Apple-Glazed Pork Roast with Sage and Garlic.
I remember being quite young when we took that Girl Scout trip to the local apple orchard. The farmers taught us about the trees — a small group of small girls barely listening, all of us up on the tip-top of our tip-toes to pluck the lowest hanging of the Macintosh apples. I don’t remember much about the trees, but I do remember those apples.
I also remember a pig. Well. I’m not sure if I remember the pig or if I’ve heard my mother tell me about the pig so many times that I’ve created in my mind a memory where I’ve lost one. But, either way, there was one — a pig, I mean. And, according to my mother’s lore, I, an inquisitive young Girl Scout, asked the farmer what he was going to do with the pig — to which the farmer responded that he was going to have it for dinner sometime soon.
When we returned from the orchard, I indicated to my mother that I would not be eating any more pigs. And I don’t quite remember what happened next, but I can imagine my mother nodding ‘okay’ and then probably serving me a cheeseburger for dinner that night. (There were, after all, no cows on the farm.) She later said that, after the incident at the apple orchard, every night at dinner I would study the meat discerningly and then ask: “Is this a pig?” And every time, she neither confirmed nor denied my inquisition, merely replying, as all careful, overworked parents do — that is, with semantic precision — “It’s bacon.” Or “It’s a hot dog.” Or “It’s a roast.”
And, satisfied with the response, I would eat it. And probably seconds too, because that’s the kind of person I am and always have been.
I’ve since come to terms with the pig (as well as with my mother’s little white not-quite-lies). Though this wouldn’t be my only adventure in meatless eating (there was, after all, a second Girl Scout field trip to a meat processing center — and no, I’m not kidding), it is the one most resonant in the oral history of my childhood. It turns out that I ate a lot of pork when I believed I was eating none at all — roasts especially.
My mother makes a great pork roast for holidays and other special occasions. She cuts holes into the roast and buries cloves of garlic in them. She then she covers the whole thing in so much rosemary that the whole house smells of it for hours and hours. It is the archetypal aroma of Sunday dinners — rosemary, garlic, and dripping hunks of tender, roasted meat. Porky and piney in all the best ways. Her version is wonderful, but after having recently made a Crock Pot’s worth of apple butter and realizing that I have, as they say, apple butter for days, I decided to take things in a bit of a different direction here. I like to think that the sweet apple butter glaze brings the whole pig-in-the-apple-orchard saga full circle.
You could, of course, skip the brine. But don’t skip the brine because it makes it really great. You’ll see. You could also use any old apple butter you’d like — and I suppose that, in a pinch, some reduced apple sauce might also do the trick quite well too. But remember that a roast is the kind of thing that is not supposed to be quick. Take your time with this pig. Really give it some love. And have seconds. Always have seconds.
Apple-Glazed Pork Roast with Sage and Garlic.
Sweet Apple Brine:
- 2 cups 100% unsweetened apple juice
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 cup salt
- 10 whole peppercorns
- 10 whole mustard seeds
- 3 crushed garlic cloves
- About 10 fresh sage leaves
- 3 dried bay leaves
Apple-Glazed Pork Roast with Sage and Garlic:
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 6-7 fresh sage leaves, finely minced
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper
- Center pork roast, about 2-1/2 pounds
- 1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup Simple, Slow-Cooked Apple Butter
The morning or day before you plan to cook the roast, brine the pork. Add all of ingredients of the brine to a pot; heat and stir until the salt is dissolved. Allow the brine to cool completely, then submerge the pork, cover, and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
After the pork has brined, remove it from the pot and pat it dry with a paper towel. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, stir together the minced garlic, sage, onion powder, salt, and pepper, and then use your fingers to spread the rub all over the pork.
Heat the ghee in a cast-iron skillet large enough to accommodate the size of your roast. When the ghee is very hot, add the pork and cook for just a minute or two, until the meat is properly seared. Sear all sides of the roast and then take the skillet off the heat. Arrange the pork on the skillet such that the fattiest part is on the top. Brush the apple butter all over the exposed pork and then put it into your preheated oven. The pork will be done when a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the roast registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit; this should take about 30 minutes per pound. When the pork has reached a safe temperature, remove it from the oven, and cover it with tinfoil. Let it rest for about 15 minutes before slicing and serving.