Ah - the glories of autumn. There's nothing quite like it is there? The heady aroma of apples being made into cider; robins getting drunk on Mountain Ash berries; the amber color of wheat fields just after they've been harvested; crisp frosty mornings and short golden afternoons; vivid purple-pink sunsets - it's bliss, pure bliss.
Obviously I'm working on memory because autumn in Tucson is quite different. Here the fruit's ripening on most of our citrus trees (everything except the kumquats), pomegranates are a glorious red, pyracantha are loaded with berries that are a kaleidoscope of green, orange and red; days are still incredibly warm although it cooled to a balmy 57 last night; the old allergies are making life miserable and creepy crawlies are getting ready to hole up for cooler days ahead. That means Max, Georgie and I have to be extra vigilant on our walks because the snakes are looking for a warm spot to curl up which could be just about anywhere. In fact, the big guy had to relocate one the other night that was stretched out against the bottom edge of our garage door.
Needless to say, being a born and bred Northerner, I really needed a sensory boost to remind me what time of year it actually is. Thankfully the aroma coming from the kitchen last night took care of that minor issue.
Cubes of pork browned and given a boost with a hearty dose of apple brandy, then braised in hard cider along with sweet parsnip, tangy shallots and kissed with fresh sage - it's all a match made in heaven. Finished with creamy red potatoes, pearl onions and a couple of tart Granny Smith apples, quite honestly dinner last night was more than company worthy and a true celebration of Fall in all its glory.
By the way, necessity forced me to make changes to the original recipe, but what are recipes if not guidelines anyway. I wasn't able to find hard Apple Cider so I used sweet cider instead and added a tablespoon of vinegar to the braising liquid to tart it up. It was quite delicious so don't let the unavailability of the hard stuff stop you from making this glorious dish. As well I'm all about making life easier so I cooked my stew in the oven rather than on top of the stove. It meant I could ignore it for almost the entire time without having to stir the pot every 20 minutes or so and the big guy and I got to enjoy drinks on the patio while dinner cooked.
If you like pork with applesauce, then there's no doubt you'll love the taste of this! Download Pork Stew with Cider
Pork Stew with Cider (adapted from Bon Appetit via epicurious.com)
3 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 pounds boneless country style ribs, trimmed and cut into 2 inch cubes
All purpose flour
Salt and coarse ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup chopped shallots (about 4 large)
1 cup finely chopped parsnip (about 2 large)
1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 cup apple brandy (I used Apple Jack)
2 cups low salt chicken broth
1-1/2 cups apple cider
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1- 12 ounce bag fresh pearl onions
5 unpeeled red potatoes cut in half
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and each cut into 8 wedges
2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons flour
Preheat oven to 325. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat; add bacon and cook until bacon is crisp. Remove to a bowl and set aside, leaving drippings in the pot. Add vegetable oil, increase heat to medium high. Season pork cubes well with salt and pepper and dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Brown well in batches on all sides, removing browned pork to a bowl. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat from pot. Lower heat to medium and add chopped shallots and parsnips to pot. Cook stirring occasionally until vegetables are softened (about 5 minutes). Add sage and cook for 1 minute. Stir in apple brandy and cook until almost all has evaporated. Add broth, cider, vinegar, reserved bacon and pork with any accumulated juices, bring to a boil, cover and place in oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until pork is just tender.
Meanwhile place pearl onions in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cool under running water. Peel onions and set aside.
Add potatoes, pearl onions and apples to stew. Return to oven and cook for additional half hour. Mix together butter and flour to form a paste. Add to pot and stir well to blend. Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer until thickened (about 2 minutes). Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as required. Serves 4 to 6.