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Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder (or butt) with Caramelized Onions

This recipe is adapted from one that appeared in the December 2001 issue of Gourmet.   It is very simple and very delicious.  We serve it with mashed potatoes and spinach.

Ingredients

1 3–4 lb. pork bone-in shoulder or boneless butt
2 garlic cloves, cut into slivers
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ lbs. onions (5 or 6 medium onions), sliced
1–1 ¼ cups apple cider

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Make slits all over the pork with a sharp, small knife.  Insert a garlic sliver into each slit.  Pat pork dry and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat oil in a 4–5 quart ovenproof heavy pot or Dutch oven over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking.  Brown meat on all sides, using tongs to turn the meat.  Remove pork from the pot and put on a plate.
  4. Add onions to the pot and sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to turn brown (about 5 minutes).  Add ¾ teaspoon salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden and caramelized, about 8–10 minutes more.
  5. Stir in cider and bring to a boil.  Then reduce to simmer.  At this point, you can either return the pork to the pot, cover pot with lid, and place pot in the oven—or you can transfer the onion-cider mixture with the pork to a crock pot, set on low.  Either way, you will need to cook the pork until it is very tender, about 2 ½–3 hours.  If you are using a bone-in cut, it should be pulling away from the bone quite easily.  The internal temperature should be 160 degrees, but it will probably be much higher.  Don’t worry—it is difficult to overcook this cut.
  6. Transfer pork to a cutting board and let rest for 8 or 10 minutes.  While it rests, boil juices remaining in the pot on the stove until mixture is reduced to no more than 2 cups.  (If you have used a crock pot, transfer the juices to a large skillet and boil).  Add salt and pepper if necessary.
  7. Slice the pork (it will fall apart in chunks more than it will slice) and serve with some of the sauce.

This pork can be made a day or two in advance and reheated.