Cider pot-roasted pork loin
Fall-apart tender slow-cooked pork crowned with caramelised onions.
A platter of deeply flavoured pork so tender that it falls apart at the merest touch, crowned with a tangle of caramelised onions. It's a welcoming sight on a weekend table: simple, substantial and, of course, delicious. So, too, is the warm, sweet smell that develops over its long, slow cooking time, cozy with the cider's apples and the green freshness of bay leaves, along with the notes of anise and lemon from caraway seeds. It's like a hug that says you're home.
Pork is bred to be so lean now that it needs some serious cosseting to make it work, and my way with pork is to braise it as a slow pot roast. Everything takes place in one pan and the work, such that it is, is very easy. After that, it's pretty much a set and forget affair until it's time to eat.
Unlike a traditional roast, you have to sacrifice the skin after cooking. It's purpose is to protect the meat, not to be eaten. I'm not a huge fan of "crackling", so this doesn't bother me. If you can't bear to part with it, you can blast it in a very hot oven on a rack until it crisps up.
The more apple-y the cider, the better this will be. I use a great Tasmanian scrumpy, a rougher, less refined variety of cider. Alternatively, for an alcohol-free version, you could use an good, minimally processed apple juice.
A small rolled loin – something just over the kilo mark (about 3 pounds) – rolled and tied, is more than enough for 4 people along with side dishes of your choosing. I cook it in a trusted old kitchen companion, an enamelled casserole dish or Dutch oven. The technique works for larger cuts, too, though you will need to up the quantities and time to match. I don't own a slow cooker, but imagine that if you know your way around one you could make this, too.
Cider pot-roasted pork loin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 boneless pork loin roast, about 1.2kg (3 pounds), tied
2 brown onions
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
3 bay leaves
½ cup cider
sea salt flakes
freshly ground black pepper
Set your oven to 160°C (320°F).
In a Dutch oven or similarly heavy pan with a lid, which will accomodate the pork snugly, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Seal the pork, letting it develop a little colour all over, including the ends. Transfer to a plate.
Halve and slice the onions thickly, and let them cook until well softened. Add the caraway seeds, bay leaves and cider. Return the pork to the pan and let it come up to a bubble.
Put the lid on and transfer to the oven for 3 hours.
Remove the pork to a plate and let it rest under a loosely draped piece of foil. Meanwhile, put the pot on the stovetop over high heat, uncovered and reduce, stirring occasionally, until you have just the onions and about ⅓ cup liquid remaining.
Cut the ties around the pork and remove the skin. The meat will shred very easily, so break it up with a few flicks of a fork and pile onto a platter. Spoon the onions on top and pour over the concentrated juices.