~ Apple-Braised Pork Pot Roast w/Apple Pan Gravy~
When I was growing up, Saturday at our house was always cleaning day (because my mom worked all weekdays) and everyone was expected to help with the chores. Mom rewarded us all by always cooking something we loved for dinner that night. Her pork pot roast was my favorite "reward meal" because not only is it extraordinarily delicious, the smell of it slowly braising on the stovetop all afternoon is ethereal! This is my mother's method of cooking the roast, as well as her recipe, with two exceptions: 1) Mom makes hers using water (not apple juice) and does not add any apples. Feel free to do it this way if you don't like apples, the result will be just as marvelous! 2) Mom never made gravy out of the highly-flavored pan juices. My husband asked for gravy with this pot roast enough of times for me to experiment until I figured out an easy, foolproof way to get great gravy (and enough of it) to serve with this great meal too!
1 6-7 pound boneless, center loin, pork roast
2 cups apple juice, plus up to 1 cup additional juice, only if necessary
2 large yellow or sweet onions, cut into quarters
4 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, cored and cut into sixths
12 whole allspice
6 whole bay leaves
12 whole cloves
2 whole cinnamon sticks
salt and black pepper
About the pan/pot in this picture. What you see pictured on my stovetop is a 6-quart, stainless steel, Farberware Dutch oven with a domed lid. My mother actually bought me this pan 35 years ago. I guess she knew I would be making her pork roast! It has a very wide base, 12", and straight, deep sides, 4", which makes it ideal for a 6-7 pound roast. I've briefly searched the internet, and can't seem to locate a source for anything similar to provide (as it seems Farberware no longer makes this type of Dutch oven). If anyone out there finds a source, please let me know so I can post it! If anyone out there sees one at a garage sale or flee market, I advise buying it... mine is 35 years old and still like new! By definition, a Dutch oven is a large pot or kettle, usually made of cast iron, with a tight-fitting lid so steam cannot readily escape. It is used for moist-cooking methods, such as braising and stewing. Dutch ovens are said to be of Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, dating back to the 1700's. Since braising can be done on the stovetop or in the oven, a Dutch oven is made out of material safe for both. May the force be with you!!!
~ Step 1. Add the apple juice to the pan and place the roast, fat side up, in the juice. Add the allspice, bay leaves, cloves and cinnamon sticks to the apple juice, dividing them equally on both sides of the roast. Add the onion, then apples, dividing them equally on both sides of the roast as well. Generously sprinkle garlic powder, salt and pepper evenly over all. Cover the pan.
~ Step 2. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a steady simmer. Continue to cook for 1 1/2-2 hours. The bottom of the roast should be browning nicely, meaning: what it looks like is more important than the time it takes to get it there.
Flip the roast over, fat side down, and generously season the bottom of roast (now the top side) with garlic powder, salt and pepper.
~ Step 3. Recover the pan and once again, bring the roast back to a boil over high heat. Adjust heat to a steady simmer, gentler than the first 1 1/2-2 hours of cooking time, and continue to cook a second 1- 1 1/2 hours. Check frequently and add additional apple juice, if necessary to avoid scorching. You want the roast to be golden brown, so again: it's how it looks not the exact time. Flip the roast back over.
Using a teaspoon, find, remove and discard all of the allspice, bay leaves, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Transfer all of the pan drippings to food processor fitted with steel blade and process until smooth, about 10-15 seconds.
Return the drippings to a pan on stovetop (you'll have about 3 cups).
~ Step 5. "The Gravy". If anyone gives me any flack about what I am going to say here, I'm not speaking to you again. I've done my homework here. I've made the roux and added chicken stock, to make perfect gravy out of these amazing drippings, the old-fashioned way, and it was great. But I am here to tell you, the best of the best will be achieved by adding 2-4, 12-ounce jars of your favorite brand of store-bought chicken gravy. Simply stir it in, a jar at a time until you get the consistency you want, bring mixture to a simmer and serve. Why do I, "the purist", recommend this? Because these drippings are so amazing and flavorful, you won't taste any difference at all in the final product. In cases like this, I opt for easy. What happens in Melanie's Kitchen stays in Melanie's Kitchen!
Special Equipment List: 6-quart Dutch oven w/domed lid; cutting board; paring knife; aluminum foil; food processor; 4-quart saucepan
Cook's Note: In the picture above, the roast is served with my recipe for ~ Smashed Maple Sweet Potatoes ~, found in Categories 4 & 18. The roast, leftover, reheated and thinly sliced, topped with a tablespoon or two, or three, of warmed gravy makes the most amazing sandwiches. I like to use soft rolls for these sandwiches. My favorites are our Pennsylvania Dutch potato rolls!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)