Braised Pork Shoulder with Guinness and Dried Cherries

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A few months ago I was fortunate to have won (and I never win anything…) Daniel Boulud’s book Braise from The Constable’s Larder.  Since receiving it, I’ve read through it several times, not only savoring all the possibilities, but learning about how braised food is prepared through the myriad international recipes included in this book.  I had absolutely no idea!

Whenever I get a new cookbook, it’s always interesting to see which recipe will be made first and to consider why it, above all the others, would be selected.

Although the Ropa Vieja, or Cuban-Braised Flank Steak with Peppers, Tomatoes, and Peppers is tagged, I’ve been so busy that the idea of beginning any recipe the day before it’s to be eaten hasn’t been possible for weeks.  And then there’s the Stuffed Cabbage with Pork and Chestnuts that I’ve been drooling over since opening the book to scan the photographs, its savory layers of ground meat and vegetables nestled beautifully between perfect layers of savoy cabbage and wrapped in bacon.  Oh, my.  I even purchased the ingredients, but again, the sheer time to work on one thing wasn’t something I seemed to be able to pull off.

In the end, it was the Pork Shoulder with Guinness and Dried Cherries that actually came to fruition, and not because I had all the ingredients.  No, it was more about my tastes continuing to develop even at this point in my life, and I was intrigued by the idea of the cherries and the strong beer slowly braising with the pork.  I have not ever been one who likes to mix sweet and savory, but that is changing.

I knew it would be amazing.

The pork is beyond tender and beginning to fall apart when it’s finished, and the interesting combination of sweetness from the cherries is well-balanced by the headiness of the Guinness. This is total comfort food.

Pork Shoulder with Guinness and Dried Cherries

5 c. Guinness stout
1 c. dried cherries
1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
2 T olive oil
1 pork shoulder roast (5 lbs.)
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
3 large onions, cut in half & sliced
1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 T tomato paste
5 whole allspice, crushed
2 bay leaves
1/4 c. molasses, light
3 T brown sugar

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Bring beer, cherries, and vinegar to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Pour into a bowl, cover tightly, and let sit for at least 1 hour or overnight if necessary.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

In a Dutch oven, or other large lidded oven-proof pan, heat the oil over high heat.  Season pork roast on all sides with salt and pepper and sear it until nicely browned, about 10-12 minutes.  Place on a platter when done and pour off all but 2-3 T of the fat in the pot.

Saute the onions in the remaining fat and season with the crushed pepper, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and continue to cook until the onions are softened and translucent, about 5 minutes longer.  Stir in the tomato paste and allow it to cook for a minute or two before adding the roast, the cherries and liquid, allspice, bay leaves, molasses, brown sugar, 1 tsp. salt and 2 c. water.  Stir the mixture to incorporate the additions and let come to a simmer.

Place the lid on the pot and put it in the oven to braise for 60 minutes, turn the roast, then return to the oven for an additional 2 hours.

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Remove the pork to a serving platter and tent with foil to keep warm.  Place the pot on the stove and over high heat, cook until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

Serve slices of roast with cherries and a spoon of sauce.

 

Notes:

  • The original recipe calls for the addition of 2 lbs. sweet potatoes, roughly chopped after 1 hour of cooking time.  We’d had mashed sweet potatoes the night before, so it wasn’t going to happen for this recipe.  Now I’m wondering….
  • I used a much smaller roast, so had plenty of sauce — in fact too much.  The sweet potatoes would have thickened the sauce even more.  Still wondering….
  • No fudging on the browing time on that roast.  You need all that lovely brown stuff in the bottom of the pan, remember?
  • I used a variety of onions — Maui sweet, red, and Spanish onions.  Let them get nice and soft before you add the roast.
  • Trader Joes is a great place to get dried fruit.  It always costs less and the dried cherries I purchased were fresh and very plump.
  • With all the sweet ingredients in this dish, you’d think the end product would be almost dessert like, but it wasn’t.  And it got several “Mmms” from me, which is rare.  Even though I enjoy most of the food I make, I’m a very harsh critic, and this was delicious — especially if a bite contained a cherry with a bit of meat.  We enjoyed it with some steamed spinach and red potatoes.
  • I need to make this again with the sweet potatoes and a larger roast.  Definitely worth it.  A very pleasant winter meal that you don’t have to fuss over and could be very cost effective.

 

19 thoughts on “Braised Pork Shoulder with Guinness and Dried Cherries

  1. Judy, try it with the sweet potatoes. I know the sauce will be divine. Can’t wait to hear what you think. No swigging the Guiness while you’re cooking…
    Hi Cookierita! Happy New Year to you, too!

  2. I was scared away by the idea of sweet cherries – I have this aversion to sweet fruits mixed with meat, which is a shame since it keeps me away from many classic dishes, but my taste buds are what they are. But this looks great and I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying the book!

  3. Yumm! That pork looks so tender! My husband doesn’t like dried fruit and pork but I think I could win him over with the Guiness in this recipe!! It looks scrumptious! Happy New Year!

  4. Hey Darius — my favorite way to have pork shoulder is pibil style, but this was pretty tasty.
    Hey BD — surprisingly, it was! I’m not a big fruit with meat type person, but have been experimenting.
    Giff — I’m with you, but have been taking some risks lately with good results. I’m still not going for the idea of prunes, though. Ugh.
    Happy New Year to you, too, peabody!
    Cheers, Rosa — it was definitely a plate of comfort food.
    Hi Paula — funny — my husband grew up eating pork chops with applesauce, so he doesn’t mind the idea of fruit and meat. I’m the one who thinks it’s strange. This is a good dish, though.

  5. Oh my…hubby and I would go nuts for this. Copying the recipe into a word file as I type…
    ..especially appreciate your notes at the end. They’re always so helpful! :-)
    Happy 2009!

  6. I have only made pork shoulder for pulled pork. This recipe sounds delicious and I think the sweet potatoes would be wonderful with it.

  7. I made this last night and it, too, was my first selection from Daniel Boulud’s Braise. My pork shoulder was huge – 9lbs! So, I increased the balance of the ingredients accordingly. I was unable to find dried cherries and substituted dried cranberries. I did use the sweet potatoes which were a delicious addition and added body to the sauce. I found the dish easy to prepare; its flavours complex and very rich with a slightly licorice tone. Extremely tasty and got great reviews. However, I now have a ton of tender pork which sandwiches won’t even dent. Suggestions, anyone?

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Kelly, I have tagged several other recipes in Braise.

    Foodelf

    1. I’m thinking the cranberries were a great back-up choice because of the tartness. I’ll have to try the sweet potatoes next time I try this recipes. It’s already been a while, so I’m wishing I had this instead of the ham that’s getting ready to go into the oven. Left over pork? Everybody seems to be crazy over pulled pork sandwiches right now, and because this braise was somewhat sweet, a bit of sour would go perfect. I have a recipe listed here. But you might also consider making cubanos — or a variation. Another sandwich with pork. Good luck to you!

  8. We tried this recipe tonight with the sweet potatoes, 2 cups of water is too much, next time I wouldn’t add the water at the beginning, only as needed through the last 2 hours. But still it was very good, can’t wait for left overs tomorrow.

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