Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder

You know how I said that December went by in a blur? Well, somewhere in those 31 days I celebrated Christmas with some people I love and it was wonderful. The fact that I’m just getting around to telling you about it really shows how crazed I’ve been lately; running around with no time for rest, but it’s starting to slow down now. Anyway, picture this: the Netflix Yule Log crackling away, Zooey Deschanel and M Ward crooning carols, twinkling lights hung from the mantlepiece, a table full of clementines and chocolates. Everyone came with presents in hand, adorned in fancy dresses and sailor sweaters. There was from-scratch ginger syrup to spice up whiskey sodas. There was a seven pound pork shoulder, braised all day in apple cider and bourbon. And most importantly, there was this glorious feeling of a home-away-from-home. A feeling that swells up inside of you when you look around a room full of happy, beautiful people and know that, despite being Christmas orphans, we can be glad to have each other, in this moment; the now.

I’m sharing this beautiful pork shoulder recipe with you, as well as the rest of my Christmas menu. Start the pork early in the morning when you have your first cup of coffee and the fog hasn’t lifted from your head yet. Let the aroma of crisping pork and simmering fruit rouse you. As the sun fades, shred the pork off the bone and be thankful that, for tonight, the cider and fat scent will linger, warming your house. Tuck in for the night with a good book and a soft roll stuffed with the meltingly-tender meat. Again, be thankful, but this time for leftovers.

Christmas Menu:

Assorted cheeses, accompanied by winter fruits and duck rillette.

Pulled pork in cider and bourbon.

Roasted, mixed potatoes with tarragon and applesauce.

Quinoa salad with beets and citrus.

Pumpkin curry soup.

Nutella cake.

Pulled Pork with Cider and Bourbon
serves 8, with leftovers

6-8lb bone-in pork shoulder, fat trimmed to 1/2″
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne
2 onions, sliced in eighths
2 apples, peeled cored and sliced in eighths
3 cups apple cider
1 cup bourbon
½ cup apple cider vinegar

Bring pork to room temp and pat dry. Combine salt, sugar, and peppers in a bowl and rub into pork. Let sit at least 30 minutes, up to an hour. Preheat oven to 375º. In a dutch oven over high heat, sear all sides of pork shoulder for about three minutes per side. Remove pork from pot and set aside. Add onions, apples, and cider to pot. Bring to a simmer, scraping up browned bits from bottom. When simmering, carefully add pork back to pot. Cover and place in preheated oven. Braise for four to six hours, basting occasionally until internal temperature of pork reads 175º  Remove pork from pot and place onto a carving board. Using two forks, shred the meat off of the bone, discarding fat and gristle to your liking. Return meat to pot along with bourbon and cider. Over medium heat, continue cooking pork until most of the liquid is absorbed. Serve warm on toasted rolls.