Slow-cooked pork shoulder with crackling

One word: patience! That is what you need to make this glorious roast – for, although it is easy to prepare, it takes about 4 hours to cook.

This is hands-down my favourite roast recipe and I’m so happy to share it with you.

I know it will be popular with all you pork enthusiasts, as you get the best of both worlds: crispy crackling with moist, tender pull-apart meat, lashings of jus and sweet soft-cooked apples.

Serves: 6–8
Prep: 20 minutes Cooking: 5 1/2 hours

Ingredients

  • 2.5–3 kg pork shoulder, skin on and scored (I get my butcher to do this)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 heaped teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced
  • 1 carrot, cut into 4
  • 1 garlic bulb, unpeeled, cut in half horizontally
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 330 ml apple cider (I prefer dry but you can use sweet, too)
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • 4 granny smith apples, pierced all over 5–6 times

Method

Take the pork out of the fridge at least 1 hour before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Toast the caraway and fennel seeds in a small frying pan until fragrant and starting to pop. Pat the pork skin really dry with lots of paper towel. (Moisture affects the crispiness of the crackling, so drying the skin is important.) Drizzle half of the oil onto the skin and season with a generous amount of salt. Turn the pork over and rub the all of the spices over the flesh.

Place the vegetables and garlic, bay leaves and thyme in the centre of a large roasting tin, drizzle with the rest of the oil and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Place the pork, skin side up, on top and tuck most of the vegetables underneath. Roast in the oven for 20–30 minutes, or until the skin is blistered, golden and crunchy. Remove from the oven.

Reduce the oven temperature to 165°C.

Place the pork on a chopping board. Put the tin over medium heat on the stovetop and cook until the vegetables start to sizzle and colour a little more. Pour in the cider, bring to the boil and cook for 4–5 minutes. Return the pork, skin side up, to the tin. Pour the stock around the pork, ensuring it does not touch the skin. The aim is to have enough liquid to cover most of the flesh. If you need a little more liquid, adding water is fine. Very loosely cover the pork in the tin with foil (like a tent) and return to the oven for 4 1/2–5 hours until the pork pulls apart easily with tongs. About 40 minutes before the end of cooking, add the apples to the liquid in the tin. Remove from the oven and carefully transfer the pork and apples to a chopping board. Discard the thyme and bay leaves, leaving the vegetables in the liquid. Place the tin over a high heat on the stovetop and bring to the boil. Cook until reduced by half, skimming off the excess fat with a ladle.

Remove the crackling from pork and scrape off the soft fat from the underside. Break crackling into shards. Pull the meat apart and place on a large platter with the crackling and apples. Pour the pork jus and soft vegetables into a bowl to serve on the side. I like to serve my pork with a potato gratin, roasted potatoes or potato puree and steamed greens or a lovely big green salad with a mustardy dressing.

Notes

I place the pork in the roasting tin on the oven rack and then fill the tin with stock, as the tin can be a little heavy and this helps to avoid spills while transferring.

Don’t completely cover the pork with the foil as it will sweat while roasting and leave you with soggy skin.