Brined Pork Shoulder Roast with Fennel and Dried Figs
Pork loin cuts, center to end, are priced as though they were the preferred choice for tasty pork meat. The shoulder (or butt) of pork is considered a second, albeit less expensive, selection. For pressure cooking, though, there’s no doubt the shoulder is what works best. Taking the time to let the shoulder soak in an aromatic brine for one or two days settles any controversy with the first bite. Fennel and figs complement the pork beautifully, but there’s plenty of room to reinterpret the recipe with alternatives of your choice, such as dried apricots, celery, and so on. Pickling brine used to be called corning brine when it was used in butcher shops to cure fresh ham in a barrel. The butcher’s barrel brine also contained some saltpeter, a preservative, required by the USFDA, that is the best preventive of bacterial growth. It is also the agent that turns the ham, tongue, or corned beef a rosy pink; without it, the meat will be more of a foggy gray color. If you care to, you can simulate the coloring property of saltpeter by adding a chunk of cured ham to the brine. Powdered saltpeter is available in pharmacies. The amount of brine in the following recipe is sufficient for 1 chicken or 2 or 3 trout (let soak for 24 hours) or 1 pork roast (let cure for 24 to 48 hours). For a beef brisket or tongue, make a double batch and let cure for 1 week. For a turkey, make a triple batch and let cure for 72 hours.
Makes6 to 8 servings
Cooking Methodbrining, pressure cooking
Total Timea day or more
One Pot MealYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free
Taste and Texturefruity, herby, meaty, savory, sweet
- 6 cups water
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 8 large cloves garlic, smashed
- ½ tablespoon juniper berries, smashed
- ½ tablespoon black peppercorns, smashed
- 2 bay leaves, torn up a bit
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme, or 2 teaspoons dried
- One 2½-pound boneless pork shoulder roast, soaked in brine for 24 to 48 hours (see recipe below)
- 1 large fennel bulb, fronds trimmed off and reserved, bulb sliced lengthwise ½ inch thick
- 12 dried golden (Calimyrna) figs, halved
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup dry white wine
To Make the Brine:
Combine all the ingredients and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Add whatever you are going to brine and refrigerate for 24 hours, or up to 1 week, depending on what you are preparing.
To Cook the Pork Roast:
Lift the pork roast out of the brine and rinse it.
Spread the fennel fronds on the bottom of the pressure cooker. Set the roast on top. Spread the fennel slices and figs over the roast. Pour in the water and wine, lock on the lid, and bring to pressure over high heat about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium to medium-high and cook for 45 minutes, adjusting the level so the pressure doesn’t build up too high. Remove from the heat and let sit for 15 minutes to finish cooking.
With the steam vent pointed away from your face, gently release any remaining pressure. Let the roast rest for 10 minutes with the lid ajar.
Remove the roast slice it ½ inch thick, and arrange the slices on a serving platter. Top with the fennel and figs from the pot. Remove and discard the fennel fronds, then spoon the juices over the roast and vegetables. Serve right away.
2005 Victoria Wise