooked the bacon down until it had given up most of its fat, then removed it from the pot. Next. the spice-rubbed shoulder went in for a quick sear on all sides. Once each side was sufficiently browned, the shoulder came out of the pot and the veggies went in. Normally I’d start with the onions, add in the garlic, and then toss in the carrots, but I was feeling lazy so I just threw them all in at once.
Next came the chicken stock and about half of the growler of beer. I used a wooden spoon to scrape the tasty bits from the pork off the bottom of the pot, then added some maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, a can of tomato sauce, and some salt & fresh-ground pepper. Tasting was essential at this stage to get the flavor right, since there were a TON of bitter hops in the beer to offset.
Next, I put the meat back in.
I covered the Dutch oven, then carefully moved it from the stove-top into the oven. I set the timer for 2 hours and left the kitchen.
It’s two hours later. I’ve carefully moved the Dutch oven back to the stove top so I can check on the flavor and make sure it still has enough braising liquid. Upon tasting, I decided to add some molasses, cardamom, allspice, cocoa, 3 bay leaves, cloves, and a little mustard powder (mainly because they were all sitting out on the counter right in front of me, begging to be used). It was tasting good and the pork was starting to fall apart, so I knew I was on the right track! I put in back in the oven and set the timer for another 2 hours.
Smelling this cooking and not being able to eat it was pretty much torture. After what seemed like years instead of hours, the timer went off. Here’s what it looked like when I took off the cover:
It was amazing. The flavors all melded surprisingly well, the pork was fall-apart tender, and the carrots (the carrots!) tasted like cloves and wintertime and awesome. This was one experiment I will definitely try to reproduce.
Did I mention that this was a SEVEN POUND piece of meat? I live with my husband and two cats. Only Dan and I actually eat the pork and even we, contrary to popular belief, are not capable of eating that much pig without help. Who wants leftovers?
bone-in pork shoulder
3 slices of thick-cut bacon
spice rub (cayenne, cumin, brown sugar, etc.)
Spring onions (with greens)
Medium-sized sweet onion, quartered
garlic (5-10 cloves)
tomato sauce (8oz can)
ground cardamom, clove, & allspice
Preheat oven to 350. Rub the pork with the spices, generously, making sure you get it into all of the crevices. Chop your veggies (roughly), smash the garlic, and throw it all into a bowl. Set aside.
Cook the bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat until the fat has been rendered off; take out the bacon and set aside.
Sear the pork shoulder in the bacon fat on all sides. Remove from the pan.
Add the veggies to the pan, then the stock and beer. Scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add in the maple syrup through the tomato sauce, throw the bacon back in, then put the pork shoulder on top of it all. Put it in the oven for 2 hours, then remove, taste, and adjust your seasonings accordingly. This is when I threw in the molasses through the bay leaves. Put it back in the over for another 2 hours, then remove and gorge yourself on tasty, tasty pork. Try to let it cool down enough first that you don’t burn your tongue! It’ll be hard, but you’ll thank yourself for it.